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Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Is A Phobia? 4
What Causes Phobias? 7
Phobias in the Past 10
What Happens to Phobics? 12
Overcoming Your Fears 17
Exposure Therapy 21
Cognitive Behavior Therapy 25
Virtual Reality Therapy 28
Beat Panic Attacks 32
Relaxation Techniques 37
Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation 37
Cue Control Relaxation 42
Deep Breathing Relaxation 43
Guided Imagery 44
Fun Facts about Spiders 45
Hollywood made a pretty bad movie about it –“Arachnophobia”, but for some the movie was excruciating –if they even went to see it. The cast certainly was amazing: John Goodman (“Roseanne”), Kathy Kinney (“The Drew
Carey Show”), and Jeff Daniels (“Dumb and Dumber”).
But it doesn’t take a movie to frighten people who suffer from arachnophobia. Spiders can be anywhere and everywhere. That fact alone strikes terror into the hearts of those who hold this phobia in their minds.
This author has never really had a problem with spiders. When I see them, I find the closest shoe and send them on to spider heaven. I don’t want them crawling all over me, but if I see one, I don’t get freaked out. Now show
me a snake and it’s a different story. So I understand!
God did not make spiders cute and cuddly. He did not make them fun or even interesting – well, to most people.
After all, they just kind of crawl around and lurk in dark
spaces occasionally spinning a web for you to get all over your face if you walk through it. Around Halloween, this can be great – handmade decorations! But at other times, it’s just a nuisance.
Then you have to consider those spiders that are poisonous. Media outlets have made all of us increasingly aware of the dangers of brown recluse spiders and the physical damage they can wreak on the human body. Then
you have to consider the deadly Tarantulas, and other poisonous spiders that can be lurking just underneath your house.
Perhaps this is why people are afraid of spiders –because they can be everywhere. Arachnophobia is a very real fear for many people. Almost half of all women suffer from a fear of spiders and about 10 percent of men share
Fear of spiders, just like other phobias, is a very real condition for many people. It is one that they often wish they could get over just for the sense of normalcy. Instead of shrieking in fright at the sight of a spider, they wish they
do like I do and just grab a shoe sending that spider into the great unknown. But they’re not able to do that: at least not yet.
There are ways to overcome the fear of spiders. Let’s take a good look at why people are afraid of spiders, how phobias develop, and ways to overcome that fear and lead a satisfying life right alongside those 8 legged creatures.
WHAT IS A PHOBIA?
Phobia comes from the Greek word for “fear”. It is a strong, persistent fear of situations, objects, activities, or persons. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject.
When the fear is beyond one’s control or if the fear is interfering with daily life then a diagnosis under one of the anxiety disorders can be made.
So, in essence, phobias are a type of anxiety disorder much along the lines of panic and fear. An American study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that between 8.7% and 18.1% of Americans suffer from phobias.
Broken down by age and gender, the study found that phobias were the most common mental illness among women in all age groups and the second most common illness among men older than 25.
Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the country. The American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education (APIRE) has reported that in any given year, 7.8% of American adults have
phobias. They are the most common psychiatric illness among women of all ages and are the second most common illness among men older than 25.
Phobias are among several anxiety disorders, which also include panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder,and obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Such unrealistic or excessive fear of objects or situations is a psychological disorder that can makes life
miserable for years.
Phobias should not be confused with fear. Fear is much less dramatic than a phobia. According to the dictionary, the word "fear" denotes a painful feeling of impending danger, evil; trouble etc…the feeling or condition of being
afraid. While fear is a consequence of a phobia, it is not the definition of it. It is simply a symptom.
Phobia is also used in a non-medical sense for aversions of all sorts. These terms are usually constructed with suffix –phobia. A number of these terms describe negative attitudes or prejudices toward the named subject.
Some examples include homophobia (fear or dislike of homosexuals), xenophobia (fear or dislike of strangers), and even Christianophobia (fear or dislike of Christians).
It is possible for an individual to develop a phobia over virtually anything. The name of a phobia generally contains a Greek word for what the patient fears plus the suffix –phobia as we have said. Creating these terms can become a
type of word game, however, few of these terms are found in medical literature.
