How do people get phobias? (Thinkstock)
How do people get phobias?
Lexile

You asked us, "How do people get phobias?"
 
Roughly 10% of people will develop a phobia.
 
And whatever it is they're afraid of - spiders, flying or clowns - that fear isn't a normal one.
 
A phobia is an irrational or over-the-top response to a perceived danger, one that causes people to avoid their object-of-fear like the plague.
 
There are three main types.
 
Simple phobias are a fear of something specific, like dentists or dogs, which tend to develop in childhood and will often go away over time.
 
Then there are two more deeply-rooted and disabling "complex phobias" that tend to start during the teen years or early adulthood: social phobia (which is a fear of being judged or embarrassed) and agoraphobia (which is a fear of places that make you feel trapped).
 
It's likely that genetics have a hand in phobias.
 
These unwarranted fears tend to run in families and there's evidence that they can be inherited biologically, at least in mice.
 
But life experiences play a role, too.
 
Phobias can develop from a scary or stressful experience - even one you just witnessed or heard about.
 
Unfortunately, knowing what caused your phobia doesn't cure you of it.
 
What might help though is exposure therapy, where patients gradually increase contact with their phobia and learn to overcome their fear.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might phobias tend to run in families?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (75)
  • holdeno-3-bar
    10/28/2015 - 04:50 p.m.

    Phobias might tend to run in families because of genetics and stories passed down between generations. While talking about phobias, the author states that phobias can occur as a result of hearing about events. He also mentions that these fears might be based on genes.(paragraphs 9-11) By offering this information, the author connects phobias to genetics and tales. Since families pass DNA down through generations, an ancestor with a phobia might pass the fear to descendants through DNA. He also could tell descendants of a traumatic experience with something, which could cause them do develop that phobia.
    I did not like this article as much as I thought I would because it barely offered any information.

  • nathanm-pla
    10/28/2015 - 05:56 p.m.

    I thought this was an interesting topic especially considering I am in a gym class where I am facing one of my fears heights, and more specifically falling from heights in Adventure Ed. Leadership Skills Wellness class. I wonder if at the end of the semester I will have overcome my fear. Also, what if my fear of heights is genetic and not a simple fear?

  • erino-6-bar
    10/28/2015 - 06:54 p.m.

    Phobias may tend to run in families because they may be passed down through genetics. The article states that "These unwarranted fears tend to run in families. There's evidence that they can be inherited biologically, at least in mice." This shows that when using mice as test subjects, it was shown that phobias are passed down through genetics which would cause children to be more likely to have a certain phobia if one or both their parents had it.

    Before reading this article I thought that phobias could be found in a large amount of the population and was surprised when I read that only approximately 10% of people had a phobia. However, it did not surprise me that phobias are passed down through families because I have noticed that my traits are much more similar to those of my family members than those of others.

  • adamsp-rob
    10/29/2015 - 10:23 a.m.

    Once a parent or guardian tells what they are scared of and why people will then inherit that fear from them. Usually children have the same fear as their parents because they think its scary too. It is a coincidence for children and their parents too have the same fear. Maybe people are just scared of almost everything.

  • arellanoj-rob
    10/29/2015 - 10:25 a.m.

    Phobias may run in families because past relatives passed down the scary experience in their family or people have gone through it and told the story down.

  • davisn-rob
    10/29/2015 - 10:27 a.m.

    Phobias may run in families because parents could pass down there fears to there children by telling stories

  • ianc-day
    10/29/2015 - 10:48 a.m.

    Phobias ruin lives; I can see that. Everyone has something their afraid of. Some people just don't know what they fear. I've heard of people being scared of clowns and spiders from stuff that happened when they were younger but I thought people would get over it after a while. It keeps people avoiding those things which can be bad and good.

  • esparzaa-rob
    10/29/2015 - 02:34 p.m.

    Phobias tend to run in families because a parent or sibling is horrified of something. That one family member discusses about the topic frequently it could affect you. Or he or she encounters his/her fear in your presence their reaction affects you. Example when i was younger I was terrified of dogs because my mother was afraid of them and in their presence she would freak out and start crying.

  • holdenv-day
    10/30/2015 - 12:15 p.m.

    people can get phobias from a lot of things. spiders clowns water. phobias can be caused by something bad that happened to you. it could be a bad experience. the second longest word in the dictionary is Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. this is the fear of long words.

  • derekh-day
    11/01/2015 - 10:34 p.m.

    I've never had any real phobia, but I know people who have one. Both of my grandparents have one: spiders and snakes. Insects and other wildlife seem to be the most common for some odd reason, but I know of people who absolutely despise thunderstorms too. I've never even thought of a phobia running in a family either, weird.

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