What is a Phobia? • A phobia, by definition, is an irrational fear of an object or a situation. • A phobia can range from something as small as triskaidekaphobia, which is a fear of the number 13, to something as big as phengophobia, which is a fear of daylight or sunshine.
What is a phobia? • Also, phobias can range from something very common, such as acrophobia, a fear of heights, to something extremely rare, such as porphyrophobia, a fear of the color purple. • Phobias affect both men and women form all ethnicities and ages.
Symptomology • The main symptoms and signs a perosn exhibits include hot or cold feelings, sweaty palms, nervousness, anxiety and in severe cases, strong panic attacks. • A person with a phobia to an object would show the symptoms while in presence with the feared object, while a person with fear of a situation would fear thinking of it.
Etiology from the learning perspective • Behaviorists believe that a phobia is created because the person has been conditioned to fear the object. A good example of that would be the Little Albert experiment. Little Albert was conditioned to fear rabbits at first, then the fear generalized to become doraphobia, a fear of fur.
Treatments from the Learning Perspective • The Behaviorists have 3 ways of curing a phobia: • Systematic Desensitization • Flooding • Token Economy
Systematic Desensitization • This technique is one of the most successful ways of curing a phobia. It involves having a person first think of the object or situation. Once the subject has gotten used to doing that, they're presented with a picture of the object or situation, then slowly put with the object or in the situation.
Flooding • This method, being one of the least commonly used, isn't all that effective. It involves flooding the person with emotion until they are forced to overcome the fear on their own. For example, a arachnophobic would be put in a room full of spiders.
Token Economy • This method works particularly good for patients with fears of places or situations. It involves reinforcing the person positively the closer they get to the situation.
Etiology for the Cognitive Perspective • The cognitive perspective views phobias as being part of a line of faulty thinking. They believe that this anxiety was caused from previous experiences in life, which can include their own personal experiences or viewing others experiencing it. Cognitive scientists believe that once the fear is established, it is maintained because it has a direct influence with the persons current and future cognitive functioning.
Treatment for the Cognitive Perspective • The main treatment Cognitive Scientists use to cure phobias, specifically social phobias, is cognitive therapy. This type of therapy involves a cognitive therapist addressing and “fixing” the faulty thinking involving the fear.
Etiology There has been evidence that phobias are sometimes common in families and that genetics may be involved in all of this. When a person is exposed to their fear or feared situation, biological changes in the body occur. When a person is exposed to a phobia there is a change in the brain activity and certain hormones are released such as cortisol, insulin, and growth hormone. There is also an increase in physical arousal symptoms, for example increased heart rate and blood pressure. Damage to the hypothalamus may also be the cause of phobias. This can be seen in phobic children, for example, as they are born with a decrease in the neuron activity in the amygdala and hypothalamus. Genetics play an important role when it comes to the formation of phobias. There has been some investigation regarding hereditary phobias but more recently there has been evidence that phobias may be related to a mutation in chromosome 15. People with this mutation are born with it but it doesn’t show up until later in life.
Treatments There has not been much research done regarding biological treatments for phobias and many psyhologists belive that there are better ways of treating phobias, but recently this has changed. Scientists are now giving their patients with phobias selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like paroxetine or antianxiety medications such as diazepam. Some drugs such as Xanax and Valium are used in short-term situations. Beta-blockers are also sometimes given lessen the fear response. Antidepressants are also prescribed sometimes because is has been proven to be helpful in preventing panic attacks that take part in phobias such as agoraphobia. This way, the patients can deal with the problem itself without having to deal with the panic attacks that come from it. All the drug treatments cause a decreased blood flow in the amygdala and hippocampus, just as some other forms of phobia treatments do. The biological treatments are sometimes not recommended for long-term use because it is said to cause little benefit with long term use, unlike with some of the other perspectives.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 8.7% of people, or about 19.2 million American adults, suffer from one or more specific phobias. Although researchers have not yet determined exactly what causes a phobia to develop, we know that phobias are rooted in the normal fear response. • The full list of phobias is almost limitless, consisting of anything that someone could fear. However, some phobias are much more common than others. Here are ten of the most common specific phobias.
Acrophobia - Fear of Heights • Acrophobia is a generalized fear of all heights. This distinguishes it from aerophobia (fear of flying) and other more specified phobias. • Acrophobia is sometimes confused with vertigo. Vertigo is a physical condition that causes dizziness or disorientation when looking down from a great height. A fear of developing vertigo symptoms at height is not acrophobia.
Claustrophobia - Fear of Enclosed Spaces • Claustrophobia can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the sufferer may develop anxiety from simply closing a bedroom door. • Many sufferers find that their claustrophobia is specifically triggered by certain common situations such as entering an elevator or riding in an airplane. Some people discover undiagnosed claustrophobia when undergoing an MRI.
