Understanding The Causes Of Phobias Psychology Essay


Phobia is one of the famous psychological disorders and many people suffer from it, therefore we choose it as a topic of our research. Moreover, phobia is an attractive topic because it is a personal disorder. Although phobia is spread widely, many people do not know what the word means, so if we want to give a definition for phobia, we can say it is “an irrational fear that produces a conscious avoidance of the feared subject, activity, or situation” (Preda, 2010). Not all phobias have a name, but that doesn’t mean that they do not exist, they exist and need to be cared. People who suffer from phobic disorder are different in their own type of phobia; also those people may live in different environments or in the same environment. In our research, we are trying to know if the environment plays a role in having phobia or not. So we made a survey on adults in different places in UAE, targeting Emiratis and expatriates for more than 5 years in GCC countries and it includes questions asking about the types of phobia the sample have, the reason of their phobia and the procedures to overcome phobia in their opinion. According to Murtagh (2002)” there are three classifications of phobic states. First , specific phobia which for example , spiders , snakes , dogs , thunder, toads,…etc, for example, When a few friends walk around and suddenly a big snack show up, perhaps some of them will get little fear and the others will have extreme fear (Ophidiphobia) . For those people who get little fear, maybe they will shock or they will feel fear or terror, but will they be snaking phobic?! Perhaps the snake will step back while they are standing steady. Their feeling of fear or terror will decrease or refluent, and if there are wary about snack, they will not feel phobia .but for the others who feel so scared, they can’t see snakes. They even cannot accept the concept of biting and poisons. They can’t forget it because their minds relive it over and over again. Second Agoraphobia, fear of spaces or public places, it is more likely to occur in public transportation or shops. People who have this type of phobia avoid being outside home because they feel like they will lose control and can’t do anything. Third, social phobias like fear, anxiety or provoking from social activities, those people can’t deal with other people; they feel shy of speaking or acting”. In 2010 Morrow said that any phobia can be developed as a traumatic experience in three situations. First, direct exposure to a traumatic event means a direct learning experience. For example, some people have dog phobia because they have bitten by a dog, so the reason of their phobia is a direct experience to a traumatic event (dog bite). Second, Witnessing a traumatic event, or in simple words (observational learning experience). When someone fears from specific thing or situation because of traumatic event of that thing or situation, some others may suffer from phobia from the same thing or situation. For example, when parents fear from heights or they have tragic experiences on it, which can cause a phobic behavior on individual who grows with them towards heights. Another environment factor can develop a phobia is hearing or reading about any dangerous situation or events (informational learning). Anyone can get or have a specific phobia when hearing or reading about these kinds of situations. For example, a fear from flying could be caused by repeatedly listening to any news talking about plan crashes. Also any child could get phobia from an animal when their parents warn them all the time about the danger from it. Also phobia can cause by combine two elements together one is neutral stimulus and the other is an anxiety response like someone driving in the highway (neutral stimulus) and suddenly he got sudden attack , he will panic ( anxiety response) that make him develop avoidance of highways and become a phobic.

Recent Findings: The basic neuroimaging research suggests that greater activation of the amygdale to novel versus familiar faces may be an underlying trait marker for social phobia. Social phobia may represent a phenotype that expresses a genetically driven trait of social withdrawal, which may be related to infantile inhibited temperament (Kagan’s syndrome). The development of virtual reality therapy as therapeutic tool for social phobia appeared promising in one controlled, but not randomized, study. A controlled study suggests that social phobias in children can be effectively treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. This represents an extension of the work done with adults. Venlafaxine appears an effective short-term treatment for social anxiety disorder in two controlled studies. A new compound, pregabalin, appeared clearly effective in a positive controlled study. This trial marks the advent of a new pharmacological lineage for social phobia. Both venlafaxine and pregabalin, however, have been studied in short-term studies. Longer follow-up and relapse prevention studies are warranted.

Phobias are characterized by excessive fear, cued by the presence or anticipation of a fearful situation. Whereas it is well established that glucocorticoids are released in fearful situations, it is not known whether these hormones, in turn, modulate perceived fear. As extensive evidence indicates that elevated glucocorticoid levels impair the retrieval of emotionally arousing information, they might also inhibit retrieval of fear memory associated with phobia and, thereby, reduce phobic fear. Here, we investigated whether acutely administrated glucocorticoids reduced phobic fear in two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in 40 subjects with social phobia and 20 subjects with spider phobia. In the social phobia study, cortisone (25 mg) administered orally 1 h before a socio-evaluative stressor significantly reduced self-reported fear during the anticipation, exposure, and recovery phase of the stressor. Moreover, the stress-induced release of cortisol in placebo-treated subjects correlated negatively with fear ratings, suggesting that endogenously released cortisol in the context of a phobic situation buffers fear symptoms. In the spider phobia study, repeated oral administration of cortisol (10 mg), but not placebo, 1 h before exposure to a spider photograph induced a progressive reduction of stimulus-induced fear. This effect was maintained when subjects were exposed to the stimulus again 2 days after the last cortisol administration, suggesting that cortisol may also have facilitated the extinction of phobic fear. Cortisol treatment did not reduce general, phobia-unrelated anxiety. In conclusion, the present findings in two distinct types of phobias indicate that glucocorticoid administration reduces phobic fear. (Leila M. Soravia, 2006)

