- By Vandana Mogasale
Fear, is a common emotion that we experience in our day to day life. But when asked to define generally we call it as being afraid of some thing. But from the view point of psychology, if we are talking about fear, we must also speak about anxiety. But defining these two terminologies are also is a difficult task.
Historically, fear was regarded as an emotional experience experienced when posed by an obvious source of danger. And anxiety was just an anticipation of something dangerous or dreadful.
But the recent theories tell us that fear or panic is a basic emotion that involves ‘fight or flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system, allowing us to respond quickly when faced by any threat. Fear has three components-
1. cognitive/ subjective components ( I feel afraid)
2. physiological components ( increased heart rate and so on)
3. behavioral components ( a strong urge to escape)
On the other hand, anxiety is a complex blend of emotions that is much more diffuse than fear.
Now you must be wondering why I have to speak about anxiety when I am explaining about fear. In order to understand the disorders associated with fear, talking about anxiety becomes important.
In Abnormal Psychology, we consider fear to be a normal phenomenon. Everybody has one or the other kind of fear. But this fear becomes abnormal when the fear is persistent and irrational. And this kind of persistent and disproportionate fear of some object or situation which represents little or no danger to the person is called as “Phobia”.
The International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) by World Health Organization has classified phobias as F40 Phobic anxiety disorders
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV) by American Psychiatric Association classifies phobia under axis -I Anxiety Disorders. Yet again DSM-IV categorizes phobias into three types:
· Simple or Specific phobia - Fear of a specific object like Bugs, mice, snakes, bats; heights; water; storms; closed places
· Social phobia - Fear of social settings involving evaluation, embarrassment, looking foolish
· Agoraphobia - Fear of being in public places.
Etiology or Causes:
Different theorists present different view points regarding the cause of phobia. According to Sigmund Freud’s
, Phobias result from the un-displayed anxiety of our unconscious motives or desires that symbolizes these motives. Psycho Dynamic School
, Phobia is a learned or conditioned response. Children learn to fear objects by observation or imitation of the elders. If they are reinforced, then they are maintained. Behavioral School
Some biological findings show that the 1st degree relatives of the patients having phobia are at a higher risk (3- 4 times) of developing this disorder. A person may inherit fearful temperament through genetics. But it is yet to be proved whether children really inherit phobic response or imitate the behavior leant from parents.
Use of psychotherapies coupled with drug therapy has yielded more effective results rather administered alone.
Psycho analytic therapy helps in lessening the internal conflicts as well as loosening defense mechanisms.
Behavior therapies are very widely used in the treatment of phobias and they are proved to be very effective. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Relaxation Technique, Modeling and Systematic Desensitization are used. These techniques have yielded maximum number of success.
Is a Pschyologist who did her Msc in Clinical Pschyology. Now working as a lecturer in CSC Mangalore