Still, many people wear their phobic badges around their family and friends. They may be claustrophobic (afraid of closed in spaces), agoraphobic (afraid of wide open spaces or crowds), hydrophobic (afraid of water), or
genophobic (afraid of sex). The list goes on and on. It is not exaggerated to say that majority of people have an irrational fear of certain things or situations, without necessarily fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for a phobia
(irrational fear may grow into a phobia when it starts interfering with the person's usual activities).
The most common simple (specific) phobias are those of the insects (arachnophobia in your case), mice, reptiles and other animals. These phobias usually begin in childhood and often disappear without treatment.
While technically we can call anything a phobia, the actual definition – you will remember – involves having an irrational fear of something that can cause no physical harm or trauma. For example, to have a fear of cotton balls (yes,
some people do) would technically be classified as a true phobia since cotton balls cannot cause harm.
However, fearing lions or a hurricane does not classically qualify as a phobia because encounters with either do carry a possibility of harm or death. So what about the fear of spiders?
Technically called arachnophobia, the fear of spiders is real, but is it irrational? Perhaps. After all, we, as humans are slightly bigger than our arachnid neighbors, so can they cause us harm? Yes, but only if we are unaware of their presence. Well, unless it’s the spider in that episode of
“Gilligan’s Island” that was the size of a hippopotamus.
At any rate, even though some spiders are poisonous,we still should not have fear of them. We can exterminate them and be on with our lives. For the arachnophobe, yes, that is easier said than done, but it is truth.
So, yes, fear of spiders does really qualify as a phobia. When encountered with the phobic stimuli, people are overcome with a strong and immediate anxiety reaction (sweating, palpitations, paleness, breathing difficulty).
Gradually, mere anticipation or imagery of the phobic stimulus comes to provoke anxiety symptoms and can lead to avoidance behavior and/or significant modification of one's lifestyle.
It is at this point when the phobia becomes problematic and treatment should be explored.
It can be confusing to try and figure out why some people fear certain things.
WHAT CAUSES PHOBIAS?
The answer isn’t as easy as you might think. Fear is an emotion which develops out of uncertainty. And uncertainty itself is, basically, the perceived inability to control. Put this way it appears very simple — fear is not real, fear is just a perception. If only we could convince ourselves of that!
Much is still unknown about what causes phobias.
However, there may be a strong correlation between your phobias and the phobias of your parents. Children may learn phobias by observing a family member's phobic reaction to an object or a situation. An example of a common learned phobia may be the fear of snakes.
The biggest trigger of fear is the thought of the "unknown" – that is, when we are confronted or experiencing particular situations, we are not exactly sure of
what will happen to us and how it will ultimately affect us.
Or in some instances, we jump ahead of ourselves and imagine what the outcome of a situation will be, which is usually ten times worse than the actual reality of the situation.
Phobias often begin with a sudden trigger, a minor or major traumatic event. A phobia can begin because of an unpleasant or frightening experience involving a particular object or situation. This situation generally occurs in
childhood and persists through to adult remaining with the person almost as if it’s a part of them.
While this can be - and often is - the reason for a person's developing a phobia it isn't the only way in which phobias begin. Often, people say that a phobia comes 'out of the blue' - it starts one day for no apparent reason and
quickly grows into a major problem.
This is, naturally, confusing, because the individual concerned has no idea why they have become phobic. So, can this be explained? Yes it can, though not necessarily simply. Perhaps there are latent fears in the mind that
aren’t in the forefront initially, but become exposed later.
As an example, let’s say in 7th grade, a boy is the popular kid in school. All the girls swoon over him, all the guys are his friends. He is teacher’s pet and a favorite with his friend’s parents.
All this overt acceptance could instill in his mind a latent fear of rejection that he isn’t cognitively aware of: sort of a “too good to last” mentality. As an adult, he finds himself avoiding social situations and even relationships in
an effort to protect his feelings and fend off the rejection he thinks might be coming.
In fact, phobias don't develop for no reason at all, they develop for no logical reason. A long period of severe stress, an unresolved childhood fear, an unrelieved frustration and an insoluble life problem can all lie behind the beginning of a phobia. What's more, knowing the originating problem
doesn't always help because the phobia may bear little relation to it.
Some people believe that phobias develop from the body’s natural desire to protect itself.
