What causes phobias?
The phobias can be caused by bad personal experiences, evolutionary processes which produced fear to warn us against dangers, cultural differences and learned behaviors from parents. They can start in childhood but rarely start after the individual reaches the age of 30.
These fears begin when people change their lives to accommodate the fear much like the examples of avoiding escalators and elevators and walking up many flights of stairs or avoiding places which have escalators and elevators altogether.
Simple phobias usually start in childhood but no one really knows what causes complex phobias. Researchers believe that social phobias may be caused by an extremely stressful situation.
Theories of Survival
Many theorists postulate that phobias stem from a biological need for survival. Children and adults were vulnerable to wild animal attacks. On the other hand social phobias and the fear of stranger could have been a result of attacks from strangers and warring tribes going as far back as cave man days and beyond.
Because the mind is not functioning appropriately by becoming too sensitive to the past situation it responds as if the situation is fresh and new each time the individual comes face to face with the situation. For example a person may have been bitten by a dog. Now, every time the person sees a dog he or she remembers that experience or maybe even relives it.
The amygdala will release the fight or flight response in the brain. In the case of phobias the mind may become oversensitive to a very bad experience and relives the memories over and over again. There are treatments that can relinquish that first memory and allow the individual to calm down when facing the terrifying object or thing.
Phobias are much more intense than simply just a simply fear.
Making the fear bigger than life
Exaggerating the risk of danger
Abnormal breathing (panting, trying to catch your breath)
a sensation of choking
chest pains, chest tightness
butterflies in the stomach
pins and needles
confusion and disorientation
The MNT Knowledge Center goes on to say that, “Children may cry, become very clingy, attempt to hide behind a parent's legs or an object, or have tantrums.”
Some phobias do not affect the person’s life that much such as ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) when the person lives in the city and rarely if ever comes into contact with snakes. Others can be quite debilitating such as agoraphobia or social phobia where people are afraid to meet people or even leave their homes.
Other common phobias
Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Individuals will not go hiking or avoid living in tall apartment buildings. They may have trouble visiting doctors and other professions working in tall office buildings. Entering such buildings, walking up or down hills or other elevated places can lead to anxiety attacks.
Astraphobia, Brontophobia, Tonitrophobia, or CeraunophobiaAll these phobias refer to the fear of thunder or lightening
Driving phobia - fear of driving a car
Emetophobia - fear of vomiting
Erythrophobia - fear of blushing
Hypochondria - fear of becoming ill
Mysophobia – fear of germs or dirt
Trypanophobia – fear of injections and needles
Zoophobia - fear of animals
Non-psychological phobias of a biological nature
Photophobia is an extreme sensitivity to light. This is not a psychological phobia because you are not afraid of light just sensitive to it.
Hydrophobia is an extreme sensitivity to water. It can be a symptom brought on by rabies. Sufferers find it very difficult to drink.
Homophobia is not a fear but a dislike or prejudice of a certain kind of people, such as gays
Ephebiphobia is a dislike of teenagers or young people
Xenophobia is the dislike of foreigners or all strangers or even a fear of the unknown.
Treatments for phobias
Medications such as beta-blockers used for high blood pressure, antidepressants, tranquilizers, behavior and cognitive therapy , are successful in combating phobias. Your doctor will discuss the proper treatment for you.