Recent Trends in the Study of Specific Phobias

Charles B. Pull


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2008;21(1):43-50. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of review: Specific phobias are prevalent and often disabling anxiety disorders. The present review examines relevant investigations that have been published during the last 2 years on major aspects of this group of disorders.

Recent findings: Recent studies have come mainly from epidemiology, brain imagery and cognitive-behavioral therapy, including virtual reality exposure therapy.

Summary: Studies published in the last 2 years confirm the high prevalence of specific phobias in the general population and provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the fear reaction after exposure to a phobic stimulus.


Boschen [1] examined trends in anxiety disorder publications over the past 25 years, using MEDLINE searches to find a representative sample of the total number of journal articles published each year from 1980 to 2005 that were focused on each particular anxiety disorder. The results of the study demonstrate that anxiety disorder research grew over the 25-year period examined. Growth was particularly strong for obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder, with strong research growth in panic disorder also in the 1980s. Only specific phobia and agoraphobia did not grow in research output over the review period.

In a recent review, Stein and Matsunaga [2] found a rich literature on fear conditioning and extinction, but relatively few studies on the psychobiology and pharmacotherapy of specific phobias.

The present review examines all studies directly related to specific phobias as elicited in MEDLINE with the research term 'specific phobia' on 20 September 2007 with the limitation 'past 2 years' and 'English only'.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.