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Phobias - Cause and Effect The American Psychiatric Association defines phobia as “an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation." Affecting over 10 percent of Americans, phobias are the single most common mental disorder that affects more women than men.
Causes of Phobias
Generally, phobias are rooted in traumatic childhood events called trigger events. Just as the smell of oatmeal cookies can evoke pleasant memories of a grandmother, the dark can evoke an irrational, mind numbing terror.For instance, imagine a child who was constantly harassed by his school mates. As he walked home from school they would lurk behind bushes and abandoned cars, waiting until the child neared to leap out at him and shriek a horrible noise. The areas from which the school mates jumped were fairly shadowy, the better to hide them. As the child learns to stear clear of shadowy areas to avoid being frightened, the trigger event becomes forgotten. Instead, he begins feel afraid of the dark. The longer the phobia is left untreated, the more ingrained into the personality it can become. Symptoms of PhobiasSome common reactions to a phobia include dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, a sense of unrealit and a fear of dying. In extreme cases, a full-blown anxiety attack can occur. Consequently, a person may live in virtual isolation in an attempt to avoid the phobia.Social PhobiasA social phobia is diagnosed when a person who is exposed to a specific event such as dining out has an anxiety response.The person may then go on to avoid certain places in fear of an anxiety or panic attack.AgoraphobiaIf a person fears being trapped in an inescapable place, such as wide open spaces or crowded subways, agoraphobia is diagnosed. People with this disorder generally do not leave home unless absolutely necessary.Specific Phobias- Natural environment phobias include fear of water, heights, lightening, storms, etc.- Animal phobias include fear of snakes, dogs, spiders, mice, etc.- Medical phobias include fear of getting a shot, seeing blood, visiting a hospital or doctor, etc.- Situation phobias include fear of flying, driving, bridges, leaving home, tunnels, etc.TreatmentMany phobias are treated using a variety of therapy techniques including cognitive-behavioral therapy. The treatment efficacy depends on the phobia as well as the individual being treated. Exposure treatments attempt to lessen phobias by repeated exposure to the feared object or situation.
“Flooding” is a typical exposure treatment whereby the individual is repeatedly exposed to the feared object for a prolonged time with no opportunity for escape. Counter-conditioning is another therapeutic approach in which the individual learns a new response to the feared object.
Relaxation techniques are used to supplant fear and anxiousness. The phobia gradually fades as the new behavior takes root. Counter-conditioning is frequently utilized for individuals who cannot handle the stress of exposure treatments. Some phobias are only responsive to treatment using prescription medication, mainly because the individual has a chemical imbalance that causes irrational thinking patterns.
This post is brought to you by Argosy University. Drawing upon our more than 30-year history of granting degrees in professional psychology, Argosy University has developed a curriculum that focuses on interpersonal skills and practical experience alongside academic learning. Because getting a degree is one thing. Succeeding, quite another.References:http://psychology.about.com/od/phobias/f/dis_phobiadef.htmhttp://www.psychologyinfo.com/problems/phobias.htmlhttp://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_most_common_phobiashttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobia
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