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Phobias

How do phobias differ from fears? What types of phobias affect a person's ability to function normally in society? How is his or her ability to function in society affected? What can cause a person to develop a phobia?

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RESPONSE:

1. How do phobias differ from fears?

"Phobias involve the experience of persistent fear that is excessive and unreasonable," says Wilson (2009), who is author of the book Don't Panic. "Phobias are cued when a person approaches a particular situation or object, or even anticipates the approach of it, and they understand the fear they will experience as a result of that situation will be unreasonable and excessive." Based on the above definition, the key to distinguishing a fear from a phobia is that that while most people get the jitters if a spider crawls on their arm, people suffering from arachnophobia -- the fear of spiders -- are physically and/or psychologically impaired by it. Therefore, to be defined as a phobia, the fear must cause some level of impairment," says Wilson (2009, as cited in http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/fear-factor-phobias).

2. What types of phobias affect a person's ability to function normally in society?

There are many types of Phobias that affect a person to function normally in society. For example, acrophobia is the fear of heights. Arsonphobia is a fear of fire. Aviophobia is the fear of flying. Felinophobia is the fear of cats. Myxophobia is the fear of slime. Xyrophobia is the fear of razors. While some are well-recognized, others are unheard of, but whatever the phobia, the person suffering from it is living with fear and anxiety.

See the full list at the end of this response.

According to DSM-IV, phobias (specific phobias as those lised at the end of this response or social phobias) are classified under anxiety disorders.

The DSM-IV Diagnostic criteria for specific phobia:

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DSM-IV: Specific Phobia

Individuals suffering from this Anxiety Disorder experience phobia or unreasonable fear or anxiety in connection with exposure to specific objects or situations and because of this avoid them whenever possible.
Examples include: claustrophobia, acrophobia (heights), and arachnophobia (spiders).
Diagnostic criteria for 300.29 Specific Phobia
A. Marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).
B. Exposure to the phobic stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed Panic Attack.
Note: In children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.
C. The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Note: In children, this feature may be absent.
D. The phobic situation(s) is avoided or else is endured with intense anxiety or distress.
E. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
F. In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.
G. The anxiety, Panic Attacks, or phobic avoidance associated with the specific object or situation are not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., fear of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated with a severe stressor), Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance of school), Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance of social situations because of fear of embarrassment), Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, or Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder.
Specify type:
Animal Type
Natural Environment Type (e.g., heights, storms, water)
Blood-Injection-Injury Type
Situational Type (e.g., airplanes, elevators, enclosed places)
Other Type (e.g., phobic avoidance of situations that may lead to choking, vomiting, or contracting an illness; in children, avoidance of loud sounds or costumed characters)
URL: http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/disorders/specphob.htm

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DSM-IV & DSM-IV-TR: Social Phobia

Individuals suffering from this Anxiety Disorder experience unreasonable fear or anxiety in connection with exposure to social situations involving contact with people they do not know or who they expect may judge them and because of this avoid such situations whenever possible.

Diagnostic criteria for 300.23 Social Phobia

A. A marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing.
Note: In children, there must be evidence of the capacity for age-appropriate social relationships with familiar people and the anxiety must occur in peer settings, not just in interactions with adults.
B. Exposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed Panic Attack. Note: In children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or shrinking from social situations with unfamiliar people.
C. The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Note: In children, this feature may be absent.
D. The feared social or performance situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety or distress.
E. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
F. In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.
G. The fear or avoidance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Panic Disorder With or Without Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or Schizoid Personality Disorder).
H. If a general medical condition or another mental disorder is present, the fear in Criterion A is unrelated to it, e.g., the fear is not of Stuttering, trembling in Parkinson's dsease, or exhibiting abnormal eating behavior in Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.

Specify if: Generalized: if the fears include most social situations (also consider the additional diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder)

Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association URL: http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/disorders/socphob.htm

3. How is his or her ability to function in society affected?

"I had a woman come in who was afraid of spiders, and it got to the point where she wouldn't go out at night because she couldn't see where they were." The question that arises here is this: How does someone get to the point where she is so afraid of spiders she can't go outside? (Wilson, 2009, as cited in http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/fear-factor-phobias)

4. What can cause a person to develop a phobia?

Research suggests they are both genetic and environment causes. Foe example: "There are nature and nurture components to phobias," says Kathy Hoganbruen, PhD, National Mental Health Association spokesperson. "While we don't know exactly why or where phobias originate, they are a type of mental illness, with genetics playing a role, as well as environment, meaning maybe someone had a negative or traumatic experience related to the core of their phobia" (as cited in http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/fear-factor-phobias).

Perhaps, for ...

Solution Summary

This solution examines how phobias differ from fears and what types of phobias affect a person's ability to function normally in society. It also explains how his or her ability to function in society is affected, as well as the factors that can cause a person to develop a phobia. DSM-IV-TR diagnosistic criteria for each phobia is provided.

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