In a world full of danger, fear is an important tool to our survival. Imagine if we never feared anything. We might run through fire or traffic. We might jump into the bear enclosure at the zoo to get a better look. We might pick a fight we'd have no chance of winning. While we don't usually think of it this way, fear can sometimes be a good thing for us. However, there are times when fear grows to unhealthy proportions, beyond what it reasonable and helpful. The following are the 5 most common of those irrational fears we call phobias.
Arachnophobia is the extreme fear of spiders. It is a phobia that affects more women than men. The fear of spiders has been around since around the time of Jesus' birth.
The Symptoms: People with arachnophobia will usually go out of their way to avoid potential contact with spiders. If an arachnophobiac finds a spider in his/her home, they will usually scream and run away or freeze up.
The Causes: What causes arachnophobia? Researchers have yet to find a concrete cause to arachnophobia, but there are a number of ideas. The most common theory is the idea that it was used as a survival technique by our ancestors. Most spiders are venomous, however, the majority of spiders do not pose any sort of threat toward humans. Other researchers argue that there were other animals such as tigers and crocodiles that posed a greater threat to ancient humans. The fears of tigers and crocodiles are not all that common, which makes those researchers believe that arachnophobia is more based on cultural beliefs.
Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Most people have heard of vertigo and believe that it is the same as acrophobia, but this is not the case. Acrophobia can induce similar symptoms of vertigo, however, vertigo is a specific medical condition.
The Symptoms: A person experiencing acrophobia may feel a sense of panic when at great heights. When the person panics, they may look for something to cling to. They might also feel that they cannot rely on their own sense of balance, which may lead to them to crawling on all fours or kneeling. As I mentioned above, the person could also have symptoms relating to those of vertigo.
The Causes: Experts have said that a certain amount of fear toward heights is normal for humans and animals. Acrophobia is really just a hyper-reaction to a rational fear.
3. Social Phobia
Social phobia is really self-explanatory; it's the fear of social situations. People with social phobia are usually afraid they will feel humiliated and embarrassed of their own stupidity in their words and actions. A person with social phobia will also feel like they are constantly being judged.
The Symptoms: Here are a few symptoms of social phobia
- Fear of interaction with strangers
- Fear of being judged
- Worrying about embarrassing one's self
- Avoidance of social situations
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Fast heartbeat
- Shaky voice
The Causes: Social phobia is something that has known to fun in families. Researchers, however, do not know how much is due to genetics. Another cause could be a chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps regulate emotion and mood. People also with an overactive amygdala could have a heightened fear response which, in turn, could cause increased anxiety. Social phobia can also be caused by personal experience. If a person has experienced teasing, bullying, ridicule, rejection or humiliation, they may be more prone to social phobia.
Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces. It is a phobia that varies from person to person in terms of severity. People with claustrophobia may experience symptoms in small rooms, crowds, trains, elevators and other enclosed spaces.
The Symptoms: A person with claustrophobia may:
- Start to hyperventilate
- Get a rapid heartbeat
- Start trembling
- Start sweating
- Feel sick
- Look for ways to get to safety quickly
The Causes: Researchers are not sure of the actual causes of claustrophobia. A common theory is that a traumatic childhood experience or experiences could trigger claustrophobia.
Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. Like arachnophobia, researchers believe that it comes from a survival mechanism that originates from our ancient ancestors. It is said, however, that the fear of snakes is a fear that is learned rather than one that is innate. Like most phobias, ophidiophobia has a range of severity. For example, those who experience it with less severity may only be afraid of large snakes. Some people can't even look at a photograph of a snake or even see a snake on television.
The Symptoms: Some symptoms of ophidiophobia include:
- Running away
- Increase in heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
For more information on any of these phobias, please visit the sources listed below.