Phobias1 Essay

This essay has a total of 1788 words and 7 pages.


Just imagine for a moment that you have a cynophobia or the fear of dogs, would this be
how you would feel. Driving down the road the oil light comes on. "I must stop the car
to add more oil or I will damage the car engine. This looks like a good place to pull
over. I’ll just stop in front of this house. The oil is in the trunk, so
I’ll pop the top first, then get the oil out of the trunk. OK, I have the oil, but
what if there is a dog at this house. Hurry, I have to hurry. A dog might come running
out and bark at me any minute. Just get the oil in the engine. I can’t my hands
are shaking. Don’t worry, there is no dog. Just get the oil in the engine. I
don’t care if I spill it, just get some in the engine. Take another look around, is
there a dog anywhere. OK, the oils in, now hurry get back in the car. I can’t
breath. I’m safely back in the car, now just take a minute and breath. When will
my hands stop shaking." This is how a person with a phobia of dogs might feel. There is
no dog around anywhere in sight, but the thought of a dog running at them barking is
enough to cause a panic attack. In "Exploring Psychology" David G. Myers defines phobia
as "an anxiety disorder marked by a persistent, irrational fear and avoidance of a
specific object or situation" (432). This paper will explore the history, causes, effects,
and treatment of Phobias.

The first area to explore is the history of Phobias. The word phobia was not used in
medical literature until the late eighteenth century. Phobia comes from the Greek word
phobos, which means "fear, terror, panic, and flight." In Greek mythology, Phobos was a
Greek god who caused fear and panic in his enemies during war. Warriors used the power of
this fear by carrying into battle shields etched with Phobos’s picture. Judy Monroe
states that "Hippocrates lived from about 460 to about 377B.C., and is known as the father
of medicine. He recorded detailed descriptions of people with phobias. Over two thousand
three-hundred years ago, he wrote of a man named Damocles who could not go near an
overhang, or over a bridge, or even near a shallow body of water" (33). During the 1800s,
people began to study how the mind works. Phobias were increasingly described in
psychiatric studies and writings. For several decades, people wrote about and named many
phobias. Many of those names are still used today. Judy Monroe states that "Sigmund Freud
(1856-1939) contributed great work on understanding phobias in the late 1800s. He was one
of the first people to describe the feelings of anxiety that occur with phobic reactions"
(36). During the late 1970s, research on the brain and brain chemistry helped scientists
better understand human behavior and emotions. Along with research on mental health, this
research led to increased knowledge about phobias. Judy Monroe states that "the National
Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) conducted the first survey of mental health in the
United States, the Epidemiological Catchment Area (ECA) survey. Researchers interviewed
nearly twenty thousand people in five cities: Baltimore, Maryland; New Haven, Connecticut;
St. Louis, Missouri; Durham, North Carolina; and Los Angeles, California. This survey
uncovered a startling fact: Anxiety disorders, including all phobias, are the most common
mental health problem in the United States" (37).

The second area to explore is the causes of phobias. There are several theories on the
causes of phobias. The first is the psychological theory. Judy Monroe states "Some
researchers say that phobias arise when people ignore unresolved problems and conflicts.
If someone has a stressful home life, for example, and never gets any help, then that
person’s anxiety will grow. Over time, that anxiety can change into a phobia. The
phobia is the way that person manages the fearful situation. It symbolized the real fear
and allows the person to focus all fears onto one situation or thing" (70-71). The next
theory is biological or chemical. Judy Monroe states "Other researchers say that certain
people develop phobias because of their body chemistry. These people are more likely to be
fearful, to have panic attacks, and to develop phobias. Some researchers have found low
levels of chemical dopamine in the brains of phobics. In experiments with mice, those with
low levels of dopamine react without much aggression. This theory seems to explain why
some social phobics and agoraphobics have panic attacks" (73-74). Another theory is the
learned theory. Judy Monroe states "some researchers say that people learn fear through
direct experience. Specific phobias sometimes develop from a scary situation or real
danger. A person who is thrown from a horse may develop an intense fear of horses. If a
child sees someone bitten by a snake or is continually warned to be careful of snakes,
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