5 Common Effects of Phobias on Your Emotions and Personality

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A specific phobia is, by nature, triggered by a specific object, place or, situation. Unlike generalized anxiety disorder, people with a specific phobia are not consumed by pervasive worry and fear. However, a phobia can have a very real impact on a person's daily functioning and quality of life.

Common Emotional Effects of Phobias

Here are five examples of the emotional effects some people experience as a result of their phobia.

Life-Limiting and Severe Anxiety

One of the main criteria for diagnosing a phobia is that it is life-limiting in nature. Depending on what your phobia is, you might find it a real struggle to run errands, go out with friends, or even make it to work every day. In other words, a specific phobia can significantly impair your education, your career, and your overall quality of life. 


Limitations associated with phobias can make you experience social isolation. You may wonder why you are not like everybody else. This can affect your relationships with family and friends, which could contribute to you becoming reclusive and depressed.


Phobias can create awkward and embarrassing situations. For example, how do you explain to your best friend that you can never visit her home because they own a dog? How do you turn down a trip to the Bahamas with a new love because you can’t bring yourself to get on a plane?

Social phobia, now known as social anxiety disorder (SAD), can be especially difficult to manage because the underlying fear is of humiliation. Having a phobic reaction can make you feel embarrassed, which often only reinforces the persistent fear.

Feeling Out of Control

Perhaps one of the worst emotional components of a phobia is the out-of-control feeling. You may understand that your phobia is irrational and/or excessive, but no matter how hard you try, you cannot get it under control.

You are not alone if you spend time thinking about what your life would be like if you could simply live daily without the dread of coming into contact with that specific object or situation. 


Helplessness may appear when you realize that your phobia has affected several or even all aspects of your life, like your job, social life, and general happiness. You may feel that there is nothing you can do to heal. You may assume that you will always have your phobia. You may wish things were different, but feel that they never will be.

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A Word From Verywell

The good news is that if your phobia is causing any of these distressing thoughts or feelings, be reassured that you can get better with proper treatment. Like any mental disorder, it is easy for a phobia to have an impact far beyond its basic symptoms. Treating the phobia will eventually help to reduce negative feelings like shame and helplessness.

That being said, while you are in treatment, you may find that some negative feelings remain. Be sure to tell your mental health professional. Further therapy, perhaps from a psychodynamic point of view, can help you to sort out your feelings and concerns.

While you are undergoing treatment for a specific phobia, you may find that self-help methods such as stress-relieving tools and relaxation techniques can also help reduce your symptoms.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Specific Phobias.

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Phobias.

  3. Han RT, Kim YB, Park EH, et al. Long-Term Isolation Elicits Depression and Anxiety-Related Behaviors by Reducing Oxytocin-Induced GABAergic Transmission in Central Amygdala. Front Mol Neurosci. 2018;11:246. doi:10.3389/fnmol.2018.00246

  4. Leigh E, Clark DM. Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents and Improving Treatment Outcomes: Applying the Cognitive Model of Clark and Wells (1995). Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2018;21(3):388-414. doi:10.1007/s10567-018-0258-5

  5. Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Specific Phobias.

  6. The Social Anxiety Association. Social Anxiety: Symptoms and Treatment.

  7. Leichsenring F, Salzer S, Beutel ME, et al. Psychodynamic therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy in social anxiety disorder: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2013;170(7):759-67. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12081125

Additional Reading

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.