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Phobic disorders make up a large part of the anxiety disorders anomalies. A phobia is a persistent fear of objects or situations that are disproportional to the threat posed therein. There are several distinct characteristics of phobias. They are highly specific as to persons, objects, or situations. People suffering from them display physical and cognitive attributes of anxiety, however, do not have an extreme distortion of reality. While being the most common behavior disorder in the US, phobias usually involve fears of ordinary things, which does not appear to have physical explanations. Phobias often interfere with normal routines, which may cause occupational or social impairment.

There are three main categories of phobias: simple, social, and agoraphobia. Simple phobias, extreme fears of a specific object that act as triggers, is a catch-all category for all phobias that are not social or agoraphobic in nature. This phobia, which includes acrophobia and hydrophobia, is more common in women than in men, and is usually handled by powerful avoidance measures. The second kind of phobia, social phobia, is a fear or being embarrassed or intensely scrutinized in a social environment, and includes such fears as fear of public speaking, fear of dating, fear of social gatherings, and fear of humiliation of public criticism. People suffering from this usually try to deal by turning down social invitations or making quick exists from social situations. This phobia, which usually begins in adolescence, often produces significant emotional distress, and can impede career and educational goals. The last phobia, agoraphobia, is the intense fear of large or busy places, where people are afraid of incurring a panic attack. Agoraphobia is a fear of fear.

Each of the major psychological perspectives has a different view on phobias. The psychodynamic perspective perceives phobias as symptomatic of unconscious and displaced sexual and aggressive conflicts, where displacement occurs from the original internal source within a person to an external object or a situation. The learning perspective, on the other hand, argues that phobias are conditioned responses, occurring through classical conditioning, modeling, or observational learning, such as the case with Little Albert and white bunnies. These views, however, are insufficient to explain why only some people develop phobias. The biological perspective says that some people are born predisposed to phobias, as twin studies have shown some genetic connection. While the evidence is not strong for any direct genetic transmission of a specific phobia, Seligman proposed that fears develop non-randomly and are learned more easily by those psychologically predisposed. Finally, the cognitive perspective suggests that phobias occur because of consistent overestimation of the dangerous items or situations, which cause fear to be appraised unrealistically.

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