Are you afraid of rodents


Phobias (phobos = fear): Irrational fear of certain social situations, activities, objects (mice, snakes, spiders etc.) and spaces. The pronounced fear bears no relation to the real danger. Phobias are the largest group within anxiety disorders; it is estimated that around 10% of the population suffer from phobias. Isolated phobias and agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home) affect more women than men. When it comes to social phobias, however, there is no difference between the sexes. Phobias are often associated with depression.

Leading complaints

  • Inappropriate fear of a fearful object such as B. a spider or a cat. All behavior and physical reactions are determined by this fear.
  • Avoidance behavior: those affected do everything possible to avoid encountering the fear-inducing object.
  • Narrowing the room for maneuver: Avoidance is associated with a narrowing of the radius of action, which affects the quality of life.
  • Anticipatory anxiety: Anxiety symptoms already appear, although an encounter with the fearful situation has not yet taken place.
  • Physical symptoms: When confronted with the fear trigger, the patient experiences strong feelings of threat, combined with stress symptoms such as racing heart, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, stomach pain or diarrhea.

When to the doctor

In the next few weeks if Phobias severely impair the quality of life, family life or the exercise of the profession or phobias paralyze ever larger areas of life. This is especially the case with agoraphobia and social phobias.

The illness

According to psychoanalytic opinion, earlier conflicts that are shifted to the outside world are the cause of the development of the disease. So shifted z. B. A woman's fear of her own sexual desires on meeting others and develops a social phobia.

According to the theory of learning, phobics have at some point made negative experiences with the dreaded situations or objects and systematically reinforced them by avoiding them.

An example from clinical practice: a small child is playing in a sandpit, the parents' car is parked a few meters away. A slow worm appears in the sandpit. The child is frightened, runs to the car, slams the door and clamps his hand very painfully. It now develops a pronounced phobia - but not of car doors, but of snakes.

There are different forms of phobia which, depending on their severity, can put a heavy strain on the quality of life of those affected:

The Agoraphobia (agora = wide space) means claustrophobia, but those affected are more afraid of leaving their familiar surroundings. They shy away from walking alone over empty spaces, but also in front of narrow, full spaces, e.g. B. in crowds, supermarkets or public transport. The associated avoidance behavior severely hinders the patient's mobility. Agoraphobias usually set in early adulthood, and depression and panic attacks are common comorbidities.

Social phobias (social neuroses) often begin in adolescence. It is characterized by the fear of being judged negatively by fellow human beings, so situations in which one is exposed to the gaze of others are avoided. Most social phobias are associated with low self-esteem and fear of criticism. The symptoms can worsen and even panic attacks.

There is hardly anything that does not object to one isolated phobia can be, e.g. B. fear of mice or rats (zemmiphobia) or of garlic (alliumphobia). The most common, however, are spider phobia (arachnophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia, often wrongly referred to as "claustrophobia"). Isolated phobias affect people relatively little compared to other anxiety disorders, since the fear-inducing situation can usually be avoided. They often begin in childhood or early adulthood and - if left untreated - persist for decades.

The doctor does that

The therapy for phobias that is now also scientifically recognized as the most effective is the Stimulus confrontation (Exposure) with a cure rate of over 80% over a treatment period of 12–20 sessions. It is used with similar success for panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The patient is gradually led into the fearful situation. With the help of the therapist, he can withstand the fearful situation and experience that the disasters he fears will not occur at all. If someone suffers from fear of heights, for example, the confrontation with stimuli consists of going to the viewing platform of a church tower and staying there until he is no longer afraid. Someone who does not dare to use public transport because of agoraphobia drives for hours in the stimulus confrontation phase - first with the therapist, later alone - with buses all over the city.

Psychotropic drugs. Soothing psychotropic drugs (tranquilizers), especially benzodiazepines, can be given in acute cases, for example if a phobic has to take an important test or a flight cannot be avoided. Because of the potential for dependence and other side effects such as extreme tiredness, they are only indicated for acute states of excitement and for a short time.

Your pharmacy recommends

Fear protects against danger and is therefore vital. The challenge is to put fear back into its right place in life. In addition, it is good to accept “your” fear as fundamentally positive and not to see it as an enemy.

However, if the fear becomes inappropriate and obstructive - what those affected by a phobia basically know - it helps to enter into an “inner conversation” with the fear: “Fear, it's good that I have you, but I'm sure that this situation is safe. "This sounds easier than it is in practice, which is why cognitive behavioral therapies, but also advisors, can help to practice this in everyday life in addition to stimulus confrontation.

Further information

  • - Private website, Altlußheim: Very informative, with addresses and a forum.
  • M. F. Kuntze; A. H. Bullinger: Fear of heights and other specific phobias. Huber Verlag, 2001. Instructions for short-term therapy, written for doctors and psychologists, but also helpful for laypeople.


Gisela Finke, Dr. med. Arne Schäffler in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Revision and update: Dr. med. Sonja Kempinski | last changed on at 15:20

Important note: This article has been written according to scientific standards and has been checked by medical professionals. The information communicated in this article can in no way replace professional advice in your pharmacy. The content cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or to start therapy.