Understanding Fear and Phobias

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Understanding Fear and Phobias For something that can cause as much suffering as a phobia, as remarkable how many people lay claim to having one and how many of them are wrong. Experts say, a true phobic reaction is a whole different category of terror, a central nervous system wildfire that's impossible to mistake. In the face of the thing that triggers fear, phobics experience sweating, racing heart, difficult breathing and even a fear of imminent death -- all accompanied by an overwhelming need to flee. For every phobia, the infinitely inventive and infinitely fearful human mind can create, there is a word that has been coined to describe it. There's nephophobia or fear of clouds and coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. It's one thing to invent a word like arachibutyrophobia, another to find someone who's really afraid of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. Other phobias, however like acrophobia (fear of heights) and agoraphobia (a crushing paralysing terror of anything outside of the safety of the home) can be deadly serious business. Researchers are making enormous progress in determining what phobias are, and what kinds of neurochemical storms they trigger in the brain. Most psychologists now assign phobias to one of the three broad categories: Social phobias, in which the sufferer feels paralyzing fear at the prospect of social or professional encounters; Panic disorders, in which the person is periodically blinded by an overwhelming fear for no apparent reason; and Specific phobias -- fear of snakes and enclosed spaces and heights and the like. Of the three, the specific phobias are the easiest to treat, partly because they are the easiest to understand. The harder phobics work to avoid the thing that they fear, the more the brain grows convinced that the threat is real.

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