What are the symptoms of a phobia?

The symptoms of a phobia involve experiencing intense fear and anxiety when faced with the situation or object that you are afraid of. If your phobia is severe, thinking about the object of your phobia can also trigger these symptoms.

“I have a phobia of mashed potato. I just feel sick if I even hear the word – even writing this has been difficult.”

Physical symptoms

  • Feeling unsteady, dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • Feeling like you are choking
  • A pounding heart, palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • Chest pain or tightness in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Hot or cold flushes
  • Shortness of breath or a smothering sensation
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Trembling or shaking

Other symptoms

  • Feeling out of touch with reality or detached from your body
  • A fear of fainting
  • A fear of losing control
  • A fear of dying

If these symptoms are very intense, they could trigger a panic attack. (See Mind’s booklet Understanding anxiety and panic attacks and Mind tips for better mental health: panic attacks for more information.) Experiencing this type of acute fear is extremely unpleasant and can be very frightening. It may make you feel stressed, out of control and overwhelmed. It may also lead to feelings of embarrassment, anxiety or depression.

As a result, many people with phobias avoid situations where they might have to face their fear. While this is an effective strategy to start with, avoiding your fears often causes them to become worse, and can start to have a significant impact on how you live your life.

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