Fear
and anxiety are two concepts confused with each other from time to time. Other
than these, there are also phobias. Fear is an emotional reaction against an
external danger. Phobia is also a type of fear. Fears against certain
situations and objects, which would normally cause no fear, are called phobias.
Actually, we know that our fear is not proportional to the incident or the
object. We also know it is meaningless and unnecessary. However, we cannot
overcome our fear and when we face a situation that we are afraid of; we try to
keep away in the possibility of facing it. When Latin names of phobias are
used, they seem harder to understand but also as if a little more important.
Indeed, these names are among the most entrenched questions in puzzles and quiz
shows.

 

They
can be classified as agoraphobias, social phobias and specific phobias. When we
look at it from a different point of view, if we take the objects that create
the fears as basis, they can be listed as phobias against objects, situations
and functions. The most recognized phobia against objects is cynophobia (dog phobia). Acrophobia (fear of
heights) has the same level of recognition in situational phobias.

Agoraphobia: It is the avoidance of being in
certain places and situations with the fear of having a panic attack or
symptoms similar to panic attack. Staying home alone, being in a crowded
environment, being on a bridge, bus, train, etc. are avoided.

Social phobia: In short, it includes situations
such as being on the spot, meeting new people, facing embarrassment, etc.
Social phobia was previously discussed in this column in detail.

Specific phobias: It is the
fear of a specific object or situation. Expectation of this situation may turn
to an excessive, meaningless, significant and continuous fear as much as its
actual existence. Facing these situations would cause such a suddenly starting
anxiety that it may sometimes turn into a panic attack. Adults know this fear
is meaningless while children may not think this way. Most common act is to
avoid this situation that would cause anxiety. When it cannot be avoided, one
has to suffer it.

The
thing causing the phobia may also be an event as well as an object. Most
typical are the phobias against animals. Phobias against animals usually start
at childhood. Conditional phobias can be caused by natural events such as
storms and earthquakes, as well as events like traveling by plane, or taking an
injection. Phobias of seeing blood, fear of injection, etc. are usually
inherited from family. Phobias of traveling by plane, bus, using bridges,
driving cars, being at closed areas are more often seen in children and
teenagers. Sometimes there can be phobias unique for children. Most common are
loud noises and heroes with special costumes.

Why do phobias happen?

There
are different opinions on the reasons of the occurrence of phobias. Either of
them can be detected as reasons in certain situations. Our subconscious takes a
defensive position against anxiety. Sometimes anxieties created by other
reasons, especially those that are hard to express, are directed to objects or
situations. The reason is that objects and situations can be avoided and you
may keep away from anxiety. Sometimes phobia is a learned behavior. A painful,
threatening incident, which initially occurred during the phobia situation or
object, might be the real source of the phobia. An incident experienced as a
child with an animal, might turn into a phobia even if there have never been
any other incidents. Behaviorist therapies will help in such cases. It is known
that inheritance and certain biochemical changes are effective in the creation
of phobias.

 

 

 

Can it be cured?

Usually, phobia treatment is started when the fear begins to
affect the person’s life. Many people are afraid of snakes and have ophiophobia (snake phobia). However, at
places where there is a low probability of facing a snake, people do not feel
the necessity for a treatment. On the contrary, if you have to live at a
location where there are dogs, or you often have to travel by plane due to your
job, or when your social and business life is hindered with the fear of storms,
you begin to seek treatments. Treatment method is chosen according to
situation. Social phobias and agoraphobia have different treatments. Specific
phobias rarely require medical treatments. Behavioral methods such as
systematic apathy or confrontation may be used. Therapies may be applied to
find the source of the fear. Your fear of heights may not be a problem if you
do not have to clean skyscraper windows. You may not need to deal with your
fear of flight if you do not fly. However, leaving the house, crossing bridges,
facing dogs are parts of daily life. If your life is hindered, then it is time
to ask for help.

 

Prof. Dr. Bengi Semerci

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