Thursday, July 23, 2009
Therapeutic Thought - The Downlow on Phobias
My crit partner Katie asked me to do a Thursday Thought on phobias. Because I love her (and because phobias really are just cool), I took her up on her suggestion. Thanks girl.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4-TR (a therapist's psychological Bible of all mental disorders), phobias fall into three categories: agoraphobia, social phobia, and specific phobia. The reason for this classification is simple. Most people who have a phobia usually have agoraphobia or social phobia. The rest make up the smaller percentage of people who fear something specific, like spiders or heights or seeing blood.
In all cases of phobias, the fear is marked and persistent. Exposure to the feared situation or object invariable provokes an immediate anxiety response (could be a panic attack or in children, just crying, tantruming, freezing and clinging could indicate their anxiety). An adult with a phobia realizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable, but that doesn't stop the anxiety response.
In a nutshell, agoraphobia is an intense fear a person has of being in a situation where immediate escape is not possible or in which help would not be available if the person should become overwhelmed by anxiety or experience a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. This disorder often goes hand-in-hand with panic disorder (as well as many other fears).
Social phobia is a fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur. The fear can be generalized in that the fear is related to most social situations, or it can be relegated to select circumstances (public speaking).
Specific phobia is a fear cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Exposure provokes an immediate anxiety response (could trigger an panic attack). There are five types of specifiers that most specific fears fall into: Animal Type (scared of dogs, spiders); Natural Environment Type (scared of heights, storms, water); Blood-Injection-Injury Type (scared of needles, seeing blood, breaking bones), Situational Type (scared of airplanes, elevators, enclosed places) and Other Type (fear of contracting an illness, fear of clowns, etc).
There is a great listing of all the specific phobias on PhobiaList.com. Fredd Culbertson developed this list by compiling every phobia he's ever run across in reading, etc. Since the fact is if you name something, someone can be afraid of it, I just couldn't make myself list them all here.
So here is a brief overview of phobias that hopefully will help while you're developing your characters. Just think of all the possibilities and quirks this could give you!