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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

The symptoms of phobia are:

  • Excessive, unreasonable, persistent feelings of fear or anxiety that are triggered by a particular object, activity or situation.

  • Feelings are either irrational or out of proportion to any actual threat. For example, while anyone may be afraid of an unrestrained, menacing dog, most people do not run away from a calm, quiet animal on a leash.

  • Avoidance of the object, activity or situation that triggers the phobia. Because people who have phobias recognize that their fears are exaggerated, they are often ashamed or embarrassed about their symptoms. To prevent anxiety symptoms or embarrassment, they avoid the triggers for the phobia.

  • Anxiety-related physical symptoms. These can include tremors, palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea or other symptoms that reflect the body's "fight or flight" response to danger. (Symptoms such as these may lead to a diagnosis of panic disorder.)

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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