What you need to know about phobias – What are they?
There are many misunderstandings about phobias. Contrary to popular belief, phobias are not a disorder, they are a learned response. The learning is not simply a mental process, rather a full neurological engagement of emotion and imagination, where the subconscious mind creates uncomfortable associations to objects, activities or ideas. Luckily that which has been learned can be unlearned and modified.
Most text books state there are two types of phobias, simple and complex. Simple phobias are often created by intense emotional reactions to a specific event the person could not effectively process. Complex phobias on the other hand cover many types of discomforts involving long periods of negative conditioning or stimulation of certain sensitivities
All phobias are not fears
The word phobia has become a catch all term for numerous uncomfortable feelings, mental processes or symptoms a person experiences. So it is useful to think about phobias as covering broader neurological reactions than just fear.
For instance, consider the fear of creepy crawling things (Herpetophobia). Anything viewed as creepy is undesirable. If the mind vividly imagines what it feels like to have something creepy crawling on your skin, it becomes especially disturbing. Creepy is not the same as fear. Intensely undesirable or disturbing, maybe, but that is different than fear.
What about the fear of fecal matter (Scatophobia). The persons mind zooms in on the fecal matter or imagines them engaging with feces. Because the mind need not differentiate between what is real and vividly imagined, this can’t be a comfortable thought process. In fact most people would be quite disgusted if their minds imagined fecal matter this way.
Intense creepy feelings or disgust can cause physical reactions, yet it is important to realize these are different neurological reactions than fear. Helping someone conquer this type of phobia may require a different approach.
Misdiagnosed as OCD
Then there are contamination phobias like fear of dirt (Rhypophobia), bacteria (Bacteriophobia), untidiness (Ataxophobia) or germs (Misophobia), which often give a strong clue of OCD being present. Other potential OCD related phobias are fear of deformity (Dysmorphophobia), disease (Panthophobia), hair (Trichopathophobia), heredity (Patroiophobia), hoarding (Disposophobia), god (Zeusophobia), hell (Stigiophobia), homosexuality (Homophobia), etc.
There is a fine line between intense irrational thoughts and unwanted obsessive thoughts and quite often those with OCD are mislabeled as having phobias.
Anxieties and phobias. Is there a difference?
Fears are a response to current situations. Anxieties are projected fear of potential things yet to come. The person is some way is creating an unrealistic anticipation of what might happen. Is there a difference between social phobia and social anxiety? Depends on how you look at it.
Don’t get sucked into the labels about phobias
When you think about phobias, remember they are labels and the labels are often inaccurate. When seeking help, make certain you find someone who understands the difference and takes time to find out what is really going on inside of you. It could be the difference between finding comfort or holding on to discomfort
As always, feel free to call 866-718-9995 for additional information about phobias you have concerns with or leave a comment or question below