Known as a mental disorder a phobia is a persistent fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to compelling desire to avoid it. Phobias tend to affect the way people live their lives, for example, their working and social environments, considering that they last for a very long time and are capable to cause intense psychological physical stress. It is considered today the most common mental and anxiety disorder in the United States (Matig Mavissakalian & David H. Barlow 1981 pp 2).
There are many phobias such as: the fear of aging, fear of changing, fear of clowns, fear of getting fat, fear of being in closed spaces, etc. One who encounters phobias has to deal with a collection of uncontrollable symptoms when their fear is presented. The mild cases, if not psychology cured, tend to grow into fears that are not able to be controlled which lead a person to feel like their life is being taking away from their own control (Erin Gersley 2001). In order to avoid their fear he or she will do anything in their power to not have to encounter it.
Although feeling powerless and helpless, the people with the phobias tend to believe that their fears are irrational and exaggerated. These fears are avoided because when encountered they will bring the inability to function normally due to the anxiety provoked. Physical reactions are also encountered although psychologically is mostly common. Severe panic attacks, rapid heartbeat, sweating, difficulty breathing are some symptoms that people experience (Mavissakalian & Barlow 1981 pp 2-3). Hence, regardless the phobia, he or she will most likely experience a particular set of symptoms.
Observable psychologists have found that the pupils become dilated, the skin perspires, they might suffer from tremulousness, or their face becomes flushed when encountering their phobia. In some cases, a person will do anything that they can to escape the situation of fear causing them to take excessive measures to relief themselves from that fear. Symptoms of a phobia include the recognition that the fear goes beyond normal boundaries and the actual threat of danger, as well as the reactions are autonomic and uncontrollable, particularly taking over a person’s thoughts (Gersely 2001).
More is yet to be found over the broad subject over phobias. Researchers, however, have come to believe that experienced events and inner conflict might be the reason for these blown up fears. It is also believed that phobias are genetically predispositions. Phobias are also known to be looked as learned behavior. Gersely (2001), found that identical twins may develop the same type of phobia even when they are put into different environments and sent to different schools. Referring to the genetic research, they found that, even when they are raised apart, identical twins tend to develop the same phobia.
Because children tend to act the same as their parents react, it is found that children that are exposed to parents that are, for example, afraid of frogs, they will ultimately develop the same fear of that reptile (Gersley 2001). The anatomical version of phobias may be looked upon to explain the causes or origins of certain fears. Many things are experienced when fear is taking place in the body. The combination of genetics, brain chemistry, and heredity are responsible for the development of phobias or other anxiety disorders.
Gersley (2001) stated that neurotransmitters are released into the brain. Many the amygdala, that is located in the pituitary glands in the limbic system, is related to phobias. When a response is initiated, the amygdala produces hormones that are dependable for the control of fear and aggression. The hormones are sent to throughout the body causing it into a state of alertness. Social phobias, others still believe, are responsible for abnormalities in neurotransmitter receptors of the brain. Phobias are divided into three classifications.
The first classification can lead to panic attacks. This classification simply is when the person has the fear of open spaces, or being left alone called agoraphobia. This specific phobia can lead to the person experience of an intense fear when not being able to break out of a populated area (Barlow & Mavissakalian, pp 4). This causes people having to evade open and heavily crowed environments with little possibilities to exit over their massive fear of going through a panic attack. Therefore, today there are signs in many rides at themed parks that warn people of the closed areas.
This specific category of phobias causes the person to fear traveling on bus or even waiting in a line. This phobia can also lead to being dependent of someone because they are too afraid to go outside of their homes. Barlow & Mavissakalian (1981 pp 4-5), implicated that the clinical picture painted is consistent and consists or fears of going out to public places and open and crowded places, fears of walking alone or using any means or public transportation, and fears of being alone at home. Agoraphobia is the most disabling of all phobias and usually begins in early adolescence.
When a child is at a young age and experience some kind of traumatic event it is most common that this child will grown a fear anything that triggers the memory of the specific event. Gersely (2001) stated that traumatic events have the capability to trigger specific phobias. For instance, if a person experiences are traumatic car accident they might have difficulty later learning how to drive or might develop a fear in automobiles. A person’s self esteem or assertiveness may play a role in the development of social phobias.
When a person deals with embarrassed feelings, feelings of an outcast or feelings of rejection by others might cause some type of phobic reaction (Laura L. Vernon, 2007). A second classification is known as social phobia. These phobias are referred to as social anxieties or personal anxieties. This phobia is worse than the usual shyness that humans regularly experience or extreme self-consciousness and the fear of being publicly humiliated. On the positive side the person suffering from this phobia are less severe.
Kolossa & Wolfgang (2006) discussed that a social phobic tends to fear negative evaluations. Physical symptoms may include trembling, blushing, sweating, and speaking poorly and non physical symptoms may include occasional depression (Barlow & Mavissakalian 1981, pp 6). Many of the people who suffer from social phobia have uncontrollable fear of doing an act which would be viewed by other as humiliating or have fear of interacting with members of the opposite sex (Laura L. Vernon, 2007) Again proving that these terrible phobias change a person’s life completely from functioning normally.
