To examine the prevalence rate, impairment, comorbidity, course of illness and determinants of eight specific phobia variants: animals (animal subtype); heights, water, storms (natural environment subtype); flying, enclosed spaces, being alone (situational subtype); and blood/injury (blood/injury subtype).
Data were obtained from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study, a prospective study in the Dutch general population aged 18–65 (N = 7,076).
The most prevalent condition was specific phobia with a fear of heights (4.9%). On all parameters except duration, specific phobia with a fear of being alone emerged as the most severe condition. Phobias with fear of enclosed spaces and phobias with fear of blood showed a slightly greater likelihood of impairment, comorbidity and personality problems than phobias with fear of animals, heights, water or storms.
The situational and blood/injury phobia subtypes appear to be a more significant index for impairments and for comorbid psychiatric disorders than the animal and natural environment phobia subtypes.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
American Psychiatric Association (1987) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R), (3rd edn. revised). American Psychiatric Association, Washington
American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), (4th edn, revised). American Psychiatric Association, Washington
Batelaan N, de Graaf R, van Balkom A et al (2007) Thresholds for health and thresholds for illness: panic disorder versus subthreshold panic disorder. Psychol Med 37:247–256
Bijl RV, Ravelli A (2000) Current and residual functional disability associated with psychopathology: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Psychol Med 30:657–668
Bijl RV, Ravelli A, van Zessen G (1998) Prevalence of psychiatric disorder in the general population: results of the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 33:587–595
Bijl RV, van Zessen G, Ravelli A et al (1998) The Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS): objectives and design. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 33:581–586
Bracha HS (2004) Freeze, flight, fight, fright, faint; adaptationist perspectives on the acute stress response spectrum. CNS Spectrums 9:679–685
Cottler LB, Robins LN, Grant BF et al (1991) The CIDI-core substance abuse and dependence questions: cross-cultural and nosological issues. Br J Psychiatry 159:653–658
Craske MG, Barlow DH, Clark DM et al (1996) Specific (simple) phobia. In: Widiger TA, Frances AJ, Pincus HA et al (eds) DSM-IV Sourcebook, vol 2. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, pp 473–506
Curtis GC, Magee WJ, Eaton WW et al (1998) Specific fears and phobias. Epidemiology and classification. Br J Psychiatry 173:212–217
Fredrikson M, Annas P, Fischer H et al (1996) Gender and age differences in the prevalence of specific fears and phobias. Behav Res Ther 34:33–39
de Graaf R, Bijl RV, Ravelli et al (2002) Predictors of first incidence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the general population: findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study. Acta Psychiatr Scand 106:303–313
de Graaf R, Bijl RV, Smit F et al (2000) Psychiatric and sociodemographic predictors of attrition in a longitudinal study: the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Am J Epidemiol 152:1039–1047
de Graaf R, Bijl RV, Vollebergh WAM et al (2000) Response and non-response of the third wave of the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Technical report. Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht
Hettema JM, Prescott CA, Myers JM et al (2005) The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for anxiety disorders in men and women. Arch Gen Psychiatry 62:182–189
Kendler KS, Myers J, Prescott CA et al (2001) The genetic epidemiology of irrational fears and phobias in men. Arch Gen Psychiatry 58:257–265
Kendler KS, Neale MC, Kessler RC et al (1992) The genetic epidemiology of phobias in women. The interrelationship of agoraphobia, social phobia, situational phobia, and simple phobia. Arch Gen Psychiatry 49:273–281
Kendler KS, Prescott CA, Myers J et al (2003) The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for common psychiatric and substance use disorders in men and women. Arch Gen Psychiatry 60:929–937
Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O et al (2005) Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry 62:593–602
Kessler RC, McGonagle KA, Zhao S et al (1994) Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States. Results from the national comorbidity survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry 51:8–19
Magee WJ, Eaton WW, Wittchen HU et al (1996) Agoraphobia, simple phobia, and social phobia in the national comorbidity survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry 53:159–168
Marks IM (1970) The classification of phobic disorders. Br J Psychiatry 116:377–386
Merckelbach H, de Jong PJ, Muris P et al (1996) The etiology of specific phobias: a review. Clin Psychol Rev 16:337–361
Ormel J (1983) Neuroticism and well-being inventories: measuring traits or states? Psychol Med 13:165–176
Ormel J, Oldehinkel AJ, Brilman EI (2001) The interplay and etiological continuity of neuroticism, difficulties, and life events in the etiology of major and subsyndromal, first and recurrent depressive episodes in later life. Am J Psychiatry 158:885–891
Pearlin LI, Schooler C (1978) The structure of coping. J Health Soc Behav 19:2–21
Robins LN, Wing J, Wittchen HU et al (1988) The composite international diagnostic interview: an epidemiologic instrument suitable for use in conjunction with different diagnostic systems and in different cultures. Arch Gen Psychiatry 45:1069–1077
Semler G, von Cranach M, Wittchen HU eds (1987) Comparison between the composite international diagnostic interview and the present state examination. Report to the WHO/ADAMHA task force on instrument development. World Health Organization, Geneva
Smeets RMW, Dingemans PMAJ (1993) Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), Version 1.1. World Health Organization, Amsterdam
Smit F, Cuijpers P, Oostenbrink J et al (2006) Costs of common mental disorders: implications for curative and preventive psychiatry. J Ment Health Policy Econ 9:193–200
The ESEMeD/MHEDEA 2000 investigators (2004) 12-month comorbidity patterns and associated factors in Europe: results from the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) project. Acta Psychiatr Scand 109(Suppl 420):28–37
Vollebergh WAM, Iedema J, Bijl RV et al (2001) The structure and stability of common mental disorders. The NEMESIS study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 58:597–603
Wittchen HU (1994) Reliability and validity studies of the WHO-composite international diagnostic interview (CIDI): a critical review. J Psychiatr Res 28:57–84
World Health Organization (1990) Composite international diagnostic interview. Version 1.0. World Health Organization, Geneva
World Health Organization (1997) Composite international diagnostic interview. Version 2.1. World Health Organization, Geneva
NEMESIS was conducted by the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (Trimbos Institute) in Utrecht. Financial support was received from the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Depla, M.F.I.A., ten Have, M.L., van Balkom, A.J.L.M. et al. Specific fears and phobias in the general population: Results from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 43, 200–208 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-007-0291-z
- specific phobia
- population study