Phobias and Addictions
Billie Jo Allen
December 05, 2012
How do people develop a phobia or an addiction? This is a question that many people ask, even people who are facing these problems personally. Phobias and addictions are behaviors learned through conditioning. They are not something that a person is just born with, it is taught. There are two types of conditioning that is linked to these two common problems; classic conditioning and operant conditioning. Classic conditioning is when a conditional stimulus that’s repeatedly present with an unconditional stimulus so the subject assumes that there will be a specific result. A choking phobia is a good example of behavior learned through classic conditioning. In a study conducted by Scemes, S., Wielenska, R., Savoia, M., & Bernik, M. (2009), a woman who has had a horrible incident of choking after swallowing a plum pit may begin to take caution while eating. This woman may cut back on her intake of seedy foods and be more careful while eating. Several weeks later she has another choking episode and this triggers memories of previously choking and aggravates her avoidance behavior of certain foods even more. She restricts her diet to foods that do not contain seeds, bones kernels or other small items, eats slower and makes sure her food is well chewed. This may begin to interfere with her life because she does eat so slow and inspects her food thoroughly before eating and this puts a damper on her social and home life. This phobia was a result of classic conditioning. The condition stimulus (choking) paired with the unconditional stimulus (small foods) lead to her phobia because now she assumes or has learned that eating small foods will cause her to choke. Even though this is not always the case she relates the stimulus to a predetermined outcome. Phobias can also because by operant conditioning because good behavior such as eating can be...
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