Unlike agoraphobia which tends to be episodic, social phobias may be long lasting and do persist over a long period of tie in the life of a person. There are many factors that also have effects on person’s social phobias development. Parents who demonstrate awkward behavior in social atmosphere may sway the child to imitate the parent’s actions causing a fear to develop. Parental behaviors can prevent or provoke sociable fears on a child at young age. Social phobias may as well develop at an early age over personal factors or the environment. Sex is another risk factor that patient must take into consideration.
Studies have proven that the most common mental disorder in women all age groups and the second most common for men older than twenty-five have to deal with social phobia. There are many let-downs that come with uncontrollable phobia. This phobia tends to ruin the chance to keep an relationship or live any type of normal life. Although phobias affect both genders, women and young girls are more likely to experience social phobias than men and boys (Gersley 2001). Men are viewed as masculine figures with greater aggression causing the rate for them to suffer from the social phobia at a lower rate.
As discussed earlier the third risk factor is the person’s family. A person is likely to learn a specific type of phobia if another member of a family is or has experience that same phobia themselves. Social phobias develop at a young age, mostly between the ages of eleven and fifteen, and almost never develop after the age of twenty-five. For example, when a young child may be exposed to loud noises throughout their maturation they may develop into a phobia later in life for a person. The third classification of phobias is known as specific phobias.
There are numerous amounts of phobias that are lease expected. Some of these specific categories include situational phobia, fear of natural environment, animal phobia, and blood injection injury phobia. The people that tend to experience monosymptomatic phobias of animals or specific situations tend to have a consistent fear of animals such as cats, snakes, dogs, or specific situation such as heights and thunderstorms. Situational phobias and phobias of animals can be cluster under monosymptomatic phobias or animals or specific situations (Barlow & Mavissakalian 1981, pp 6).
These intense phobias do not cause, unlike the others, spontaneous panic attacks and high levels of anxiety. However, just like the previous phobias, they do arise during childhood years and have the chronic path. Then there are the people that suffer from blood and injury phobias, which simply submit to the fear of going to the any kind of doctor or the fear of the sight of blood. People who suffer from these phobias as well have a tendency of fearing hospitals or fearing illnesses (Andrew C. Page 2009, pp. 69-95).
Being exposed to the fear causes fading of such phobias. Many children at their early age do not like to attend the doctor or go to hospital, after a period of time having them attend the doctor they become less afraid until they are no longer bothered or afraid. Unlike other phobias, blood and injury phobias are different when it comes to the symptoms or effects of the fear. The phobia’s reactions tend to be anxiety attacks and increased heart rates. The person actually fainting is a common symptom of blood and injury phobias. (Barlow & Mavissakalian pp 6).
Research has never stopped with figuring out which treatment is best for which phobias. Treatments for the phobias differ just as much as the phobias themselves differ. The most successful treatment is behavioral therapy. Throughout this therapy a certified therapist help the patient confront his or her fear gradually and the patient will learn how to control their reaction towards the fear. Treatments may vary depending on the severity of the fear itself. These therapies allow patients to find ways to manipulate and change such thoughts and fully comprehend the cycle of negative thoughts.
With all the research that has been done the treatments to cure these phobias have been a work from various psychological researchers. Like said earlier, Gersely (2001) stated that the most common method of getting rid of these fears is to be exposed to the fear as much as possible. In other words, if a person is constantly exposed to his or her fear and shown how the fear is in reality safe and not dangerous the person will gradually loose the fear towards the objects or situation (Kahn & M 1989, pp 73).
According to Mavissakalin & Barlow (pp 14-16), the key to therapy is keeping the patient long enough for them to realize the low level danger their phobia actually presents. When the technique of exposing the person with the phobia to the phobia often fails to show any progression, therapist later turn to an alternative therapy called counter conditioning. This process is known as Systematic desensitization (Y Choy 2007, pp. 266). This method is used to desensitize patients of a particular fear or phobia. Within this process there are three steps.
First, therapists must train their patients to physically relax. In the second, therapists must establish an anxiety ranks of the stimuli involved. Then lastly, therapist use the counter conditioning relaxation method as a response to the patient’s phobia, beginning with the fear that provides the least amount of anxiety and later working up to higher scaled anxiety causing fears, until finally the patient’s phobia is completely dealt with (Gersely 2001). There are various other methods of treatment, for example, through the process of hypnosis.
Hypnosis, through the process of age regression, can allow a person to remember what has caused them their fear, and be able to achieve control of the problem (Gersley 2001). These treatment methods came to be over that fact that because these phobias develop at such a young age, one tends to forget the traumatic event linked towards the phobia or fear. Posthypnotic suggestions help a patient control their reactions towards mild phobias and allows them to achieve a complete state of relaxation (Kahn & M 1989, pp 73). Drugs are also believed to be a treatment when dealing with phobias.
Because, it is believed, that abnormalities in neurotransmitter receptors of the brain may be responsible for social phobias, there are certain drugs that take those abnormalities and stabilize them. Medications are very useful for trying to help a person overcome a phobia. Inderal and Tenormin, are also useful when facing situations that can induce high anxiety levels. Drugs that may be prescribed to patients who suffer for anxiety may include Valium and Xanax. These drugs are used to reduce over-stimulation in patients and controlling phobic symptoms (Gersely 2001).