Today’s show is about how to diagnose a phobia, with Dr. Kate Baker of the University of Michigan. In two weeks, we will be back with a second episode on treatment of phobias.

This episode may be most helpful for pre-clinical and clinical students, as well as residents early in their training.

In today’s episode we cover:

– Specific phobias (like fear of flying, fear of getting an injection)

– Social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder), which can include things like fear of public speaking

– Agoraphobia

– Fear neurocircuitry


Episode Details: (actual episode has lots of illustrative examples)

Specific Phobia criteria:
– intense anxiety, almost always provoked by stimulus
– avoidance / endured with intense anxiety
– anxiety out of proportion to actual danger
– clinical distress or impairment (social, occupational, etc)
– duration over 6 months
– not better explained by another disorder

Social phobia: one additional criterion to the specific phobia criteria is: individual fears that he/she will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated, such as being rejected or embarrassed.

The additional criterion to specific phobia is two or more of the following:
Fear of:
– using public transportation
– being in open spaces
– being in enclosed spaces
– being in a crowd or line
– being outside the home alone

Basic steps of neurocircuitry:
1. signal of danger/trauma inputted into brain
2. brain puts context around this information
3. if brain interpretation is of concern, then fight/flight activated.

Key brain structure in the fear response is the amygdala.


You may find it helpful to review fear neurocircuitry from the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative website.