Do you suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia? Michael Friedrichs, Ph.D., joined us to share when a fear becomes something more: A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder where a person has a circumscribed fear of a specific object or situation - - marked by (1) a persistent effort to AVOID it, and an (2) understanding that it is unreasonable.
Here are a list of some phobias:
- Arachno-phobia (SPIDERS)
- Ophido-phobia (SNAKES)
- Cibo-phobia (SNACKS)
- Arithma-phobia (CALCULATORS)
- Scato-phobia (you guess this one!!!)
- Konio-phobia (DUST)
- Hemo-phobia (BLOOD)
- Selacho-phobia (SHARKS)
- Biblio-phobia (BOOKS)
- Dipso-phobia (DRINKING)
- Pluvio-phobia (RAIN)
- Iatro-phobia (DOCTORS)
- Caco-phobia (UGLY PEOPLE)
So how do fears become phobias? In the past, doctors blamed Classical Skinnerian Conditioning. In short, that means your brain fuses two experiences that don't normally go together. A good example of this might be a person getting sick on Indian food, then having an irrational aversion to curry for the rest of their lives. Fear of that food is what we call the Conditioned Response (CR), and it's excessive. This theory has fallen out of favor as researchers have been unable to cause phobias in animals to the extent that people get them.
Genetic predisposition can set these things off. Most of us have instinctual fears of creepy crawly things. In the case of specific phobias we have what is called "Situationally Bound Panic attack". In other words, something silly has hijacked a panic response in the Amygdala-- the part of the brain responsible for fight or flight. It's akin to having a car alarm to keep people from stealing your car, except it's being set off by a mouse in the garage!
So what can you do to "cure" a phobia? It's generally best to use all three approaches:
- Systematic Desensitization - exposure with response prevention / relaxation techniques.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - undermine irrational assumptions
- Anti-depressants (SSRIs), anti-anxiety pills less so due to addiction potential
But instead of treating a phobia, try to prevent it from happening. If something scares you, do NOT flee. Fleeing is highly reinforcing.
For more information, visit Dr. Friedrichs' website.