Nyctophobia - Fear of the Dark • This fear is common and generally transient in children. If it persists for longer than six months and causes extreme anxiety, however, it may be diagnosed as a phobia. It is less common in adults.
Ophidiophobia - Fear of Snakes • Ophidiophobia refers specifically to snakes. If other reptiles are also feared, then the more general herpetophobia (fear of reptiles) is used. • People who suffer from this phobia are not only afraid of touching snakes. They also show fear when viewing pictures of snakes or even talking about them.
Arachnophobia - Fear of Spiders • This is an extremely common animal phobia. Sufferers generally fear spider webs and other signs that a spider may be in the vicinity. They also fear pictures of spiders.
Trypanophobia - Fear of Injection or Medical Needles • Trypanophobia is a medical phobia. A more general fear of non-medical needles is known as aichmophobia. • Trypanophobia may result in serious physiological responses including very low blood pressure and fainting. In some cases, severe trypanophobia may lead the sufferer to avoid all medical care.
Astraphobia - Fear of Thunder and Lightning • This is a common fear among children. If it is severe and continues for longer than six months, however, then a phobia may be diagnosed. • Both adults and children tend to deal with the fear by seeking “shelter,” securing themselves in windowless areas where the storm cannot be seen.
Nosophobia - Fear of Having a Disease • Nosophobia is the irrational fear of developing a specific disease. Hypochondriasis is a related disorder marked by the persistent fear of having an unspecified disease. Sufferers of either disorder may become frequent visitors of the doctor’s office, or may instead develop an avoidance of doctors for fear of hearing bad news. • “Medical student’s disease” and “cyberchondria” are forms of nosophobia. These conditions develop when the sufferer researches a disease and then starts to believe that he or she has the symptoms of that disease.
Triskaidekaphobia - Fear of the Number 13 • There is some controversy regarding triskaidekaphobia, as many experts see it as a superstition rather than a legitimate phobia. Nonetheless, triskaidekaphobia is so pervasive in Western culture that it has actually influenced the modern world. • For example, it is rare to see a 13th floor in a hotel or office building. Many people refuse to live in homes with a 13 in the address. Even public transportation is affected, with airplanes skipping over the 13th row. • Triskaidekaphobia may be related to hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, or fear of the number 666.
The most uncommon • If you knew Australian Aaron Buckingham two years ago you might not recognize him today. That’s because Aaron has lost more than half of his body weight. Was it an eating disorder? Well, yes, but not one you might imagine. It isn’t that Aaron wants to lose weight or that he hates food. The truth is he wants to eat in the worst possible way, but according to ninemsn.com.au, “He nearly choked on an Indian curry in April last year, sparking his fear of choking to death.” • Since that time Aaron has survived on protein shakes – and nothing else. A video provided by nine news (and linked below) shows Aaron attempting to eat sausage (something he really likes). He phobia kicks in and he spits out the food. In fact he works to remove every bit of food from his mouth. This fear has led him to believe that attempting to swallow this food will result in his death.
A schoolgirl wasted away and died after developing such a fear of dentists that she would not even open her mouth to eat. • Eight-year-old Sophie Waller's phobia was so bad that she had to go to hospital just to have a tooth removed. • Doctors decided to remove all her milk teeth in one go, to avoid a repeat of the procedure, but afterwards she still would not open her mouth and had to be fed through a tube. • When she left the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro doctors were satisfied Sophie was recovering, but her mother says she would not eat anything at home except watermelon. • Her weight plummeted and health worsened until she was found dead in her bed by her mother a month later.
Ablutophobia • Ablutophobia is mostly a phobia of infants and young children. Mothers know of this phobia more than anyone else as they fight with their several pound little ball of fear and fury as they try to shove them into the bathtub. However, since almost all children have this phobia at one point in time, it is not diagnosed by professionals unless it lasts for longer than six months. Children and women are more likely to suffer from this phobia than men. Very emotional people in particular are generally the ones to develop this phobia. Since most cultures place importance on cleanliness, this phobia can become a viscous cycle as the sufferer’s uncleanliness is mocked and teased, causing feelings of shame and worsening
somniphobia • While somniphobia can be seen in every Freddy Kruger movie (for good reason), it is an actual phobia as well. Sufferers are constantly faced with the negative health effects of lack of sleep as they have anxiety and even panic attacks while laying in bed, awaiting sleep. Some doctors consider somniphobia as merely a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder, but sufferers contradict that idea by claiming to feeling perfectly fine throughout the day.
Ephebiphobia – fear or dislike of youth or adolescents. • Homophobia – fear or dislike of homosexuals or homosexuality. • Islamophobia - fear or dislike of Muslims. • Judeophobia - fear or dislike of Jews. • Xenophobia – fear or dislike of strangers or the unknown, sometimes used to describe nationalistic political beliefs and movements. It is also used in fictional work to describe the fear or dislike of space aliens.