What is a phobia?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an uncontrollable, irrational, and persistent fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. The fear experienced by people with phobias can be so great that some individuals go to extreme lengths to avoid the source of their fear. One extreme response to the source of a phobia can be a panic attack.
What causes phobias?
Research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the onset of phobias. Specific phobias have been associated with a fearful first encounter with the phobic object or situation. The question still exists, however, whether this conditioning exposure is necessary or if phobias can develop in genetically predisposed individuals.