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Study Notes

Phobias (Introduction)

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Phobias are categorised as an anxiety disorder which cause an irrational fear of a particular object or situation.

There are three categories of phobia, including:

  • Simple (specific) phobia
  • Social phobia
  • Agoraphobia

Simple phobias

Simple, or specific phobias, are the most common type of phobia. This is where a person fears a specific object in the environment, for example arachnophobia, the fear of spiders.

Simple phobias are further divided into four categories:

  • Animal phobias
  • Injury phobias
  • Situational phobias, and
  • Natural phobias

Extension: Common animal phobias include arachnophobia (see above) and ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. Injury phobias include haematophobia, the fear of blood. Situational phobias include aerophiba, the fear of the flying and natural phobias include hydrophobia, the fear of water.

Social phobias

Social phobias involve feelings of anxiety in particular social situation, for example, when giving a speech in public.

Sufferers feel like they are being judged which leads to feelings of inadequacy and apprehension.

Social phobias are further divided into three categories:

  1. Performance phobias
  2. Interaction phobias, and
  3. Generalised phobias

Extension: Performance phobias result in feelings of anxiety when performing in public, for example, eating in a restaurant with friends; interaction phobias result in feelings of anxiety when mixing with others, for example, when answering questions during an interview and generalised phobias result in feelings of anxiety when other people are present, for example, when in a large crowd at a music concert.


Agoraphobia is a fear of open or public spaces and sufferers may experience panic attacks and anxiety, which make them feel vulnerable in open spaces.

Agoraphobia can be caused by simple phobias and/or social phobias.

For example, the simple phobia mysophobia, which is the fear of contamination, could lead to a fear of public spaces, as well as social phobias, in particular generalised phobias.

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