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What is phobia?

Phobia is an intense, persistent, irrational fear of a specific situation, activity, object, or person. Usually, the feelings of fear are significantly greater than the actual danger or threat. People with phobias are highly distressed and preoccupied about feeling the fear, and often will go to great lengths to avoid the object or situation in question.

There are five different types of specific phobias. These include: Animal Type (e.g. dogs, snakes, spiders), Natural Environment Type (e.g., heights, storms, water), Blood-Injection-Injury Type (e.g. fear of seeing blood, receiving a blood test or shot), Situational Type (e.g., airplanes, elevators, driving, enclosed places), and Other Types (e.g., phobic avoidance of situations that may lead to choking, vomiting, or contracting an illness).

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Mimi Winsberg, MD

Chief Medical Officer
Stanford-trained Psychiatrist with 25 years of practice

The signs & symptoms of phobia.

People with phobias often have panic attacks when faced with the thing they fear. The symptoms of the panic attack can occur suddenly and without warning.

In addition to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, a panic attack can cause physical symptoms, such as:

  • Sweating and trembling
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or a choking sensation
  • Rapid heartbeat and pain or tightness in the chest
  • A sensation of butterflies in the stomach
  • Nausea or a need to go to the bathroom
  • Headaches, dizziness, or feeling faint
  • Numbness or pins and needles
  • Dry mouth

In addition to the physical symptoms, psychological symptoms may also occur. These include:

  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of fainting
  • Feelings of dread
  • Fear of dying

Phobia is a common and treatable condition, don’t wait to get the care you need.

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85%of Brightside members feel
better within 12 weeks
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How we treat phobia.

Once a diagnosis has been established, phobia is generally treated with therapy, medication, or both. Talk with your provider about the best treatment option for you.

Medication

Antidepressants are shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of phobia. At Brightside, we use your data and research to find the right medication for you.

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Therapy

We use evidence-based approaches to therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that are proven to be the most effective in treating phobia.

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Self-Care

A comprehensive approach to care leads to better outcomes. By practicing daily healthy habits and self-care, you can reduce your symptoms of phobia.

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Commonly prescribed medications.

At Brightside we prescribe over 30 different antidepressant medications. We’ll work with you to find the right medication for your individual needs and symptoms.

Affordable plans to help you feel better.

Starting as low as
$45 / for your first month.


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Whether you choose medication, therapy, or both, our memberships include expert online care designed to help you feel better, faster.

  • Comprehensive video evaluation
  • Personalized treatment plan
  • Unlimited messaging
  • Unlimited video follow-ups with your provider
  • 4 video sessions with your therapist each month
  • Free medication delivery
  • Interactive Therapy lessons
  • Regular progress tracking

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We accept health insurance.

We're on a mission to make anxiety & depression care more affordable for all.
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Getting started is simple.

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Step 1

Fill out a quick questionnaire.

Start by answering a clinically-proven set of questions, which will help us understand your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan with Medication, Therapy, or both.

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Step 2

Meet your provider & start treatment.

Within 48 hours, you’ll have a video consultation where you can share how you’re feeling and decide on next steps together. If prescribed, your medication will be delivered to your door monthly.

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Step 3

Make progress and feel better.

Unlimited messaging, video sessions, and regular check-ins help you stay in touch with your provider so they can monitor your symptoms and adjust until treatment is right for you.

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You’re in good hands. Our licensed providers are experts in treating phobia.

  • Always see an expert psychiatric provider
  • All therapists hold a master’s degree or higher
  • Licensed in your state and background comprehensively checked
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Laura Purdy, MD

Psychiatrist
Doctor Michael Chen headshot

Michael Chen, MD

Psychiatrist
Doctor Frederica Boso LMHC headshot

Frederica Boso, LMHC

Licensed mental health counselor

Life-changing results from real members.

Read More Reviews
Melissa K.

“A literal life saver. So convenient, so effective, and more involved/high touch than my former psychiatrist was. I should have done this a year sooner.”

Kayla S.

“Brightside has made such a huge improvement on my quality of life. The ease of access, the convenience of the med delivery, and the intelligent check in scoring system all contribute to a next level quality of care.”

Anonymous

“My provider has answered every question I’ve had, listened to worries and concerns and symptoms, assured me and is truly invested in my quality of care. I’ve gone from moderate-severe depression to mild depression in just 2 months.”

Rachael B

“I am so very grateful to have found Brightside. This is the most hopeful I have felt in maybe two years. Brightside isn't just working for me, it saved me. Brightside really turned may life around.”

Tyler K

“My life is so much better after starting with Brightside. My doctor truly cares about my well being and I’m just so grateful for this.”

Life-changing results from real members.

Melissa K.

