Criteria for Specific Phobias

This Specific Phobias page contains an abridged version of the DSM-IV Criteria.
(The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is a guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders in the United States.)

Please note:

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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DSM IV Criteria for Specific Phobia:

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 stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed Panic Attack. Note: In children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.

The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Note: In children, this feature may be absent.

The phobic situation(s) is avoided or else is endured with intense anxiety or distress.

The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or 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 duration is at least 6 months.

The anxiety, Panic Attacks, or phobic avoidance 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.
For example, a person who is afraid of heights to the point of expressing intense fear in 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 focus of fear or avoidance in Specific Phobia (e.g., Specific Phobia, Animal Type)
Animal type:
This subtype should be specified if the fear is tiggered by animals or insects.
This type usually has a childhood onset.

Natural Environment Type:

This subtype should be specified if the fear is triggered by objects in the natural environment, such as storms, heights, or water.
This subtype generally has a childhood onset.

Blood-Injection-Injury Type:

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.

Situational Type:

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 mid-20s.
This subtype appears to be similar to Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia in its characteristic sex ratios, familial aggregation pattern, and age at onset.

Other Type:

This 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.

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