Specific Phobias

SP is a generic term for any kind of anxiety disorder that amounts to an unreasonable or irrational fear related to exposure to specific objects or situations. As a result, the affected persons tend to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations and in severe cases any mention or depiction of them. SP is common, with worldwide prevalence estimates ranging from 1% to 20% (Becker et al., 2007; Depla et al., 2008). SP is generally more common in women than in men (Fredrikson et al., 1996), with some studies finding it to be twice as common (Narrow et al., 2002). The usual age of onset is before eighteen.

The diagnostic criteria according to the DSM-IV-TR (the manual used by the UK and America to clinically diagnose) are as follows:

• The individual experiences excessive and persistent fear of a specific object or situation. Examples of common SP’s are listed in the next section.
• The individual experiences feelings of anxiety, fear or panic immediately upon encountering the feared object or situation.
• The person recognizes that the fear is excessive, unreasonable or out of proportion to the actual risk in the situation.
• The individual tends to avoid the feared object or situation or if he or she doesn’t avoid it, endures encounters with the feared object or situation with intense anxiety or discomfort.
• The individual’s fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes significant distress (i.e., it bothers the person that he or she has the fear) or significant interference in the person’s day-to-day life. For example, the fear may make it difficult for the person to perform important tasks at work, meet new friends, attend classes, or interact with others.
• In children younger than eighteen years of age, the problem must be present for at least six months before a diagnosis of SP would be considered appropriate.
• The person’s fear, panic, and avoidance are not better explained by another disorder. For example, an individual with an extreme and impairing fear of public speaking only, and who is concerned that others will judge him or her negatively, might be considered to have social anxiety disorder (we will be looking at this in next month’s newsletter) rather than SP.


The DSM-IV-TR defines five types of SP:                                                                                            

(1) Animal Type: These include fears of animals such as dogs, cats, spiders, bugs, mice, rats, birds, fish, and snakes.
(2) Natural Environment Type: These include fears of heights, storms, and being near water.
(3) Blood-Injection-Injury Type: These include fears of seeing blood, receiving a blood test or injection, watching medical procedures on television and for some individuals, even just talking about medical procedures.
(4) Situational Type: These include fears of situations such as driving, flying, elevators, and enclosed places.
(5) Other Type: These include other specific fears, including fears of choking or vomiting after eating certain foods, fears of balloons breaking or other loud sounds, or fears of clowns.

Above piece by Michael Stoker MA Psych.


From Marion’s Desk

When I read the list of the different types of SP, it isn’t hard to understand why there is such a prevalence of SP in the world today. These are the ‘known’ fears and it matters not that one knows one has a particular fear about a thing or situation. In fact, the knowing itself causes distress to the sufferer!

The following essences could be considered for the emotional causes and effects of SP

Daisy’s keynote is ‘protection’ and this essence is helpful when negative emotions (such as fear) threaten our sense of safety. A remedy to help us to stay calm and centred.

Bell Heather assists in maintaining stability when there is fear that we may be thrown off balance, and so lose control. This remedy aims to promote confidence in one’s ability to stand firmly grounded when we feel shaken to our roots.

Thistle is the emblematic flower of Scotland and symbolises courage in the face of adversity. This is a potent essence when one is immobilised by fear and the flight or fight response is triggered with feelings of fright and powerlessness.

Scottish Primrose has a keynote of ‘peace’ and can cultivate inner peace of mind, heart and soul. This is an all round remedy for anxiety and agitation and is helpful for ‘out of body’ experiences resulting from shock.

First Aid is a combination of the above four flower essences, so this combination is an excellent first aid (no pun intended) that can be followed by specific individual flowers once the initial shock or trauma has abated. Take every ten to fifteen minutes and then reduce with improvement.

With it’s keynote of ‘vision’, Birch flower essence can help in opening the mind, to look at situations with fresh eyes. Helpful when one is stuck in negative thought patterns, misconceptions and false conclusions that prevent us from seeing what is real and what is imagined.

When someone is ‘beating themselves up’ or having self tormenting thoughts, Iona Pennywort brings our fears into the light of day so they can be faced. This is the remedy to acknowledge and then integrate all aspects of the self and to confront fears honestly, to master our darkest fears.

Similarly, Lady’s Mantle helps us to reclaim our power through awareness by reflecting focussed light into the unconscious or subconscious mind. This essence should be considered in contrast to Iona Pennywort when there is the lack of awareness or will to address the fear or anxiety.

Part 3 of the »How to handle your fears« series There are two major forces making take us action, you may call them the big motivators.
Fear and how to handle it - Part 2What a strange phenomenon: people suffering from fear expect it to come back and develop a new one, the fear of the return
Fear seems to be a  powerful monster, always stronger than our willpower, an enemy that keeps us from going to the dentist, that makes us fail when we
Marion Leigh throws Light and Love on a common problem of the fear of public speaking. Social anxiety is a problem I have been battling with personally
Last month we looked at general anxiety disorder, and this time we will be focusing on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  OCD is an anxiety disorder
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