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Phobias, Anxiety Disorders, and Society In General

Fear is sometimes considered to be an integral element of the human psyche, keeping people from jumping into situations that can be considered dangerous or disadvantageous. However, there are times when fear can effectively cripple a person’s ability to do what needs to be done. This is particularly true if the fear comes in the form of anxiety disorders and phobias, which can sometimes be termed as being “unreasonable,” as compared to the more normal, “reasonable” fears.

Anxiety disorders and phobias, while distinct from one another, do have several common features. Both of them are considered to be an unhealthy fear. Both are considered to be psychological disorders, though it is generally accepted that phobias emerge from anxiety disorders. For sure, there are a number of factors that cause anxiety disorders and phobias. Anxiety disorders and phobias can be triggered by a number of stressful situations. But clearly, most studies indicate that anxiety disorders might take longer to form or develop as compared to phobias.

Some theorize that phobias are formed as part of the exaggerated aspect of the natural human survival instinct. Phobias are reactions to “natural threats” to a person’s well-being, for example, the fear of spiders or the fear of heights. The difference lies in the severity of the fear reaction. A phobia can totally paralyze or debilitate a person while having a simple fear will just elicit a response that does not necessarily interrupt a person’s normal functions.

In contrast, stress and anxiety takes a number of formative years to develop, or more appropriately, worsen before it affects a person. The stress and anxiety can actually lead to other phobias such as claustrophobia, the fear of closed spaces, and hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia —- which is the irrational fear of the number 666.

According to some psychologists, stress and anxiety combined with external triggers and internal factors that impact on an individual’s psyche can cause phobias. There are some who believe that anxiety disorders are not constant and can generally be treated with medication, whereas phobias are generally believed to require extensive therapy. In reality, no credible, verifiable studies have produced results to back up this claim . Very little information is available and the research on the subject matter do not necessarily refute some of the existing theories.

Interestingly, a number of modern “phobias” are highly social in nature, perhaps reflecting the growing sense of status anxiety and social anxiety people feel. These particular phobias are generally considered to be non-clinical and are mere signs of mild social disorders that cannot be categorized as phobias. Most experts view these new “phobias” as little more than signs of people developing social anxiety and status anxiety as a result of ignorance or misinformation. There are also some that carry discriminatory undertones, such as a “phobia” that centers around the fear of Christianity and the various Christian denominations.

Social class and nationality also seem to be linked to the new generation of these so-called phobias, eliciting worries of national-level status anxiety in the face of expanding globalization. Social anxiety is also hinted upon, with people starting to become more and more anxious about the increasing upward mobility available within various social and economic structures. There are some that have theorized that people are starting to develop an instinctive fear of what is sometimes seen to be rapid social restructuring, linking to a more personal form of status anxiety than the large-scale example cited above.