Phobias are an extreme fear triggered by a particular situation, object, or animal. They are beyond a general fear, instead creating an exaggerated sense of danger from the trigger. A phobia can impact on day to day life due to the level of avoidance of the feared stimulus.


Phobias are an extreme fear triggered by a particular situation, object, or animal. They are beyond a general fear, instead creating an exaggerated sense of danger from the trigger. A phobia can impact on day to day life due to the level of avoidance of the feared stimulus.

Types of Phobia

A phobia could be developed on a wide variety of objects or situations. They can be organised into two categories:

Simple or specific phobias, which focus around a specific object, animal, or activity (e.g. spiders or going to the dentist).

Examples of simple phobias:

  • Environmental phobias (e.g. heights or germs)
  • Situational phobias (e.g. flying or the dentist)
  • Animal phobias (e.g. spiders or snakes)
  • Bodily phobias (e.g. blood or injections)
  • Sexual phobias (e.g. about performance or sexually transmitted infections)

Complex phobias, which are more conceptual and tend to be more disabling (e.g. social phobia).

Common examples of complex phobias:

  • Agoraphobia: the fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help would not be available (e.g. crowded places, public transport or being alone)
  • Social phobia: see Social Anxiety Disorder

Causes & Symptoms

Causes of Phobia

A phobia can develop at any age from childhood to early adulthood. Often, they are related to a frightening or stressful event, however there is not always a clear reason they occur.

Simple phobias often begin during childhood or adolescence and can become less severe as you age.

Complex phobias generally develop during adulthood and are usually linked to an extended fear about a particular situation or circumstance.

There is not one set cause for phobias, but there are several factors that are associated with the increased likelihood of the development of phobias:

  • Experience of an early negative experience, incident or trauma related to the phobic stimuli
  • Learning from a family member
  • Genetic predisposition, shown in family history of anxiety
  • Evolutionary reason for fear may increase likelihood


Symptoms of Phobia

Phobias result in you trying to avoid contact with the phobic stimulus wherever possible. In severe cases this can become debilitating and prevent you from carrying out everyday activities. Exposure to the phobia can result in very high anxiety, or even a panic attack.

Specific symptoms can vary between people, but examples include:


  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness or pins and needles
  • Hot flushes or chills
  • Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • A choking sensation
  • Rapid heartrate, or palpitations
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • A sensation of butterflies in the stomach
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Headaches, dizziness and feeling faint
  • Dry mouth
  • A need to go to the toilet
  • Ringing in your ears


  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Feeling out of touch with reality or detached from your body
  • Fear of losing control or fainting
  • Feelings of dread
  • Fear of dying
  • High sense of panic
  • Incomprehensible fear
  • High distress


The treatments and support we provide

We provide a very comprehensive and holistic range of interventions and support. This means we are able to find the mechanisms for recovery, which will be different for each patient. Everyone will have a highly personalised treatment programme. 

The programme is reviewed every week by the patient’s multi-disciplinary team (MDT), encompassing the different professionals involved in their care. Our MDT consists of: consultant psychiatrist, psychotherapist/psychologist, family therapist and occupational therapist. The MDT is at the centre of our approach, ensuring all the progress made across the programme is understood, built upon and applied. Our model provides consistency and continuity. 

Individual programmes are tailor-made to each patient’s needs and progress. The following provides a guide to the typical building blocks of our day treatment programmes, all of which include a number of weekly 1:1 sessions with members of the MDT.

  Full-day Programme Half-Day Programme
Days  Monday to Friday Monday to Friday
Hours 7 - 8 hours per day 4 - 5 hours per day
Programme length Up to 4 weeks Up to 4 weeks
Detailed group therapy 5 - 6 sessions 3 - 4 sessions
Daily meals Lunch/snacks Lunch/snacks

We provide the following therapies and interventions. These may be delivered on a 1:1 or group basis by members of the MDT.

Psycho-education Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) Mindfulness
Relapse prevention Self-esteem / resilience  Movement
Peer Led Support Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Food preparation / cooking
Applied relaxation Art / drama Interpersonal therapy
Social issues Family therapy Schema

Treatments are available at the following locations

Schoen Clinic Chelsea

Our Address
Schoen Clinic
Centre for Mental Health Chelsea
13a Radnor Walk
London SW3 4BP
General Telephone Enquiries
0203 146 2300
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