for Specific Phobias
This Specific Phobias page
contains an abridged version of the DSM-IV Criteria. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is a guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders
in the United States.)
This page has been included for information purposes only and although
these criteria are displayed to provide a guideline to diagnosis, they
cannot substitute a visit to a doctor or mental health practitioner.
One more thing:
A "diagnosis" is merely a label .
It does not define you as a person.
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IV Criteria for
Marked and persistent fear
that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation
of a specific object or situation
(e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).
Exposure to the phobic
invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the
form of a situationally bound or
situationally predisposed Panic Attack. Note:
children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing,
The person recognizes that the fear is
excessive or unreasonable.
In children, this feature may be absent.
The phobic situation(s) is avoided or
endured with intense anxiety or distress.
The avoidance, anxious anticipation,
distress in the feared
situation(s) interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine,
occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or
relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
In individuals under age 18 years, the
is at least 6 months.
The anxiety, Panic Attacks, or phobic
associated with the specific object or situation are not better
accounted for by another
mental disorder, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
(e.g., fear of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination),
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated
with a severe stressor), Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance
of school), Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance of social situations because
of fear of embarrassment), Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, or
Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder.
If the phobia does not significantly interfere with the individual's
functioning or cause marked distress, the diagnosis is not made.
a person who is afraid of heights to the point of expressing intense
any situation involving heights, would not receive a diagnosis of
Specific Phobia if he or she lives in a flat area, is not restricted in
activities by fear of heights, and is not distressed about having a
fear of heights.
The following subtypes may be specified to indicate the
of fear or avoidance in Specific Phobia (e.g., Specific Phobia, Animal
specified if the fear is tiggered by animals or insects.
type usually has a childhood onset.
Natural Environment Type:
subtype should be specified if the fear is triggered
by objects in the natural environment, such as storms, heights, or
This subtype generally has a childhood onset.
This subtype should be specified if the fear is triggered by seeing
blood or an injury or by receiving an injection
or other invasive medical procedure.
This subtype should be specified if the
fear is triggered
by a specific situation such as public transportation, tunnels,
bridges, elevators, flying,
driving or enclosed places. This subtype has a bimodal age-at-onset
distribution, with one peak in childhood and another peak in the
This subtype appears to be similar to Panic
Disorder With Agoraphobia in its characteristic sex ratios,
familial aggregation pattern, and age at onset.
subtype should be specified if the fear is cued by other stimuli.
These stimuli might include the fear or avoidance of situations that
might lead to choking, vomiting, or contracting an illness;
"space" phobias (i.e., the individual is afraid of falling down if away
from walls or other means of physical support); and children's fears of
loud sounds or costumed characters.