Fear, phobias: A normal response

By PAIGE FLANAGAN

Imagine it’s late at night. A chill hangs in the air.You are staying at home with only a couple of friends to keep you company. Everyone is  asleep on the living room floor.  A door opens, but no one is there, and a loud crash comes from the laundry room.  A phone rings as footsteps creep toward the kitchen.

A pounding heart, cold, clammy hands or a desperate impulse to run  can be triggered if  a person experiences an unfamiliar or dangerous situations.  These are the responses of fear.

Fear, a biological necessity, is something humans experience because the brain is wired in such a way in order to survive, according to Paul Krepel, a licensed clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist. Fears are natural, healthy and common.

“The way our brains are wired…we have to be able to distinguish what’s strange and [what’s] not strange,” Krepel said.

According to Krepel, there tends to be more fears in an individual when he or she is younger. As the brain develops, it’s more able to sort matters out and figure out what things are — typically leading to fewer fears in older individuals.

But that does not mean fears and phobias subside or disappear.

Phobias, according to Krepel, are fears of intensified levels that inhibit a particular function or area of functioning. A particular social phobia, for example, could inhibit a person from going into public places, crowded or not.

The commonality of fears and phobias depend on age, Krepel said. When individuals are around the age of 12, they often fear social situations or situations that make them feel awkward. Krepel explained the commonality of social phobia is also pretty high for people around the age of 20. But the fear of bugs or insects is commonly seen more often in younger age groups — although that’s not always the case.

On the topic of fears and phobias, Mount Mary University students have intense fears across the board, common or not. From bugs, to needles, to sharks, and back again to bugs, some fall into a more “common” category of fears.

A rather common fear, the fear of needles — trypanophobia — is the biggest fear of Erica Hill, a junior business student at Mount Mary University. Hill gets severe anxiety when she’s around needles.

Photo by ANDRES RUEDA While this image of a syringe reminds most of a casual vaccination at the doctor’s office, it causes some people extreme anxiety.

Photo by ANDRES RUEDA
While this image of a syringe reminds most of a casual vaccination at the doctor’s office, it causes some people extreme anxiety.

Hill has to face her fear when she goes to the doctor or dentist and she is to get a shot or if needles are in sight. She must always bring someone with her to help her through it, she said.

Although her fear is hard for her to cope with, it doesn’t really impair or affect her everyday life.

Aside from the commonality of fears, some Mount Mary students also have fears that could be considered “not so common.”

 Tracy Boutell, a sophomore nursing student at Mount Mary, fears zombies. Though, she knows these things are not real.

Boutell knew she had this fear when she first saw “The Dawn of the Dead” around age 12. Movies,or commercials with zombies often give her nightmares.

Boutell’s fear started off with a typical nightmare and turned into a reoccurring nightmare, leaving her with the fear of zombies.

Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy relieve the intensity of extreme fears or phobias.

Exposure therapy, according to Krepel, is a technique for a simpler phobia, like snakes.

“It begins with some very low conversation about snakes. Then it might move to a picture of snakes. Then it moves to a plastic snake,” Krepel said.

There are relaxation methods throughout each step in exposure therapy that help progress a person to the next step with ease.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment that helps a person understand his or her feelings and how to change them, making the individual more positive.

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