Psychology

Phobia – What, Why and How?

Phobia explained

 

All my life I have been extremely horrified by certain animals. Anything that can crawl or fly would send me to straight into a panic if I didn’t get away from it fast enough. And then there are chickens, geese and ducks… I can’t deal!

I’ve never had a problem playing with flying and crawling insects when I was a child, nor did I have a fear of feathered animals chasing me. I can’t think of any reasonable explanation as to why I have this intense fear of them now that I am older.

I have always wanted to know more about this, as I find society extremely intolerant and insensitive towards people who struggle with any type of phobia. As bizarre as it might seem to some, it’s a reality that a large percentage of people with phobias have to deal with. To them, being exposed to the object/situation they fear is unbearable. Friends and family members will make fun of them for having these irrational fears and will even go as far as to intentionally expose them to what they are fearing, for their own entertainment of course. What they don’t understand is that having a phobia is a real thing. It can actually push someone to the point of having a nervous breakdown, as well as create trust issues that interfere with future relationships between themselves and their loved ones.

But who am I to speculate? Below is a compilation of the research I’ve done on this topic. I have listed the resources at the bottom of this post for readers who are interested in reading more about different types of phobia and how it works.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation. The affected person goes to great lengths to avoid the situation/object, to a degree greater than the actual danger posed. If the feared object/situation cannot be avoided, the affected person experience significant distress.

Phobia can be divided into 3 main categories

  • Specific phobias

Examples of specific phobias are certain animals, natural environments, blood or injuries. Most common being the fear of spiders, snakes and heights.

Specific phobias can be treated by using psychotherapy, hypnotherapy or exposure therapy. Medications usually do not work for specific phobias.

  • Social Phobia

Social phobia occurs when people fear a situation of others judging them. A combination of counselling and medication is used to treat the symptoms of these types of phobias.

  • Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is fear of a situation because it is felt that an escape would not be possible. Counselling in conjunction with medication is used to treat the symptoms of Agoraphobia.

General information on Phobia

A conditioned fear or response to an object/situation is not always a phobia. To meet the criteria of a phobia there must also be symptoms of both impairment and avoidance. People with phobias often realize their fear is irrational, but they’re unable to do anything about it.

A phobia can develop during childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. They’re often linked to a frightening event or stressful situation. It is unusual for a phobia to start after the age of 30 years. Phobias can also be ‘learned’ from a parent or close family member.

One study suggests that memories may be passed down through generations in DNA in a process that may be the underlying cause of phobias. According to this study, memories can be passed down to later generations, through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors.

Another study suggests the contrary. According to this study, we only believe that we are born with our fears, that they are deeply coded in our DNA and that we can never get rid of them. But we are only actually born with two fears – the fear of falling and of loud noises. This suggests that all other phobias are simply learned behaviors.

Just for fun, here is a small A-Z compilation of phobias and what they are:

Ablutophobia – Fear of bathing

Barophobia – Fear of gravity

Cacophobia – Fear of ugliness

Dipsophobia – Fear of drinking alcohol

Euphobia – Fear of hearing good news

Frigophobia – Fear of cold / cold things

Geniophobia – Fear of chins

Hierophobia – Fear of holy people / sacred objects

Ithyphallophobia – Fear of seeing, thinking about or having an erect penis

Judeophobia – Fear of jews

Kathisophobia – Fear of sitting down

Logophobia – Fear of words

Metrophobia – Fear of poetry

Nephophobia – Fear of clouds

Ommatophobia – Fear of eyes

Peladophobia – Fear of bald people

Quintaphobia – Fear of the number 5

Rhytiphobia – Fear of getting wrinkles

Selenophobia – Fear of the moon

Trichophobia – Fear of loose hairs on clothing

Urophobia – Fear of urine or urinating

Venustraphobia – Fear of beautiful / attractive women

Wiccaphobia – Fear of witches / witchcraft

Xanthophobia – Fear of the colour yellow, or the word yellow

 

What did Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler have in common?

They all suffered from Ailurophobia – the fear of cats.

 

I hope you enjoyed my first psychology post. If you suffer from any of these phobias or can relate with anything in this post, feel free to comment your experience. I would love to hear other opinions on this.

Resources:

http://www.wikipedia.org

http://www.healthline.com

http://www.nhs.uk

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

positivehypnotherapy.com

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