By Elaine Ryan
Understand what your brain is afraid of
This page will help you to understand your phobias. I will start by explaining different types of phobia and go on to outline what is happening in your brain to produce such a frightening response. In order to get rid of these fears, you first have to understand what is happening.
Phobias fall into three categories:
- Social Phobia already covered in depth here
- Agoraphobia covered in depth here
- This page is about Specific Phobias
Refers to a particular type of condition where you experience extreme fear when you are either thinking about, or are in the presence of;
- a particular animal group
- blood, injection or injury
- a situation
- a particular environment, or
- other triggers
Common phobias include
- Arachnophobia fear of spiders
- Acrophobia fear of heights
- Trypanophobia fear of injections
- Ophidiophobia fear of snakes
- Mysophobia fear of germs or dirt
- Pteromerhanophobia fear of flying
- Cynophobia fear of dogs
When you are in the presence of, or even thinking about whatever triggers your fear, you will experience the symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms include
- Heart palpitations
- Extreme fear
- Breathing changes
Symptoms are covered in more depth here. The reason that you experience these symptoms is that your brain has been taught that the stimulus is a threat to you.
What causes phobias?
In some cases we can be taught to be afraid of something when we were children. For example, if we grew up in a home where a parent was afraid of spiders or insects, over time, this may have contributed to a fear reaction.
If the parent was afraid of spiders, we would have seen them reacting with fear in the presence of a spider. If the parent had a phobia, we may even have seen them “check” for spiders when entering a room or avoid places where they believed they may encounter a spider. This may be the beginning of our fear. We react to how other people are feeling. If someone is stressed around us, we can feel that stress. As a child, we look to our parents to learn from them, how to behave in certain situations, not to touch hot stoves as they can burn us. We pick up, and mimic what they do, in order to learn.
We may well have learned to react to spiders with fear.
If you have a needle phobia, and a parent who was overly concerned when you received a jag as a child, you may have been taught by the parent (although they do not mean to do this) that getting an injection was something to be afraid of.
You may have had an actual incident before developing a phobia. For example, you may have been bitten by a dog and understandably became cautious around them afterwards. If you were not able to relax again and perhaps avoided places where you suspected you may encounter a dog, you may have been further teaching your brain to be afraid of dogs.
Our brain pays careful attention to anything that may cause us harm. injury or pain. It pays attention to anything that may be a threat to us. It does this in order to protect us, the next time we encounter something that may threaten us. It matches the stimulus, for example, the spider, needles, heights, dogs with the feeling created in your body – fear. The next time you encounter the whatever it is that you are afraid of, your brain the provide the feeling of fear – a stress response – to help you get out of danger.
The problem is, what you are afraid of, may not represent a real danger or threat and can start to interfere in your daily.