Psychiatry identifies three different categories of phobia:
Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces. It is also a fear of having a panic attack in a public place, of losing control in an area from which escape may prove difficult or embarrassing.
Social Phobia is an irrational anxiety brought forth by exposure to certain social situations, leading to avoidance behaviour.
Specific Phobia is a persistent and irrational fear in response to some specific stimulus, which commonly results in avoidance of/withdrawal from that stimulus. It could be triggered by an insect or animal (zoophobia), by a situation like being trapped in an enclosed space (claustrophobia) or it could be a fear of disease (pathophobia).
Approximately 1 in 23 people suffer from phobias. That’s nearly 4.25% of the population. There are roughly 11.5 million sufferers in the US and 2.5 million in the UK.
Approximately 19.1 million American adults aged between 18 and 54 (13.3% of people in this age group) in a given year have an anxiety disorder.
5.2 million Americans (aged 18 to 54) or 3.7% of people in this age group have social phobia.
Approximately 3.2 million Americans have agoraphobia.
Almost 6.2 million US citizens have some sort of specific phobia.
All three types of phobia, social, agoraphobia and specific are likely to effect between 5 and 10 people in every 100.
Females are more prone to irrational fears than males. Roughly twice as many women as men suffer from panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and specific phobia though about equal numbers of women and men have obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia.
In England in 2002-3, there were 310 hospital consultant episodes for phobic anxiety disorders. 94% required hospital admission. 40% were for men, 60% for women.
Only about 20% of specific phobias disappear on their own for an adult.