As we know Phobia is extreme anxiety (fear) to a certain objects, conditions or people. Medical phobia is known to be fear of health related objects and conditions (e.g. blood, death, diseases, cancer, infections, injections, and bacteria). From a survey done by our group members the statistics show that 26% of males suffer from medical phobia, while only 22% of females suffer from the same kind of phobia. It’s hard to define what causes medical phobia, sometimes an unpleasant experience triggers it and this is usually would happen in an early age. (Marks, 1987)

One of the well known kinds of medical phobias is the phobia from blood. In males and females the amount of people suffering this phobia are 13%. This type of phobia is common in adults and children. It’s most common with the person’s own blood, and most of the time it leads the person to faint, nausea, anxiety, and severs vomiting. (Marks, 1987)It could also be not from a personal experience, but that kind is not as sever as the one from the personal experiences. Death phobia is the most common kind of medical phobia in both males at 26% and females at 25%. This happens usually at an early age when the persons lose someone close to them. Also their fear of what comes after death, and their unaccomplished goals. Phobia from diseases is more common in males than in females 22% to 7% respectively. This phobia is triggered more in males because they are more outdoors more than females, diseases transfer between humans through simple things as simple as air. It usually occurs from personal experiences. This phobia includes all kinds of diseases, from a simple cold or flu to deadly diseases such as Suflas and malaria. Phobia from cancer is common more in females at 25% while in males its only 11%. It is not the same as phobia from diseases, this is only phobia from cancer and all its types (e.g. heart cancer, lung cancer, etc…). The phobia attack strikes straight when they hear the word cancer. This phobia is mostly triggered from personal experience or someone close to them experiences it. At 13% in males and females, infection phobia causes the person to spend a lot of time under the shower and scared to death to get hurt and there constantly visiting the doctors for full body check-ups to make sure they are infection-free from everything. Extreme fear of injections or phobia from injections combines several phobias together (i.e. blood, injury, and being threatened by sharp objects). This kind of phobia is equally common in males and females at 13%, people suffering from this phobia always refuse to consult doctors simply because of their fear to have to take a blood test, and it’s very hard to convince them otherwise. Phobia from bacteria is the least common in males and females at 2% to 4% respectively. People suffering this kind of phobia always have to stay clean and everything around them has to stay clean too, these people usually get sick a lot more and faster than other people because their immune system is weaker. (Marks, 1987)

For males, (12%) who afraid from water and see , (17.5%) of them shows there panic from monsters, (32.5%) of them admit that they are extreme fear from ghosts, (2.5 %) shows that they terrified from clowns,(15%) shows that they terrify from flying, and (2.5%) shows that they are panic from electricity . on the other hand , females are showing also phobia toward those situation, (14%) shows that they afraid from water and sea, (14.3%) of them are afraid from monsters , ( 28.6% ) of them shows that panic from ghosts, (26.2%) of them are extremely fear from graves, ( 2.4% ) of them are fear from clowns, (9.5%) shows that they are afraid from sea, ( 14.3%) of them are fear from flying, no one of female is afraid of electricity.

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As statistical graph shows, the extreme fear (from both genders) is from ghosts, graves and monsters, this phobia could happen due to some reasons. First, it might be that person sees many quick death events in front of his eyes and it develop in him the extreme fear of graves. Second, who like to be alone in every time and situations, he/she will felt the ghosts around them, they will think that they are followed and that will make them very scared. Third, the media play a big role in spreading the ghost and monster phobias, for example: Amityville Horror a film about ghosts, the purpose for it was to earn more many and to scare people (Stefko, 2010)

So we can infer that the majority of causing phobia is past experience, may they faced the situation from first time individually or with groups like friends who may have genetic phobia or they have past experience on the same situation as a result the person has phobic because of that. we will not considered the answer of ” I don’t know ” as an important factor because as we say some of people especially female (from figure) not prefer to tell what is the reason of having phobia or it may one of the other factors such as society or media or even past experience . Although there is no meaningful difference between people who get phobia from society and people who get phobia from media but it shows also meaningful reason of the high of society phobia rather than media. The reason is that people are more interact with each other; they share their feeling of different things. It is obvious that media is the last thing that lead to phobia to UAE people earthier the people have no much time to watch or listen to media or they expressed early that there is nothing on TV that make them become phobic because they used of it .

From both genders we noticed that 46% of them think that “facing and dealing with the phobic condition” is the best way to overcome phobia. We can say that the reason of their opinion is they have phobia because of something or situation they did not test it before, or they may think facing and dealing with the phobic condition can make them get used to the phobic situation and beat their fear. For those who chose (counseling) and they represent 24%, the reason of their choice, is counseling can help them by giving them some advices to beat their fear. 30% is the percentage of who chose (support of family and friends) as the best procedure, and they may think that when family and friends support them by encouraging them they will overcome their phobia.




Approximately 250 words