What Is A Phobia
A phobia is an uncontrollable, irrational, and lasting fear of a certain object, situation, or activity. This fear can be so overwhelming that a person may go to great lengths to avoid the source of this fear. One response can be a panic attack. This is a sudden, intense fear that lasts for several minutes. It happens when there is no real danger.
How People May Develop Phobias
Specific phobias are very common, especially among children and adolescents. Research tells us that approximately 10% of children will experience a specific phobia, making this type of anxiety one of the most common anxiety disorders affecting young people.
Here are three main learning scenarios that may influence whether or not you develop a phobia.
Seeing other people get really scared in a specific situation, or around a particular object or animal. This is called modelling. When you see someone else model a fear reaction to certain things, you may learn to be afraid of the same thing.
Hearing or reading scary stories about a situation, object or animal. For example, a parent who always tells you, dogs are dangerous, never approach a dog, beware of dogs, teaches you that ALL dogs are dangerous, ALL of the time, which may contribute to you developing a fear or phobia of dogs.
Having a frightening experience with a particular object, animal or situation. We call this direct conditioning. For example, you may have been growled at or even bitten by a dog or be swept up in a rip in the ocean or have had a tree fall on your house in a bad storm. These experiences are often very scary, and some children may then feel afraid whenever they are in that situation again.
Treating Phobias With Technology
The treatment of phobias is going high-tech as well, with virtual reality being used as a tool in helping people overcome their anxieties.
“Virtual reality is the other newer treatment being used for phobias,” says Wilson. “It’s three to four years away from being used on a broad basis because the equipment is so expensive to use, but there are four or five places in the U.S. that are using it today.”
The University of Washington is one institution that uses virtual reality , coupled with real life, in treating phobias. According to a news release, “Researchers at the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology Lab measured aversion and anxiety responses of students, some of whom had a clinical phobia of spiders, before and after undergoing VR therapy. During the therapy, some of the subjects touched a realistic model of a large spider while grasping a virtual one.”
The combination of fact with fiction worked: Those students were able to come twice as close to a real spider after completing three therapy sessions, and reported a greater decrease in anxiety during treatment, than those who underwent VR therapy alone.
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Where Do Phobias Come From
Asked by: Anonymous
Some are exaggerated forms of evolved fears that all of us share. For example, humans like some other apes are naturally wary of snakes, spiders and rats, which makes good biological sense. These natural fears can then be strengthened or weakened depending on how our parents respond to these triggers.
The same kind of emotional learning happens in other species whose infants watch and learn from their parents reactions to the world. The fact that a phobia seems irrational to the person suffering from it does not make it go away. Other phobias arise from life events, such as being chased by a seagull or trapped in a small space, but many have no obvious origin and are difficult to explain. They can often be eased by appropriate treatment.
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Recognizing Specific Phobias: Do I Have A Phobia
Eric describes himself as “scared to death of flying,” a fear that has gotten worse over the last few years. When he is on a plane, he feels trapped, and panicky. His heart races and his throat feels tight. He also sweats excessively. The worst part for Eric is when the plane starts to take off the shaking of the plane makes him convinced that it is going to crash. He is especially afraid of smaller planes, and when the weather is bad during a flight. He used to start dreading a plane trip a few months before he was due to take one. Now, he won’t fly at all. He thinks that his anxiety has become overwhelming and that he will freak out and have a panic attack on the plane.
When Eric considers employment opportunities, one of the first things he thinks about is whether the job would involve flying. He won’t even apply for the job if he thinks there is a chance that he will have to travel anywhere by plane. He has also missed several important events, such as his sister’s wedding in France. Eric knows his fear of flying is an irrational fear, but he can’t seem to overcome it.
Karen is aware that her fear of dogs is excessive compared to other people. However, she cannot manage her extreme fear or her urges to avoid or escape anything related to dogs. Her fear of dogs has become a big problem for her and her family, and it prevents her from moving freely and comfortably outside of her home.
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But Where Do Phobias Come From
A toddler is having one last play before bed. Its summertime, and the bedroom window is open to the balmy air.
Three moths come flying in. At first, they dont bother the toddler too much, but after a while they start to irritate them. They decide to find Mum and ask her to get rid of them.
Thetoddler goes to the door and accidentally pushes it closed. The door handlelooks very far away. They jump up to grab it, but end up knocking the lightswitch. The toddler is now trapped and in the dark with the moths.
