Phobia is a word that we use regularly in everyday language. So how do you know if you actually have a phobia?
A phobia involves a strong fear and avoidance of a particular object or situation. When faced with the object or situation the person feels extreme anxiety or terror. Sometimes anxiety can even occur without direct contact with the object or situation, for example, seeing pictures, thinking about or discussing the object or situation.
When someone has a phobia the fear and anxiety that the person feels is usually out of proportion to the actual threat. Typically people with phobias are able to recognise that their reaction is irrational or extreme in some way, but their response feels very automatic and uncontrollable.
When someone has a phobia they experience panic symptoms only in the context of the object or situation they fear. They do not experience spontaneous panic attacks (like someone does when they have Panic Disorder) and they do not fear having panic attacks. When a person feels phobic about social situations they are usually consider to have a social anxiety, rather than a phobia per se.