Did you know that it’s now possible to be clinically afraid of 530 different things? According to Phobialist.com, this is the latest estimate of the number of fears that have been formally recognized in medical research papers. It seems that in today’s increasingly touchy-feely-sneezy-queasy society, phobias have been growing almost as fast as allergies.
Strange Phobias: What Made it on the List?
So if you’re a patriotic sports fan, you can now legitimately take today off sick suffering from kakorrhaphiophobia (fear of defeat). If you’re a mathematician wondering whether a fear of 530 phobias should itself be on the list of phobias, you may be coming down with apeirophobia (fear of infinity). Or if you’re already mildly irritated by the unpronounceable Greek names given to these phobias, watch out, because you’re just about to get hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (fear of long words). Or if you have an irrational fear of clowns, you suffer from coulrophobia.
Age, Genes, and Phobia: What do they have in Common?
Common phobias, such as a fear of spiders, the dark and blood, are wired into our genes. And we are programmed to find these things more or less scary at different stages of life. Research on the role of genes in fear has found that situational fears – for example, of enclosed places, the dark, heights, flying and lightning – are most intense at the ages of eight and nine, while a fear of blood, injections and dentists peaks among 13- and 14-year-olds. Studies have found that genes were known to influence fears and phobias. 2,500 twins were involved in a study to find out whether these genes were a “dynamic” or a “static” influence, like the genes for eye color. It was clearly demonstrated that common psychiatric traits with a genetic component, like fears or phobias, are dynamic. The reason different genes acted at different times could relate to changing threats at different stages of development. We generally want a two-year-old to be afraid of the dark so that they avoid danger … On the other hand, 18-year-olds should fear other big males. Another study suggests that babies may follow a “mental template” to pay attention to spiders and other threats.
Fears vs. Phobia: Is there a Difference between the Two?
The difference between fears and phobias is that phobias disrupt peoples’ ability to live normal lives. With a phobia, people might be terribly afraid even though they knew the fear was irrational. A great number of people suffered from specific or simple phobias, such as a fear of flying or of spiders, but most people do nothing about them apart from trying to arrange their lives to avoid the object of their phobia. Phobias can ruin lives if, for example, someone is too scared to drive. Treatment can improve this.
Here are the two Types of Phobias
There were two types of phobias: Specific or simple phobias, such as being very afraid of needles; and Social phobias, also known as social anxiety disorders, which have two strands: a generalized fear of social situations, and specific social fears, for example of signing a check in public. The treatment of specific phobias through cognitive behavior therapy is usually successful. Through the therapy, a person needs to be exposed gradually to the fear stimulus, and in a professional environment it can be overcome.