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What is phobia?
A phobia is a mainly irrational fear of something. It is not an illness. It is not a mental disorder. Nor is it a lack of will-power, or 'moral fire', or determination. A phobia can make one's life miserable, cause embarrassment, and undermine self confidence and self esteem.
The types of phobia: • Simple Phobias: fear of a single stimulus such as fear of heights, ladders, frogs, enclosed places, etc. • Complex Phobias: a fear of a number of stimuli. In fear of flying, for example, the person may be afraid of crashing, being enclosed in the plane, losing self control etc. • Social Phobias: simply put, this means you are afraid of what might occur when in the company of other people, for example, fear of blushing, losing self control, forgetting what you are about to say, fear of trembling, etc • Panic attacks: a panic attack can be a quite terrifying ordeal unless you understand what is going on and why it is going on. Panics are very common and appear to mainly affect people who normally give the impression of being confident, reliable and dependable. • Agoraphobia: Literally 'fear of the market place' and, up to a decade or so ago, the term was used to describe people who were afraid of open spaces. 'Agoraphobia' is now used to describe those who experience increasing nervousness the further they travel from their own home. In severe cases they may not venture from home at all.
The difference between a fear and a phobia: The distinction generally made is to say that a fear is rational and when fear becomes irrational it is a phobia. In reality the difference is mainly one of degree and the handiest way to distinguish them is by saying that a phobia is different from a fear by being more irrational. Because, having being fuelled by our imagination, every fear will have a degree of irrationality to it.
Causes: It is generally accepted that phobias arise from a combination of external events and internal predispositions. In a famous experiment, Martin Seligman used classical conditioning to establish phobias of snakes and flowers. The results of the experiment showed that it took far fewer shocks to create an adverse response to a picture of a snake than to a picture of a flower, leading to the conclusion that certain objects may have a genetic predisposition to being associated with fear. Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Social phobias and agoraphobia have more complex causes that are not entirely known at this time. It is believed that heredity, genetics, and brain chemistry combine with life-experiences to play a major role in the development of anxiety disorders, phobias and panic attacks.