Phobias are a very common disorder in the United States these days. The definition for phobia is "an abnormal or morbid fear or aversion" ("Oxford" 655). To be considered a phobia, a fear must cause great distress or interfere with a person’s life in a major way. The word phobia is Greek, therefore, any word that proceeds it should be Greek too. To coin a new phobia name, it is proper and only accepted to follow this rule. The rule has been broken many times in the past, especially by the medical profession. The medical profession is steeped in Latin and many times when forming a name for phobia, they use Latin. There are three kinds of phobias: simple phobia, social phobia, and panic attacks. Simple phobias, also called specific phobias, are fears of a specific thing, such as spiders or being in a closed place. Most simple phobias develop during childhood and eventually disappear. Specific phobia is a marked fear of a specific object or situation. It is a category for any phobias other than agoraphobia and social phobia. The categories of specific phobias are 1. situational phobias such as: fear of elevators, airplanes, enclosed places, public transportation, tunnels, or bridges; 2. fear of the natural environment such as: storms, water, or heights; 3. animal phobias such as: fear of dogs, snakes, insects, or mice; 4. blood-injection-injury phobia such as: fear of seeing blood or an injury, or of receiving an injection. (Wood 520). Social phobias are fears of being in situations where your activities can be watched and judged by others. People with social phobias try to avoid social functions at all costs and find excuses not to go to parties or out on dates. This avoidance is the difference between having a social phobia and simply just being shy. Panic attacks are the third kind of phobia. They can change the quality of a person’s life. Someone with a phobia this bad may be shopping at the supermarket and suddenly experience dizziness and a feeling of being out of control. At that moment, the person experiences a fear of dying, with no safe place to go. When this happens more than once, the person might think they are going crazy. Someone with panic attacks soon won’t leave the house because of fear of a panic attack happening outside the house. Soon, depression sets in. What causes phobias? Researchers do not agree on any one definite cause of a phobia. Simple phobias, however, are often the result of a bad childhood experience. A tendency towards phobias, especially panic attacks, may run in families. Genes appear to play a role in all cases of phobias. A person has three times the risk of developing a phobia if a close relative suffers from one. (Wood 516). From the phsycodynamic perspective, people develop phobias primarily as a defense against the anxiety they feel when sexual or aggressive impulses threaten to break into consciousness. If the anxiety can be displaced onto a feared object and if that object can be avoided, then there is less chance that the disturbing impulse will break through.
Phobias may be acquired through observational learning, as well. For example, children who hear their parents talking about frightening experience with the dentist, with bugs or thunder storms may develop similar fears themselves. Frightening experiences set the stage for phobias, yet not all phobias recall the experience producing the phobia. For example, if a person was humiliated by performing in front of others, they may develop a social phobia. Social phobia is the third largest medical problem in the world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH), social phobia is "a disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self -consciousness in social situations." Social phobia is defined "as people intensely afraid of any social or performance situation in which they might embarrass or humiliate themselves in...
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