Accordingto Dr Ross King, an academic and clinical psychologist from Deakin UniversitysSchool of Psychology, one of the main ways people can develop phobias isthrough traumatic experiences. In the right circumstances, seemingly harmlessobjects can become a source of debilitating anxiety. In the case of thetoddler, Dr King says the child could develop a phobia of moths because theirexisting fears of being trapped and in the dark have been paired with theinsect, despite the fact that they were not harmed in any way by them.
Anothercommon way people can develop phobias is by observing someone elses fear of anobject or situation and learning that they, too, should be afraid.
Someonemay develop a fear of dogs if they realise their parent is fearful of dogs, DrKing says. Its a basic evolutionary sense my parent is afraid of this, so Ishould be afraid of this as well.
Phobiascan also develop through what Dr King refers to as informational, or mediaways.
How Does A Phobia Develop Where Do Phobias Come From
There are many theories about the cause of specific phobias.
Research suggests that phobias can run in families, and that both genetic and environmental factors can contribute to developing a phobia.
Some people develop a phobia after being exposed to a traumatic or frightening event. For example, you can develop a fear of water after nearly drowning.
People can develop a phobia after receiving frightening information about something, or being instructed to stay away from an object or situation . This is often done inadvertently, but not always. For example, some children may develop a phobia of an animal after a trusted adult repeatedly warns them the animal is dangerous and might bite them.
Finally, a person may develop a phobia by observing the anxious response of others to objects or situations. For example, a child may develop a spider phobia after watching an older sibling scream and run after being in contact with a spider. These ‘childhood’ phobias sometimes continue into adulthood.
Generally speaking, most people find that their phobia develops gradually over time, or comes and goes over a long period. Many people find that no particular cause or trigger is involved in the development of their phobia. Regardless, it is less helpful to spend a lot of time and energy ‘rooting out the cause’. The point is to learn how to manage the phobia.
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How Can I Tell If I Have A Phobia Or A Different Anxiety Disorder
Many people with an anxiety disorder are afraid of specific places, situations, or things, and often avoid them. However, this does not necessarily mean that they have a specific phobia. The following are some suggestions on how to tell the difference between a specific phobia and other anxiety disorders.
TIP: Remember, a person may have more than one of these disorders at the same time. For example, you may have a specific phobia of choking and also experience a lot of social anxiety when eating in public.
Specific Or Simple Phobias
Specific or simple phobias, such as a fear of heights , usually develop during childhood.
Simple phobias can often be linked to an early negative childhood experience. For example, if you’re trapped in a confined space when you’re young, you may develop a fear of enclosed spaces when you’re older.
It’s also thought that phobias can sometimes be “learnt” from an early age. For example, if someone in your family has a fear of spiders , you may also develop the same fear yourself.
Other factors in the family environment, such as having parents who are particularly anxious, may also affect the way you deal with anxiety later in life.
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Examples Of Causes Of Phobias
- Past incidents or traumas. Certain situations might have a lasting effect on how you feel about them. For example, if you experienced a lot of turbulence on a plane at a young age, you might develop a phobia of flying. Or if you were injured by a dog some years ago, you might develop a phobia of dogs.
- Learned responses from early life. Your phobia may develop from factors in your childhood environment. For example you might have parents or guardians who are very worried or anxious. This may affect how you cope with anxiety in later life. You might develop the same specific phobia as a parent or older sibling. If they have a severe reaction to something they fear, this might influence you to feel the same way.
- Reactions and responses to panic or fear. You might have a strong reaction, or a panic attack, in response to a situation or object. You may find yourself feeling embarrassed by this. Especially if people around you react strongly to your response. You could develop even more intense anxiety about the idea of this happening again.
- Experiencing long-term stress. Stress can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. It can reduce your ability to cope in particular situations. This might make you feel more fearful or anxious about being in those situations again. Over a long period, this could develop into a phobia.
- Genetic factors. Research suggests that some people are more vulnerable to developing a phobia than others.
Living with my phobia of bananas
What Is Happening To Your Brain
Phobias are stronger than fears.
Clinical psychologist Warren Mansell is a fear expert from the University of Manchester.
“Our fears are hard-wired into our brains – we don’t need to learn to be afraid of animals like snakes or spiders.”
But he says a phobia develops when a person has experiences that make the animals seem much more dangerous – like if a sibling has taunted them with the animal when they were a child.
“An area called the amygdala in the brain is recognising a threat and preparing your body for fight or flight.”
Warren says the base fear itself is positive: “To have fear of heights and water and snakes is healthy thing.”
When it comes to snakes and spiders they are some of the most common phobias – experts think around 5% of people have them.
