A common factor of phobias is a need to avoid contact with the thing that causes fear and anxiety. How far someone with a phobia will go to avoid contact varies considerably from person to person.
For example, someone with a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) may not want to touch a spider, whereas someone else with the same fear may not even want to look at a picture of one.
All phobias, particularly complex phobias such as agoraphobia (a fear of open spaces and public places), can limit your daily activities and may cause severe anxiety and depression.
Panic attacks are common among people with phobias. They can be very frightening and distressing. The symptoms often occur suddenly and without warning.
Like simple phobias, complex phobias, such as agoraphobia and social phobia, can affect your wellbeing.
Agoraphobia often involves a combination of several interlinked phobias. For example, someone with agoraphobia may also have a fear of being left alone (monophobia), a fear of situations where they feel trapped (claustrophobia) and a fear of going outside or leaving their home (agoraphobia).
The symptoms experienced by agoraphobics vary in severity. Some people feel very apprehensive and anxious if they have to leave their home to visit the shops, whereas others may feel relatively comfortable travelling a short distance from their home.
For a person with social phobia, the thought of being seen in public or appearing at social events can make them feel very anxious and frightened. This is because these situations can make them feel vulnerable.
Intentionally avoiding meeting people in social situations, such as at a dinner party, is a sign of social phobia. As with agoraphobia, in extreme cases of social phobia, some people are too afraid to leave their home.