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Psychometric Properties and Clinical Utility of the Specific Phobia Questionnaire in an Anxiety Disorders Sample


Despite an abundance of self-report measures that screen for the presence of specific phobias, there is a lack of comprehensive, well-validated screening tools for identifying a wide range of fears based on DSM-5 specific phobia types. The current paper reports on the psychometric properties and clinical utility of the Specific Phobia Questionnaire (SPQ), a new screening tool for assessing fear of a broad range of phobic stimuli, and the extent to which fear interferes with daily life. An exploratory factor analysis revealed five factors with internal consistency (Cronbach’s α) ranging from .64–.92. The SPQ also demonstrated good convergent and discriminant validity with measures of worry, depression, and other specific phobias, and good test-retest reliability. Results also suggest that SPQ scores are useful for discriminating individuals with specific phobias from those without specific phobias, and for identifying specific phobia types. Overall, preliminary results suggest that the SPQ can serve as a useful tool in both research and clinical settings, and inform intervention and prevention efforts.

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  1. Data were collected prior to the release of the DSM-5. Changes in diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders from DSM-IV to DSM-5 likely do not impact the findings of the current study.

  2. ROC Analyses were also conducted for the interference subscale; AUC for the interference subscale was also significant in predicting specific phobias (AUC = .69, 67% sensitivity/60% specificity)

  3. ROC Analyses were also conducted for the interference subscales; AUCs for the interference subscales (AUC = .72–.83, all ps < .001) were significantly better than chance for discriminating individuals with DSM-5 specific phobias.


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Correspondence to Martin M. Antony.

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Conflict of Interest

Melina Ovanessian, Nichole Fairbrother, Valerie Vorstenbosch, Randi McCabe, Karen Rowa and Martin Antony declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


Appendix A


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Appendix B

Specific Phobia Questionnaire Scoring Instructions

The Specific Phobia Questionnaire (SPQ; Fairbrother and Antony 2012) was designed to assess the extent of fear and interference for a broad range of objects and situations. The SPQ consists of 43 items, each rated using a 5-point Likert scale on two dimensions: (1) level of fear, with scores ranging from 0 (no fear) to 4 (extreme fear) and (2) extent to which the fear interferes with one’s daily life, with scores ranging from 0 (no interference) to 4 (extreme interference).

The SPQ is scored by combining fear ratings of each DSM-5 specific phobia type to create five different composite scores:

  • Animals (sum of items 3, 6, 8, 11, 30, 31, 36, 37, 39, 43)

  • Natural Environment (sum of items 1, 2, 13, 14, 23, 27, 32, 33, 38)

  • Situational (sum of items 4, 7, 16, 22, 26, 29, 34, 40)

  • Blood-Injection-Injury (sum of items 5, 9, 10, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 24, 25, 28, 35, 41, 42)

  • Other (sum of items 12, 20)

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Ovanessian, M.M., Fairbrother, N., Vorstenbosch, V. et al. Psychometric Properties and Clinical Utility of the Specific Phobia Questionnaire in an Anxiety Disorders Sample. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 41, 36–52 (2019).

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  • Specific phobia
  • Factor analysis
  • Measurement