Ever been on a roller coaster that was just a bit too old and rickety? (Coney Island's Cyclone, I'm looking at you!) Or when was the last time you saw a really creepy spider that made you jump from out of your seat? Is a "Daddy Longlegs" really going to incur that much damage? But if you are taken aback enough, you may find that you are sweating, anxious, and jittery. These natural "flight or fight" responses are triggered by events that we find troubling.
It is my personal theory that everybody struggles with some type of irrational fear, but a phobia is a powerful and persistent fear of something like a situation, activity, thing, animal, or clown. If you have an excessive and unreasonable need to avoid what you may fear, chances are you have a phobia. When what you fear spirals beyond your control, and if your fear is hindering your daily life, a therapist should be called in to mediate and help you regain your control.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8.7% - 18.1% of American's have a phobia. Did you know that phobia's are the most common mental illness among women in all age groups and the second most common among men older than twenty five? Phobias are not usually diagnosed if they aren't encountered on a regular basis, or if they aren't too distressing to the person with the phobia. Think about public speaking. It makes most people uncomfortable, but how many times do you have to talk in front of an arena of people?
From a psychological perspective, phobias can be seen as an emotional response - they occur when the fear that was produced by the first dangerous situation is transferred to other similar situations, while the original fear may be repressed or forgotten. From a biological perspective, an event that happens to trigger a fear response will be recorded by the amygdala and hippocampus and will be labeled as dangerous. Phobias are thought to be closely linked to the amygdala, an area of the brain that secretes hormones that control fear and aggression.
To Be Continued. Part One