A specific phobia involves a strong fear and avoidance of one particular object or situation. There are no spontaneous panic attacks, and there is no fear of panic attacks. Direct exposure to the feared object or situation may elicit a panic reaction. Unfortunately, the fear and avoidance may be strong enough to interfere with your daily life and cause significant distress. Even though you recognize that the fear is irrational, a specific phobia can cause you considerable anxiety. In reality, most phobias are irrational. The subconscious association causes far more fear than is warranted based on the actual danger of the stimulus; a person with a phobia of water may admit that their physiological arousal is irrational and over-reactive, but this alone does not cure the phobia.
Phobias are linked to the amygdala, an area of the brain in the limbic lobe. The amygdala triggers secretions of hormones that affect fear and aggression. When the fear or aggression response is initiated, the amygdala stimulates the release of hormones to put your body into an “alert” state in which you are ready to move, run, or fight. This defensive “alert” state is referred to as the “flight or fight” response.