Millions of people in the world face phobias, so-called fears that fully and seriously impede the normal development of mental processes. Fear is adverse and powerful man’s emotion. Although most people are fearful only occasionally, some individuals face the problem of debilitating disorders. This leads to significant distress and interferes with a person’s life. If an individual meets the object of his or her fear rarely, then no significant harm will occur. However, if the cause of fear is present all the time, it can destroy the established way of life. Therefore, it is crucial to study the problem of phobias. The psychological essence of fear and phobias, being one of the most important research topics of psychology, received today quite a convincing description. However, the therapeutic concept that can efficiently displace human fears of the space is not created. Therefore, it is important to understand the characteristics, causes and possible influence of phobias.
Keywords: phobias, fear, influence.
A phobia is an unrealistic, intense fear, which can interfere with one’s abilities to socialize, work and interact with people and objects in everyday life. It is tied to a particular object, person or situation. The paper will discuss the features, causes and effects of phobias as well as possible methods to resolve the problem.
Phobias are obsessive, intense and irresistible fears, encompassing human beings, despite understanding their meaninglessness. Specific phobia is a fear of a particular object or situation, including anything ranging from an airplane to a dentist. Phobias are the most common in people of the family. According to Bener, Ghuloum, & Dafeeah (2011), “5 to 20% of all children and adolescents are afflicted with at least one anxiety disorder” (p. 140). Almost every person in some situations feels certain anxiety and natural excitement. Anxiety and fear are the usual reactions to real custom events, and they do not necessarily promise the emergence of long-term psycho-emotional problems. Nowadays, a well-formed, chronic, paranormal severe anxiety is classified as an anxious-phobic disorder.
There are two common reasons, which play an important role in developing anxiety and phobic disorders. They are genetic (hereditary) and social factors. Genetic susceptibility is a tendency to pathological anxiety, which is excessive for the modern person. It is a manifestation of the self-preservation instinct. It is inherited from the ancestors, for whom fear was the main basis of survival. Often, the mother passes anxiety to the child, while the father adds the male component: distrust and doubt on the rightness of the actions and judgments. Du, Jaaniste, Champion, & Yap (2008) state that fears of strangers, heights, or loud noises are innate (p. 15). At the same time, according to the cognitive assumptions, pathological fear attacks occur in highly susceptible people, who overreact to even minor physical symptoms. A special role is played by the negative dependence such as consumption of drugs, alcoholism, uncontrolled intake of sedatives, and smoking. The psychological factors of the development of phobic anxiety include negative thinking, low self-esteem, the tendency to see the past, present, and future in the ‘black’ color, unhealthy situations in the family, which is dominated by excessive criticism and frequent conflicts, a predominance of stressful events in private life (divorce, prolonged illness, death of a loved one, partner alcoholism), social isolation, the lack of sources of emotional support, children’s psychological trauma.
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Armfield (2006) states that phobias negatively influence man’s life (p. 746). Van Houtem et al. (2013) argue that phobias present chronic anxiety disorder that is associated with severe impairment, which causes public health problems (p. 380). Chhabra et al. (2009) emphasize that social phobias present a great concern to modern society as they lead to an increased rate of mental health problems such as substance abuse and depression (p. 18). People with social phobias may have a deep fear that they, for example, are being watched or discussed in society. It can develop into a general fear of social situations, or shrink to a specific phobia, such as fear of speeches or appearance on stage.
Fears can grow and live up to the adult age. This adversely affects the formation of character and leads to reactive-protective behaviors (avoidance of an object of fear, as well as all new and unknown). On the background of neurotic fear, other neuroses and asthenia (fatigue, insomnia, heart palpitations, and other conditions) may occur. Typically, neurotic fears are associated with parental fears and are difficult to be eliminated.
Physically, fear manifests itself in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen, and reproductive organs. As a result of anxiety, the production of cortisol (a hormone that affects the immune system) increases. Consequently, one becomes vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections, oncological diseases, autoimmune diseases (AIDS, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis), asthma, diabetes, digestive problems, and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. This can lead to the development of paranoid schizophrenia.
It is clear that the problem of phobias should be addressed. There are two basic ways to influence these disorders: therapeutic (with the help of health care) and psychological. In addition to traditional treatments such as beta-blockers, antidepressants, other sedatives, and behavior therapy, a great theoretical and practical interest presents the therapeutic effect of meditation. Moreover, McNeal (2001) argues that “EMDR and hypnosis are powerful and useful clinical interventions and can have a synergistic effect when used in combination with each other” (p. 272). Therapy to restore emotional balance focuses on changing reactions to the object or situation that causes fear.
In conclusion, phobias present a very serious problem. They spoil the lives of many people. Phobia is a strongly pronounced resistant obsessive fear, irreversibly increasing in specific situations and not having a completely logical explanation. As a result of the development of phobias, a person begins to fear and thus avoid certain objects, activities, or situations. This can interfere with his or her ability to socialize, work and interact with people and objects in everyday life. Therefore, it is crucial to find the most effective way to overcome the phobia.