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What Is Phobia In Psychology
We are inundated with information these days. Some of it is really important and helpful and some of it is honestly just ridiculous and misinformed. Since the media often uses fear to grab attention, many people are often unnecessarily afraid. You can have no contact at all with an object or situation, but repeated cautions and warnings can cause fear.
For example, a younger child who watched a YouTube video of someone being attacked by a dog became phobic of all dogs.
Specific Phobias And Adults
Are you afraid to fly? Do needles make you nervous? Do you avoid dental appointments, elevators, or contact with spiders because you are scared? If so, you may have a phobia. Phobias are intense fears about specific places, situations or things. Phobias can make it hard for you to go to places that you would like to go, make it hard to be effective at work, and put a strain on relationships. This is because people will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable and often terrifying feelings associated with their phobia. If you have a phobia, you are not alone.
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How Do People With A Phobia Typically React
If you have a phobia, you may feel a wide range of intense emotions, from mild anxiety to very severe panic and terror. In more severe cases, you may even feel that you are going mad, losing control, or are about to die when facing the feared object or situation. The fear is usually expressed physically by an increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, feeling faint, nausea, feeling of choking, and/or increased blood pressure. Some people will even have a full-blown panic attack . Most of all, you will feel an overpowering urge to ‘escape’ from the very thing you fear.
Avoidance is the most common reaction because it helps you to feel better and less afraid. This is because avoidance works.in the short-term. But, avoidance tends to make your fear stronger in the long run, because it prevents you from learning new information . Also, if you avoid something once, you are probably going to keep avoiding it every time you see it. The fear can worsen very rapidly as a result. This is why phobias can be such a big problem. To overcome your phobia, you need to face your fears rather than avoid them!
How Do You Take Them On
Facing phobias is the key.
“Ultimately you get over fears when you face something that you are afraid of,” says Warren.
But it might not work so well when given such a big dose, like contestants get on I’m A Celebrity.
Warren says it’s called “flooding your phobias”, adding “it’s not how a psychologist would do it, but it makes good TV”.
Warren recommends breaking down phobias step by step.
So if someone has a fear of snakes they could start by looking at pictures or video of snakes.
At Manchester University, Dr Mansell and colleagues have used virtual reality to help people control the pace that they face their own fears with.
He also advises asking for help if it is impacting a person’s life.
“If the person is finding that they can’t do things they really want to do – I would advise them to get help. Yes.”
Lauren says she likes to work with people to clear their subconscious memory and help them breathe.
“Breathing techniques are really good,” she says. “Ant and Dec were telling Jordon ‘breathe, breathe’, protect your breath.”
She adds lots of problems are personal and you need to “tune into their individual energy” in order to help.
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Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself: Where Do Phobias Come From
Nineteen million Americansexperience phobia, or an overwhelming and irrational fear of an object or situation, often causing difficulty in one or more areas of their lives. Common examples of fears include spiders , snakes , and heights , but a phobia can develop around anything.
âPhobias may make no sense on the outside, but once the brain and the alarm centerâthe amygdala, to be specificâdecides that something is dangerous, the whole system goes on alert with a big âNOâ whenever these triggers are heard, seen, or thought of,â says Tamar Chansky, psychologist and author of âFreeing Yourself from Anxiety and Freeing Your Child from Anxiety.â I recently investigated my lifelong fear of cotton balls and discovered that my phobia, known as sidonglobophobia, is, to some extent, a result of vicarious conditioning , where a phobia can be acquired through observing someone else respond in a fearful fashion to an object or situation. My older sister also has an irrational fear of these horrific downy globes, and, as a small child, I picked up her distress cues. In addition to vicarious conditioning, other pathways to developing a phobia include a traumatic conditioning experience, where people have direct experience with a phobic object or situation, which causes a powerful trigger, and informational transmission, where a phobia can develop from consuming threatening information via the media, conversation, and other mechanisms.
How Is Fear Different From A Phobia
Fears and phobias sound similar but have varying effects on our daily lives. Fear can be our ally to help keep us safe from dangerous situations. In contrast, a phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a constant, irrational fear that logic and reason cant explain.
Lets say you have another friend who is afraid of dogs because they were bitten as a child. That would be a regular fear response. This same friend may walk by a dog park and feel afraid their heart starts to race or they walk more quickly, but theyll still walk by it and maybe even wave to someone while they are with their dog.
If your friend actually had a phobia of dogs, they would react in a more extreme way. For example, they may walk by a dog on the street and scream, cry or run away. The same response is true of phobias that include a fear of clowns, a fear of small spaces and more.
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