The Science Behind Phobias
Posted: Apr 11, 2019
A phobia is an extreme fear of anything from flying and cars, to spiders and confined spaces. Many people regard phobias as fears without basis. They may seem irrational and unreal to witnesses, but they can wreak havoc on the mind of the person experiencing them. Fear is basically an emotion that acts as a defense mechanism of the human body. This defense mechanism is triggered against things or situations our mind considers harmful or dangerous.
Fear can be of any level from mild to extreme, and it is usually considered a phobia when it is very extreme and of something that is not considered dangerous by the masses. In the following article, we will go through the causes of phobias, some types of phobias people have, how they react to them.
Causes of Phobias
Some people develop phobias as a result of a traumatic experience, while others develop them during childhood or by birth. It is believed that most phobias are consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They can develop at any stage of life but are most powerful when they realized during childhood.
There are certain phobias like fear of heights, small spaces, insects, etc. which are classified as simple phobias. These are believed to be due to childhood experiences or upbringing. Some children may be scared of insects because they were taught during childhood that insects are dangerous. On the other hand, a child may be afraid of heights because he or she fell from a balcony or a slide when they were little.
Other complex phobias such as agoraphobia or the fear of situations where escape might be difficult, or socializing phobias tend to keep people indoors. People suffering from these phobias do not go outside much, travel or interact with strangers. Phobias such as these are believed to be caused by genetics as well as experiences.
How they affect the mind & body
People suffering from phobias may exhibit and experience the following reactions and feelings:
- Heavy breathing
- Accelerated heart rate
- Amygdala puts the body in fight or flight mode
- Most people get an adrenaline rush
- Pupils dilate
- Non-essential organs decelerate their activity till the stressful situation resolves
In short, the body goes into high-alert and stays in that zone until the perceived threat or danger is removed. People generally avoid such situations to the best of their abilities, and the fight or flight response helps them either hide or power through the situation.
Common types of Phobias
There are dozens of phobias experienced by people all around the World. Here are a few of them:
Claustrophobia: This is one of the most common phobias, and it is the fear of confined spaces. People suffering from claustrophobia have trouble breathing in constricted or crowded spaces, and they can even start panicking. Such people have a very hard time watching movies in which people are buried in coffins or locked in small rooms or jail cells. Claustrophobic people cannot easily get into elevators either, especially crowded ones.
Cynophobia: This is also known as dog phobia. Many people suffer from this phobia for a number of reasons. Most of these have to do with a past experience such as being bitten or chased by a dog or any other traumatic experience related to dogs.
Mysophobia: Mysophobia or germ phobia is a fear of contamination. It is mostly found among people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. People with Mysophobia constantly wash their hands, avoid handshakes and touching doors. They also avoid touching animals and sharing their belongings with others to protect them from germs. They believe everything is dirty and would potentially make them sick.
Acrophobia: It is the fear of heights. It can be caused by past experience, or be part of a person since birth. People suffering from acrophobia hate bridges, hilly areas, tall buildings and flying as well. Finding themselves at a point of high altitude makes them nauseous, scared, and some even lose consciousness.
Phobias are very real, and they have adverse effects on the person going through them. We should help our friends with phobias and get them to overcome them as much as possible.
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