Fear psychology

What is fear?
Fear is an emotional response towards something which can pose a potential threat alerting us to danger. The threat can be towards ones physical well being or the threat can be towards ones social standing, both can be experienced as very real and result with the urge to withdraw away from the object of endangerment.

When someone experiences fear not only is there a negative emotional response, the response is also physical which includes sweating, heightened adrenaline levels and an increased heart rate, this is a fight or flight response which is triggered where the body prepares itself to flee or combat. What has just been described in regards to the physical aspect of fear is called a biochemical reaction; it is likely an evolutionary development from before the early prehistoric human ages to protect and aid in survival against other species, predators and other hazards posing a potential threat.

The emotional aspect of fear naturally alters from person to person as some people are better at handling fear than others even welcoming it while others have severe negative reactions in the presence of fear causing them to avoid any fear inducing situation at all costs though most people are somewhere in the middle.

Phobias
A phobia is a persistent fear of an object or an event which causes the sufferer to go to extreme lengths to avoid all possible interactions with the perceived problem. Though there has not been an official explanation as to how phobias develop many psychologists have said that people develop phobias through a mixture of genetic dispositions with a mix of environmental and social causes.



There are three separate types of phobias:

Specific or simple phobias.
This type of phobia is in reaction to objects such as heavy machinery or knives, animals like spiders, snakes or dogs and specific situations flying, using elevators and being in or near large vehicles. This doesn't normally interfere with their everyday life as  either they rarely encounter their fear or they finds ways to avoid it.

Social phobia.
This is a fear of social situations whether it involves going to get-togethers, parties even being in public such as something simple as going to the shops and high street. This fear stems from a fear of criticism and sometimes interpret other peoples actions as attempts to humiliate them and can over think conversations long after they've taken place.

Agoraphobia.
This a fear of open spaces where the sufferer avoids places and situations where they feel escape would be difficult in case an attack occurs, this can be anywhere from the grocery store to a park to a walk path. The agoraphobic feels safe in very few places , usually they mostly feel safe at home.

Anxieties.
Similar to phobias as they aren't specific to any particular situation they are an irrational fear which can cause the sufferer top seek avoidance away from an object or situation regarding the phobia. Anxiety at its worst can result in just the thought of the object of fear can send the sufferer into a wild sense of terror, it is usually the imagining of the situation which gets blown out of proportion which sends the sufferer into a loop of picturing the worst case scenario even if it seems unlikely. This keeps the sufferer on guard in case of a ''possible situation''. People who are highly reactive in nature are more likely to suffer from anxieties but as they are extra cautious about everything this makes them well prepared and attentive towards people. Their extra sense of worry can manifest itself in being conscientious at their work or being well prepared for an exam even remembering minor details in booking a holiday, their ability to keep in mind every possible scenario keeps them on top of the most mundane tasks.






Ways fear can be treated
Fears can be treated over a period of over time though it may take longer to treat  and sometimes recovery can be near instant but this is depending on the person themselves and fear that is being dealt with. Here are a couple of the most common methods of treatment mainly use in a therapeutic setting.. 
 
Systematic desensitization
Developed be South African psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe, systematic desensitization is a form of classical conditioning therapy where the sufferer is exposed to a succession of circumstances involving the sufferers phobia whilst being in a relaxed state. During this process the patient is first taught some relaxation techniques so that they may extinguish fear and anxiety once it arises in the face of their own personal anxiety or phobia, this may include visualisations, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises etc

Once the patient has learnt these techniques the individual will then be told to use them to help overcome a series of progressive exposures starting from a relatively small fear which will be related top the phobia or anxiety, then next being exposed to a bigger fear which will still be related to the initial phobia laddering all the way up to the target fear. For instance if the patient has a fear of spiders he or she will first be shown a picture of a spider, then a toy spider, then after some sufficient time the patient will be shown a see through box with a spider in it, then that same box will be shown with the lid open, then after some time the patient will put his or her hand in the box, then the patient will touch the spider, then lastly the patient will pick up and hold the spider. By the end of it all the incremental jumps leading to the fear itself will be associated with the relaxation techniques used making the patient desensitized to the phobia or anxiety and eventually the negative emotions attached to the phobia will be extinguished.

Flooding
Invented by psychologist Thomas Stampfl flooding sometimes referred to as exposure therapy is a faster method than systematic desensitization though not always as effective, this method involves putting the person in a situation where they would have to face their phobia at its extreme, again using similar relaxation techniques as stated above attempting to replace the feeling of fear with the feeling of relaxation. Using the example of 
the patient having a phobia of spiders, using flooding the patient maybe told instantly to hold the spider in their hand for a period of time whilst using relaxation exercises such as muscle relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, visualisations etc until they begin to feel at ease. The experience itself can be stressful to the patient but can help them snap out of their self-created negative associations towards their phobia and may well be necessary if the phobia is interfering with their life. This method is not typically for every individual and the therapist usually interviews their patient to determine whether to use flooding on them as sometimes the individual is not prepared to endure that level of anxiety in one go.

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