Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Phobias: More then just a Fear

asavannah's picture

Phobias: More than just a Fear



     What are you afraid of? Could it be insects, the dark, heights, or maybe death? These are common fears that many people are afflicted with but for some they are more than just a simple fear. For some people these fears become an obsession; it is something that interferes with their daily lives and relationships and causes them to live a life full sadness. When a fear becomes an obsession it is considered a phobia. A phobia can be defined as an irrational and intense persistent fear of objects, people, situations, or activities which are also known as anxiety disorders.
 Phobias are classified in three different types: social phobias, specific or simple phobias, and agoraphobia. The specific or simple phobias are fears that one will have a specific object or situation such as flying or a type of animal. Social phobias are fears of embarrassment or public humiliation and agoraphobia is the fear of being away from a safe space.
      There are many people who suffer from phobias such as public speaking which is a social phobia; this is, in fact the leading fear in our society today. This is definitely one of my fears but I would not go as far as calling it a phobia. When I am put in the position to give a speech or presentation in front of a large crowd, my stomach starts to hurt, my mouth becomes dry, and I begin to perspire and shake. Then all I have to do is get some water and take a few deep breathes and I come back to reality where I begin to realize that this speech or presentation has to get done some way or another and it is only my responsibility to deliver it.  I cannot imagine having this type of feeling on a regular basis. Luckily, I do not have to face my fear every single day of my life, it is quite uncommon for me to have to give a speech and I would particularly try and avoid it at all costs; but for those who are afraid of normal everyday activities, this fear can be unbearable and very difficult to avoid depending on what the actual fear is.   
       Specific phobias are those of a "persistent and irrational fear in the presence of some specific stimulus which commonly elicits avoidance of that specific stimulus. Within this category of phobias are many subtypes which include animal type, natural type, blood- injection- injury type, and situational type. The equation for a phobia would be: situational type is induced by "a specific situation, such as public transportation, which then causes that person to be afraid of all types of public transportation.
      The last category of phobias is agoraphobia. This is a condition where one suffers from or becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar to them or in places where they feel that have little or no control over. Crowds, open spaces, or traveling are triggers for this type of phobia. Agoraphobics become so overwhelmed by the feeling of being trapped or insecure that it causes them to have a panic attack; they feel like they are out of their comfort zone. For many of them, their comfort zone my be their homes because this is a place where they feel they have the most control over and generally would prefer not to leave their homes or else they may suffer from another panic attack.   
      It is easy to see that anyone could fit into one of those categories. In retrospect, there is a phobia for almost anything imaginable. Phobias can definitely interfere with everyday normal activity depending on what the fear may be and they cause you to be unable to concentrate and work or in some cases even function.
      Phobias are intense fears that have been programmed in a persons mind due to a specific event in their past. The process that is generally known for this type of behavior is classical conditioning which explains why people respond to any number of situations in life relatively quickly. For example, if a child at a very young age was chased down by a very large and ferocious dog, it is more likely that that child will carry this fear with them into adulthood. The very sight of the animal, sound of their paws on the ground, the sound of barking, or like myself the sound of their dog tags jangling from them running at a fast pace can send a person into a completely terrified state.
     We are all generally familiar with the symptoms of fear, the increased pounding the heart, a racing pulse, tensed muscles, perspiration and the feeling of 'butterflies' in the stomach. When we encounter a situation that triggers these sensations, it is because our bodies are preparing for either 'fight or flight' which in other words means that our nervous system is preparing our body for an upcoming threat. We then have two choices, we could either stay in the situation and fight or we can remove ourselves from the situation in the best possible way by making a run for it. Either one of these options causes for lots of energy which in turn causes the adrenal glands to secrete large amounts of adrenaline, which floods through our bodies and gives us a significant temporary boost of power.
       When we experience fight or flight the blood is drawn away from the surface of the skin and goes back to the organs, to give them all the available blood supply they need in order to fight or run away which causes the pale coloration of the skin. Fortunately, this fight or flight ability has been passed down to us from our predecessors and is yet another result of evolution. By living in a dangerous would where they were probably surrounded by wild animals who were also fighting for survival it is no surprise that our ancestors bodies’ would have had to invent some sort of defense mechanism. It is pretty unfortunate that our bodies have not realized that these extreme types of danger occur rather rarely. In retrospect, a small dose of fear could be good for us because it allows us to view certain situations as dangerous or important.
      Fear is something that we have all encountered at some point in our lives. I do not believe that there has been anyone who is completely fearless. But when a fear becomes unbearable and begins to affect a normal way of life it becomes a phobia which causes distress for those who are afflicted with this plague.

Works Cited



Paul Grobstein's picture

fears and phobias

What is it that makes a fear "irrational"? that makes an a"irrational" fear?