“A literal life saver. So convenient, so effective, and more involved/high touch than my former psychiatrist was. I should have done this a year sooner.”

Kayla S.

“Brightside has made such a huge improvement on my quality of life. The ease of access, the convenience of the med delivery, and the intelligent check in scoring system all contribute to a next level quality of care.”

Anonymous

“My provider has answered every question I’ve had, listened to worries and concerns and symptoms, assured me and is truly invested in my quality of care. I’ve gone from moderate-severe depression to mild depression in just 2 months.”

Rachael B

“I am so very grateful to have found Brightside. This is the most hopeful I have felt in maybe two years. Brightside isn't just working for me, it saved me. Brightside really turned may life around.”

Tyler K

“My life is so much better after starting with Brightside. My doctor truly cares about my well being and I’m just so grateful for this.”

Read More Reviews

What you need to know.

What are the risk factors for phobia?

The onset of a specific phobia is complex, and there are a few different causes and risk factors at play. These include:
Direct learning experiences: Specific phobias can sometimes begin following a traumatic experience. For example, if you were bitten by a dog as a child, you might develop a fear of dogs. If you had a car accident, you might develop a fear of driving or riding in a car.

  • Observational learning experiences: Some people may learn to fear certain situations by observing others show signs of fear in that situation. For example, if you grew up with a mother who was afraid of heights, you may learn to also fear heights.
  • Informational learning: Sometimes, people develop specific phobias after hearing or reading about a situation that may be dangerous. For example, you might learn to fear flying after watching news footage of a plane crash.

However, it is important to remember that learning is not the sole cause of specific phobias. Many people are bitten by dogs or get into car accidents and do not go on to develop phobias.

Risk factors for phobias may also include a genetic component, but not much is known about the biological factors that cause and maintain specific phobias. What we do know is that when someone encounters a feared stimulus, many biological changes occur in the body, including changes in brain activity, the release of cortisol, insulin, and growth hormone, and increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

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When to seek help for phobia.

If you have a specific fear or phobia that is interfering with your everyday life, it might be time to make an appointment to see your doctor. If left untreated, phobias can interfere with your personal relationships and prevent you from functioning normally at home, school, or work.

How is phobia diagnosed?

A medical provider will diagnose you with a phobia based on the following criteria:

  • Exposure to the feared item or situation almost always leads to an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a panic attack
  • You recognize that the fear is excessive or out of proportion to the actual threat posed
  • You avoid the phobic situation(s), or endure it with intense anxiety or distress
  • The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress during the feared situation(s) interferes significantly with your normal routine, functioning at work or school, social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia
  • The fear is persistent, typically lasting for at least six months

The medical provider is likely to ask about current symptoms and family history, particularly whether other family members have had phobias. You may want to report any experience or trauma that may have triggered the phobia (i.e., a dog bite leading to a fear of dogs).

It may be helpful to discuss how you react—your thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms— when you are confronted with the thing you fear. It might also be helpful to describe what you do to avoid fearful situations, and how the phobia affects your daily life, including your job and your personal relationships.

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What are the treatment options for phobia?

Phobias are typically treated using a combination of medication and therapy.

Medication
Short-term medication is sometimes prescribed to treat the side effects of phobias, such as anxiety or panic attacks. If the phobia is confronted only occasionally, as in a fear of flying, the use of medication can be limited.

Antidepressants are often prescribed to help reduce the anxiety associated with phobias. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are most often prescribed to treat anxiety, social phobia, or panic disorder.

Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help ease the symptoms of a phobia—especially when a technique called exposure therapy is implemented. Exposure therapy involves gradually increasing your exposure to the thing you fear, at your own pace, under controlled circumstances. As you are exposed to the object, you are taught to master your fear through various strategies including relaxation, breathing control, or other anxiety-reducing techniques.

Self-Care, Coping, and Support
Many treatment plans for phobias involve aspects of self-care. This can include:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Managing stress & practicing mindfulness
  • Engaging in enjoyable/creative activities
  • Taking prescribed medications correctly and discussing any potential side effects with your healthcare providers
  • Watching for early signs that your symptoms may be worsening, and having a plan in place for how to respond if they do
  • Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive influences
  • Talking to trusted family members and friends about how you are feeling
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The Brightside difference.

We designed Brightside to deliver the best psychiatric care available.

Unlimited
access

Receive ongoing online care from hand-selected providers who are experts in treating anxiety & depression.

Precision-
prescribing

Data-driven prescribing that analyzes over 100 unique data points and decades of clinical research to pinpoint your match.

Science-backed
approaches

Build the skills needed to overcome anxiety and depression with an evidence-based approach to therapy that is proven to work.

Measured care for
better outcomes

Track your progress at every step, so you and your provider can make informed decisions and adjust your care until it’s right for you.

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