Phobias and Classical Conditioning-Post Two

Phobias and Classical Conditioning-Post 2

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. Phobic symptoms can occur through exposure to the fear object or situation, or sometimes simply thinking about the feared object can lead to a response. Some of the symptoms of phobias are, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, sense of unreality, fear of dying. Sometimes these symptoms can result into a full-scale anxiety attack. Some individuals may begin to isolate themselves, leading to severe difficulties in daily life. In other cases, the individual may find medical care due to a constant concern with imagined illnesses or imminent death. Some types of phobias are Social, Agoraphobia and Specific. Social is the fear of social situations. Agoraphobia is the fear of being trapped in an inescapable place or situation. Specific is fear of a specific object.

From the text, Introduction to Learning and Behavior, “A particularly salient way that classical conditioning affects our lives is through its involvement in the development of fears and anxieties.”(Powel et. al.) Classical conditioning effects are involved in the development of our fears and anxieties. Fear response is previously elicited by a neutral stimulus, associated with aversive stimulus. Fears help us avoid dangerous situations. For example, a person who is bitten by a dog and learns to fear dogs is less likely to be bitten in the future simply because he or she will tend to avoid dogs. According to Powell, “This process, however, occasionally becomes exaggerated, with the result that we become very fearful of events that are not at all dangerous or only minimally dangerous.” (pg. 182) This results in Phobias.

“Little Albert” experiment was conducted by John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner. The participant in the experiment was a child. Around the age of nine months, the child was exposed to a series of stimuli including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers and observed the boy's reactions. At first the boy showed no fear. Then the next time Albert was exposed the rat, Watson made a loud noise by hitting a metal pipe with a hammer. Albert then began to cry after hearing the loud noise. After repeatedly pairing the white rat with the loud noise, Albert began to cry simply after seeing the rat. Neutral Stimulus: The white rat, Unconditioned Stimulus:The loud noise, Unconditioned Response: Fear, Conditioned Stimulus: The white rat, Conditioned Response: Fear.

There are many different treatments for Phobias. In exposure treatments, the patient is exposed to the fear object in order to help them overcome their fear. One type of exposure treatment is flooding, this is when the patient is confronted by the fear object for an extended length of time without the opportunity to escape. The goal of this method is to help the individual face their fear and realize that the fear object will not harm them. Another method often used in phobia treatment is counter-conditioning. In this method, the patient is taught a new response to the fear object. Rather that panic in the face of the feared object or situation, the client learns relaxation techniques to replace anxiety and fear. This new behavior is incompatible with the previous panicked response, so the phobic response gradually fades. Counter-conditioning is often used with patients who are unable to handle exposure treatments. --The Worlds Weirdest Phobias