What causes fears and phobias

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

What causes fears and phobias

According to psychology humans develop fears and phobias towards certain objects when they experience traumatic experience related to that object in their early childhood.

For example a child might not develop fear of darkness until his mother slams the door accidentally one day while he is in a dark room. The child then associates the shock he has received when the door was slammed with darkness and so he starts to fear darkness later on.

Later on comes the media with its distorted facts about darkness to further reinforce the fear that the child has developed earlier. So the causes of fears and phobias are usually scary experiences associated with the feared objects that are reinforced later on by different factors.

We learn our fears

An experiment was done on monkeys by presenting them with snakes in order to monitor their response towards them. The result was that monkeys didn't fear the snakes. Later on they brought a monkey then suddenly introduced shocking noise each time the snake was introduced and the result was that the monkey developed fear of snakes!!

This wasn’t the most interesting part of the experiment because later on when another monkey was allowed to see the first monkey’s response to the snake the other monkey started to fear snakes too!!!

We don’t even have to experience a traumatic event in order to fear something but we can learn how to fear an object when we see someone else afraid of it!!

The parent who panics in certain situations in front of his child is actually teaching his child how to fear these situations later on!! see (Raising emotionally healthy children).

Stop learning to be afraid

Apart from learning how to fear cats, dogs and darkness we even go further by learning how to fear life itself. Our friends influence us and transfer their false beliefs about life to us and the result is that we develop the same fears that they have developed.

One friend can teach you how to fear taking risks, the other can teach you to fear public speaking while the third can teach you to fear the other sex.

Since most of our fears are learned from other people its time to start questioning what everyone is trying to teach us so that we don’t end up with a huge list of fears that we learned from everyone we know.

If you saw someone afraid to take a risk then know that he might have learned this fear from someone else. You must break this chain of learned fears by doing that thing yourself and by challenging these fears others are trying to teach you.

Do you want to know the real cause of fears? its our passive reaction towards the ideas others teach us.

When fears take different forms

Sometimes the fears happen on the unconscious level and as a result people find themselves fearing harmless objects. A person who was afraid of growing up had a hard time looking at his face in the mirror because he believed he was growing older.

Later on and without knowing why this person started developing phobia of watches and clocks. While he never understood the reason behind his fear it was clear that his fears about the passing of time took another form.

In other words, clocks unconsciously reminded him of the issue he was afraid of which is the passage of time.

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