Answer the following question briefly:
What is meant by phobia?
Irrational fears of specific things causing intense emotional distress and interfering significantly with everyday activities.
Phobia is an anxiety disorder. It means extreme and irrational fear of some specific object or situation that leads to avoidance of these objects or situations by the person. According to DSM-IV- TR There are three kinds of phobia- specific, social and agoraphobia.
Criteria for specific phobia- (according to DSM-IV-TR):
- Marked and persistent fear that is excessive and unreasonable caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation.
- Exposure to phobic stimulus provokes an immediate anxiety response or panic attack.
- Person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.
- Phobic stimuli are avoided or endured with intense anxiety.
- Symptoms interfere significantly with normal functioning.
- Duration of at least six months.
Criteria for social phobia : (according to DSM-IV-TR)
- Marked or persistent fear of one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny of others.
- Exposure feared social situation provokes anxiety or panic.
- Person recognizes the fear to be excessive or unreasonable.
- Feared social or performance situation is avoided or endured with great distress or anxiety.
- Symptoms interfere significantly with normal functioning. Agoraphobia- the Greek word ‘Agora’ means public places of assembly.
Criteria for agoraphobia:
- Anxiety about being in places from which escape might be difficult or in which help may not be available.
- Situations are avoided or endured with marked distress.
Biological factors :
Genetic and temperamental variables affect the speed and strength of conditioning the fear. Several studies have suggested, a moderate genetic contribution in the development of phobias. Behaviourally inhibited children who are shy, timid and easily distressed are likely to develop phobias from different objects or situations.
1. Psychodynamic perspective:
According to this viewpoint, phobia is represented as a defense against anxiety that stems from repressed impulses from the Id. It is too dangerous to know the repressed Id impulses the anxiety is displaced on to some external object/ situation that has some symbolic relationship to real objects of anxiety.
2. Phobias as learned behavior:
The principle of classical conditioning appear to account for the acquisition of irrational fears and phobias. The fear response can readily be conditioned to previously neutral stimuli when these stimuli are paired with traumatic or painful events. Once acquired phobic fears would generalize to other similar situations or objects.
3. Vicarious conditioning of phobic fears :
People learn irrational phobic fears simply watching a phobic person. This can be distressing to the observer and can result in fear being transmitted from one person to another through vicarious or observational learning. For example- A boy who has witnessed his grandfather vomit while dying developed a strong and persistent vomiting fear.
4. Evolutionary preparedness:
Humans seem to be evolutionarily prepared to rapidly associate certain objects such as snakes, spiders, water and enclosed spaces with frightening or unpleasant events. This preparedness occurs because certain objects or situations posed real threat to our early ancestors. Thus the prepared fears are not inborn rather they are easily acquired and resistant to extinction.
On the other hand, social phobia is a result of dominance hierarchies, a common form of social arrangement among animals. Domi¬nance hierarchies are established through aggressive encounters between members of a social group and a defeated individual typically displaces fear and submissive behaviour but rarely attempts to escape the situation completely. Social phobias are evolutionary basis to acquire fears of social stimuli that signal dominance and aggression from other humans.
5. Cognitive factors: Beck suggested that people with social phobia tend to expect that other people will reject or negatively evaluate them. This leads to a sense of threat from people around them.