Irrational fears can cause problems in a person’s life by instigating the inability to carry out normal everyday activities or hindering a person from going to certain places because they cannot handle being exposed to their fear. Persistent, excessive apprehension that causes avoidance of certain objects or places is characteristic of a type of Anxiety Disorder that physiologists have titled Phobic Disorder. Although people usually know that their fear is not grounded within any logical motive, they have the inability to shake the fear that grips them each time they are exposed to the place, situation, or object that they abhor. There are two “classes” of phobic disorders: specific phobias and social phobias.
The irrational apprehension of a specific item or setting is characteristic of a specific phobia. There are five different categories of specific phobias including situations, animals, blood or injury, natural environments and other phobias directed at specific things or noises. The second type of phobia is called social phobia that consists of the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. This fear can become so prevalent that people will not leave their house because they dread that they may become embarrassed at a social situation.
Both of these phobia categories cause people to have problems performing their daily activities. Although there are different extents to which phobic disorders affect how people function, there is an estimated 12% of people that develop a specific phobia during their life, and about 14% women and 12% of men will develop a social phobia at some point in their lifetime. There are different ideas on how phobias can be developed and why they are so common among individuals. An experiment that was performed in 1924 by John Watson showed that children could be classically conditioned to have anxieties for specific objects that they previously did not fear.
It has also been shown that when a person is doing a stressful task, such as giving a speech, a person without a phobia of public speaking and a person with a fear of public speaking will both have the same physiological response. This data can then be used to argue that a social phobia may be due to a person’s subjective experience to a situation. Another idea that has been thought to be true is that there are neurological factors that play a role in causing phobias. In individuals who report having phobias, there is often an irregularity in the neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine. The area of the brain called the amygdala also will often have high activity levels in people with phobias.
The amygdala is a is a contributor to the maturity of emotional associations. Being exposed to people with phobias also seems to have an impact on if a person will develop a phobia. Approximately 30% of first-degree relatives of people with phobias also develop a phobia in their lifetime. A theory that was proposed by Martin E.P. Seligmen in 1971 on why people can become afraid and develop phobias for certain objects or places is called the Preparedness Theory. This theory argues that people are naturally prone to specific fears. This theory is supported by research that showed that people and monkeys could be conditioned to be afraid of things such as spiders and snakes, but they could not condition them to have a fear response to things such as flowers or toys. This shows an instinctively predisposed fear of certain things and not others. This was also supported by a study on facial expressions. People would more easily develop a fear of angry facial expressions than neutral facial expressions.
Phobias can affect how people react to certain situations and I know from experience that phobias hinder my ability to properly react to specific instances. I have a phobia of needles. Throughout most of my life, I have been very afraid of needles to the point that I will pass out getting simple vaccinations. Recently my phobia of needles came to the forefront of my attention when I broke my leg this past summer. As soon as the ambulance got the scene of my injury they needed to give me an IV (intravenous) so that they would be able to administer pain medications directly into my bloodstream. As soon as I learned that they were going to poke me with a needle I immediately began to panic and get anxious, which is characteristic of phobic disorders.
Although my leg was throbbing with pain, all I could think about was the needle that they would have to give me. Phobias are marked by an excessive fear that a person recognizes as irrational, but they cannot prevent it from interfering with their functioning. I recognized my fear of needles as being irrational, but for some reason I cannot turn off my overwhelming sense of panic when I encounter an instance in which I will have to get a needle. In this particular situation, they were able to give me Nitrous oxide that allowed me to relax and not be aware of my surroundings so they could administer the IV. Studies have shown that phobic disorders can slowly develop during a person’s life, and that is something that I have noticed in my own experience.
When I was younger needles were not something I enjoyed, but it was not a completely traumatic event to go and get a shot. I cannot pinpoint a specific time when I suddenly became afraid of needles, but it seemed to develop slowly as I got older. My is father also afraid of needles, and that causes him to become apprehensive when he is given a shot. Studies have shown that people with first-degree relatives who also have phobias are more likely to develop a phobia as well. My father’s fear of needles may have aided in the influence of my phobia. Growing up it was always an unhappy event when we had to go to the clinic to get our vaccinations. The negative atmosphere surrounding the process of getting needles could have also attributed to my growing apprehension of getting a shot. Phobias can play a detrimental role in a person’s life as the persistent, excessive apprehension of a place or object causes avoidance, and hinders their ability to function properly in different situations.
Phobias can develop towards specific objects or social situations. Different ideas for why a person can develop a phobia include neurological factors, classical conditioning, and exposure to another person who has a phobia, such as a first-degree relative. The Preparedness Theory illustrates the idea that people are instinctively predisposed to have a fear of certain things. I have a phobia of needles that causes me to have an irrational fear of needles. Phobic Disorders are common among individuals, and there is lots more research that can be done on the subject.