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Specific phobia

A specific phobia is a generic term for any kind of anxiety disorder that amounts to an unreasonable or irrational fear related to exposure to specific objects or situations. As a result, the affected persons tend to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations, and in severe cases any mention or depiction of them.

The fear or anxiety may be triggered both by the presence and the anticipation of the specific object or situation. A person who encounters that of which they are phobic will often show signs of fear or express discomfort. In some cases it can result in a panic attack. In most cases of adults, this kind of phobia is consciously recognized by the person; still, anxiety and avoidance are difficult to control and may significantly impair person's functioning and even physical health.

Categories of specific phobias

According to the fourth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders phobias can be classified under the following general categories:

  • Animal type
For example the fear of spiders (arachnophobia) and the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia).
  • Natural environment type
Like the fear of heights (acrophobia) and the fear of lightning and thunderstorms (astraphobia).
  • Situational type
Like the fear of small confined spaces (claustrophobia) and being "afraid of the dark," (nyctophobia).
  • Blood/injection/injury type
Like the fear of medical procedures including needles and injections (aichmophobia)
  • Other
Like the fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia), and the fear of clowns (coulrophobia).

Phobias and evolution

It is believed by scientists that a common ancestor of primates, including the human, evolved the ability to develop phobias as a result of the dangers which plagued them. This is not to be confused with the idea that humans are born with specific phobias built-in, but that their genetics are coded to have a tendency to develop some fears more easily than others. There are five dangers which predominantly affected the human's evolutionary ancestor:

  • The dark
Fear and avoidance of the dark resulted in minimal deaths and injuries to pre-humans caused by that which they were incapable of seeing.
  • Heights
Avoiding heights prevented fatal falls from bringing an end to one who could possibly have future offspring
  • Spiders/snakes/cats
Poisonous spiders and snakes are stealthy killers who appear mostly harmless to an uninformed being. Big cats, such as lions and tigers were the pinnacle predators of pre-humans in the wild.
  • Being alone
The idea of there being safety in numbers is founded in animal instinct. It can be observed biologically in the swarm.
  • Enclosed Spaces
Anxiety of enclosed spaces resulting in a fight-or-flight response would allow pre-humans to quickly realize the danger of falling into a hole, being trapped in a cave, etc.

It must be understood, however, that these behaviors themselves are not genetic traits. Predisposition to being a victim of these phobias is what is coded for within the human DNA. This does mean that those who have a family history of a specific phobia will be far more likely to develop the phobia themselves[1].

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Specific_phobia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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