Psychology 101: Aren’t We All Scared?

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We all have our personal fears. From the smallest, to the large and terrifying things in the world. I, for instance, am afraid of animals. I mean all the animals you could think of. But this is just a fear of mine. It is not something that upon encountering makes me act any differently or anxious. But what you categorize as a phobia is very different from something you are scared of. Then, what really is a phobia? Where do they come from? How do I deal with them? This article will be discussing what phobias are, the theory of where they come from and how to deal with your phobias.

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder different from generalized anxiety disorders. This is because the anxiety only occurs when you face that particular situation or object. People who suffer from generalized anxiety tends to have unrealistic, excessive worries almost all the time, even if there is little to nothing provoking the anxiety. For instance, the experience of anxiety differs when confronted by a phobia, than during a panic attack.

Many people who have panic disorder experience a type of anxiety known as panic attacks, with no warning or reason. And many of them strongly believe that their anxiety is associated with something that is medically wrong. But those who experience anxiety from a phobia do not believe that the cause is associated to anything that is medically wrong with them.

But where do phobias come from? Well, it is all based on our genetics and experiences. A review was conducted that went through 4000 studies showed that the difference in genetics among individuals had a huge impact on the growth of phobias. For example, genetic variation is responsible for 45% of individual difference in animal fears, while 41% of differences in blood injection/injury fears. These numbers reveals that non-genetic impacts explains many of the differences in phobias and fears. Researchers particularly found that individual experiences were the strongest predictor of fears and phobias; things like getting bitten by a dog or falling from a certain height.

Now, I know most of you just wanna know how to deal with your phobias. Self help strategies and therapy can both be effective to treating your phobia. The best approaches to your phobia depends on the access to professional therapy, severity of phobia and the amount of support you need. If your phobia doesn’t necessary affect your daily life that much, then it’s probably nothing to be overly concerned about. But, if your phobia impacts you daily life and you aren’t able to function properly because of that situation or object that triggers the phobia – then it’s time to seek help.

I personally recommend facing your fears. One of the most effective way to overcome a phobia is by steadily and repeatedly exposing yourself to what you fear in a controlled and safe way. During the process of this exposure, you’ll learn to endure the fear and anxiety until it passes on its own. And I know what you’re thinking: this’s gonna take forever! But by means of repeating experiences and facing your fears, you’ll start to realize that nothing totally horrible will happen. Upon facing them, you’ll gradually feel more in control and confident. The phobia will start to lose its power on you. If it helps, I already started facing mine. I no longer run away when I see a dog! So that’s something!

We can conclude that while genetics and experiences play a certain role in fears and phobias, experiences appear to be the more important factor. Whether it be a mildly small fear or a full blown phobia, it is never a pleasant experience when you are forced to deal with it. So in social situations, don’t be afraid to scream your head off when you see a spider or snake.

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