Psychology 101: Phobias Uncovered

As most of you (don’t) know, I am very interested in psychology. If you aren’t familiar with psychology, it is the study of the mind and behavior. Psychologists are people who want to find out why we do the things we do. It’s a very general subject with thousands of small branches, a few of them including:

  • Body language
  • Dreams
  • Phobias
  • Attraction
  • Language
  • Criminal (psychology)
  • Personality disorders

And those are only a few. However, today I want to talk about phobias. Haven’t you ever wondered why you’re afraid of spiders? Why you feel lightheaded when you’re up in a really high place? What causes these irrational fears of almost harmless things? We’ll be covering the basics of phobias and where they come from, which may sound a bit boring, but I promise it’s more interesting than it sounds. First, we should get to know the subject a bit more, so…

What are phobias?

What many people don’t know is that phobias are actually just a more common type of anxiety disorder. A phobia is an irrational or unreasonable extreme fear of something. There are three main types of phobias; social phobia, specific (simple) phobia and agoraphobia. Social phobia is the fear of social or public situations, specific (simple) phobia is the fear of something specific (like a specific object) and the third one, agoraphobia, is the fear of being in places with no easy escape.

What are the symptoms of phobias?

  • Anxiety
  • Trembling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Racing heart
  • Sensational panic/dread
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Thoughts of nothing but feared object
  • The rarest symptom is a full out panic attack

What makes a phobia a phobia, and how is it different from a fear?

Fears and phobias have a lot in common: they are both emotional responses to something threatening and aren’t the most pleasant feeling. The main difference between them, though, is that phobias are just more serious. They can actually constrain you from doing normal things. For example, people who are afraid of spiders would feel uncomfortable or strange when one was crawling up their arm, but a person with a phobia of spiders would scream and jump around, or even become paralyzed with fear. I don’t mean that in a girly way. Phobias are like a form of fear so powerful and compelling that they get in the way of a person’s daily life. Also, fears are usually a normal response to perceived danger, but phobias are more excessive or unreasonable than that.

What are some common types of phobias?

Just so you have an idea of some examples of phobias, here’s a list of the most common ones, which you might even recognize:

  • Arachnophobia (the fear of spiders)
  • Claustrophobia (the fear of being in tight spaces)
  • Acrophobia (the fear of heights)
  • Trypanophobia (the fear of needles/injections)
  • Tonitrophobia (the fear of thunder)
  •  Trypophobia (the fear of holes)
  • Hemophobia (the fear of blood)

Where do phobias come from?

According to numerous sources, phobias rely on mainly two things: individual experiences and genetics. I think it’s pretty obvious that your own experiences with things are what cause us to develop fears and phobias. For example, if a person was bitten by or allergic to a dog, wouldn’t they be more likely to evolve a phobia for dogs than a person who’s isn’t and hasn’t been bitten by one? As for the genetic part in all of this, basically, your genetics determine your proneness to phobias. This meaning your genes play a big role in your tendency for developing them. Even siblings, who usually only have 50% of the same genes, have different tendencies and proneness levels. Maybe your brother was trapped in school because of a loud, scary thunderstorm the same amount of time you were, but he’s horrified by the idea of thunder and you aren’t. It’s completely possible because even siblings don’t have the exact same DNA you do.

If you’ve stuck to the end and read all of that, I hope you enjoyed the article! Psychology is educative and can be entertaining and satisfy some of that curiosity inside you. There will be weekly posts about psychology just like this one every Thursday. See you next week!



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