Specific vs Complex Phobias: Understanding Your Fears

When you think of phobias, terms like claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or arachnophobia (fear of spiders) may first come to mind. These are two very common phobias, along with others like fear of heights, needles, and flying. These are specific phobias, or simple phobias, since they involve a specific subject.

The other type of phobias are complex phobias, and include social phobia and agoraphobia. Those who experience one of these phobias can have symptoms of worry, fear, and panic in response to a variety of situations and triggers. A better understanding of the phobia you are experiencing can often help you treat it more effectively.

Different Types of Phobias

A complex phobia can encompass several different circumstances, all stemming from a deeply rooted fear. Because of this, they tend to be more challenging to live with and have a larger impact on your day to day life. Two of the most common complex phobias are:

  • Social Phobia – Also called social anxiety, social phobia can cause you to avoid social situations or being in public, often from a fear that people are judging you or you will be embarrassed. Social anxiety may make you fear public speaking, parties, eating in public, or other similar activities.
  • Agoraphobia – Often considered a fear of leaving home, agoraphobia is actually a fear of being in a situation where you cannot easily escape. This may include any location outside the home. Agoraphobia can be the result of many fears and makes many tasks difficult to accomplish.

In general, complex phobias develop in adolescents and adults and tend to persist over time if not treated. Simple phobias are more common in children, and may disappear naturally as the child grows. The various types of specific phobias include:

  • Situational Phobias – These are fears of certain situations like visiting the dentists, flying in an airplane, riding in elevators, or swimming.
  • Environmental Phobias – Environmental phobias consist of fears of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and other natural phenomena.
  • Object Phobias – These include fears of animals like spiders and sharks, or fears of people like clowns or inanimate objects.
  • Body and Health Phobias – Phobias around blood, needles, mutilation, and other health related fears are common.

Fortunately, both simple and complex phobias can usually be treated and cured entirely, although the treatment may be slightly different for the two types of phobias. A common treatment for specific phobias is exposure therapy, which gradually exposes you to the subject of your fear. Either on your own or with the help of a psychiatrist in Dallas, you may move from thinking about the subject to watching video to experiencing it yourself, or a similar combination.

Complex phobias can require more advanced treatment that involves additional psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy. At Aware Behavioral Health, a leading psychiatrist in Dallas for phobias and other anxiety disorders, we may also prescribe medications to help reduce the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety while you manage your phobia.

If a complex phobia or specific phobia is keeping you from the activities you want to do – or responsibilities you must do – a Dallas psychiatrist can help. Contact Aware Behavioral Health to learn more about our phobia treatment.

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