Unconscious or emotional learning takes place to keep us safe. In primitive conditions when coming into contact with something dangerous, the mind/body would create the optimum state for survival - a panic attack.
This type of learning is not of the intellectual or rational type. If you had to think, “Yes, I think this would be a good time to have a panic attack" our species would have died out long ago.
This type of learning takes place at an emotional level so that the response can bypass the ‘thinking brain' In the past, an immediate phobic response to a predatory or poisonous animal would have been exceedingly useful.
We therefore evolved with the ability to become phobic. In today’s complex world however, this learning mechanism often works in an inappropriate way.
Non-specific phobias can come about either through a 'spreading-out' of panic attacks, or through a person's levels of general anxiety becoming so high that panic is easily triggered whenever stress levels are raised even slightly.
Phobias are very real to the people who are experiencing them and should not be taken lightly by those around the phobic. My own grandmother is deathly afraid of cats. We own two cats. While we might think her fear is
silly – our cats are really cute – we still accommodate her when she visits by putting the cats away.
Phobias have actually been around for years. Here are some interesting facts about phobias and people who suffered from them.
PHOBIAS IN THE PAST
Back in the heydays of philosophy when medicine was not a very organized curative discipline, people were oftendetected with such fretting disorders. It lay upon the philosophers to unwind the complications and to unearth the
exact causes behind.
One among the earliest interpretations (the Pythagorean interpretation) was that the phobias were ‘reminiscences’ from former lives (and was essentially
believed to have a religious association).
The second half of the nineteenth century, however, saw a massive change in this sphere. Roundabout this time psychiatry began to flourish as a fully developed medical discipline.
These psychiatry professionals uncovered the real causes behind these spectacular mental disorders, putting aside all misconceptions and delusions associated with phobias.
This phase of the history of phobias is not only interesting but also exceptionally significant. It is in this phase that having identified the causal factors behind the different phobias, the psychiatrists for the first time
attempted cures for them.
The year 1966 happens to be an important year in the history of phobias. It was in this year that the first phobia organization in the world, ‘The Open Door’, was founded.
Now the organization has been re-named PAX – a Latin word, which means peace. PAX stands for panic attacks & anxiety disorders and ensures the peace of mind for all.
The Greek physician Hippocrates was alive over 300 years before the birth of Jesus and described a man who, '...through bashfulness, suspicion and timorousness, will not be seen abroad...he thinks every man observes him.' This description of social phobia is nearly two and a half centuries old!
There are famous phobics, who can be foundthroughout history:
Augustus Caesar…Fear of Cats.
King James I...Fear of Unsheathed Swords.
King Henry III of France...Fear of Cats.
Feydeau (French Playwright)...Morbid Fear of Daylight
Sigmund Freud…..Anxiety Symptoms, Fear of Travel.
And right up until the present day:
Aretha Franklin (Singer)...Agoraphobia.
Joanna Lumley (Actress)...Fear of Water
Ainsley Harriot (TV Chef)...Fear of Snakes
Ian Wright (TV Presenter)...Fear of Enclosed Spaces
Wendy Richard (Actress)...Fear of Spiders - Arachnophobia
Robson Green (Actor)...Fear of Wasps
Kim Basinger (Actress)...Agoraphobia
Phil Jupitus (TV/Radio Presenter/Comedian)...Fear of
So what happens to the person who has a phobia when
that fear is triggered?
WHAT HAPPENS TO PHOBICS?
Phobics typically panic or become anxious when they encounter the object or situation that makes them afraid, even though they know the object or situation (e.g., a small house spider) is not that dangerous. When this happens, the phobics will have what we know as a panic or anxiety
The general symptoms of phobias include the following:
• Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror
• Recognition that the fear goes beyond what is considered normal and is out of proportion to the actual threat of danger
• Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, and seem to take over the person’s thoughts
• Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to escape the situation
• Extreme measures taken to avoid the feared object or situation
The phobic could also become dizzy, disoriented, be overcome with excessive sweat, and feel heart palpitations.
They can become nauseous, feel out of control or that they may die, and be able to speak or think clearly. These are also symptoms of panic attacks, and they can be very, very scary.
Phobics will realize that their fear is, indeed, irrational, but they also know that they cannot control it. The fear is a persistent, imbedded part of that person’s life, and unless