Almost everyone has something that makes them feel nervous or afraid... spiders, air travel, elevators, etc. Often, we recognize that these fears are unreasonable and we can face these fears in order to go about our daily lives without any significant problems. However, for some people these specific fears can result in significant anxiety and panic. This fear in turn results in avoidance, which prevents the person from being able to do things he or she wants or needs to do. As an example, we routinely see individuals who have avoided going on vacations or even turned down promotions due to fear of air travel. Additionally, it is not uncommon for people to avoid medical care, often for years, due to intense fears of doctors or dentists.
Common specific phobias can include fear of animals, insects, heights, weather-related issues (storms, thunder, lightening), driving, flying or taking public transportation, costume characters, or elevators. While specific phobias can develop during childhood, it is not uncommon for them to develop spontaneously in adolescence or adulthood.
The use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat specific phobias is well supported by research. CBT for specific phobias involves a therapist helping the person to understand and challenge unhelpful thoughts about the fear, as well as gradually exposing the person to the fear, over time.
Dr. Stewart regularly treats specific phobias in her Fort Lauderdale office; however, session outdoors, at one's home, or in public locations may be appropriate for this condition.