What is the definition of a phobia?

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What is the definition of a phobia?

What are phobias based on?

What kinds of phobias do you know?

What is “social phobia”?

What is “specific phobia”?

Give examples of different phobias.

What therapy can help in overcoming phobias?



A phobia (from Greek: φόβος, phobos, "fear"), or morbid fear is an irrational, intense, persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. When the fear is beyond one's control, or if the fear is interfering with daily life, then a diagnosis under one of the anxiety disorders can be made.

Phobias (in the clinical meaning of the term) are the most common form of anxiety disorders. An American study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that between 8.7% and 18.1% of Americans suffer from phobias. Broken down by age and gender, the study found that phobias were the most common mental illness among women in all age groups and the second most common illness among men older than 25.

It is generally accepted that phobias arise from a combination of external events and internal predispositions. Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Social phobias and agoraphobia have more complex causes that are not entirely known at this time. It is believed that heredity, genetics, and brain chemistry combine with life-experiences to play a major role in the development of anxiety disorders, phobias and panic attacks.

Most psychologists and psychiatrists classify most phobias into three categories:

· Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder - fears involving other people or social situations such as performance anxiety or fears of embarrassment by scrutiny of others, such as eating in public. Social phobia may be further subdivided into

- generalized social phobia, and

- specific social phobia, which are cases of anxiety triggered only in specific situations.

· Specific phobias - fear of a single specific panic trigger such as spiders, snakes, dogs, elevators, water, waves, flying, balloons, catching a specific illness, etc.

· Agoraphobia- a generalized fear of leaving home or a small familiar 'safe' area, and of possible panic attacks that might follow.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), social phobia, specific phobia, and agoraphobia are sub-groups of anxiety disorder.

Many of the specific phobias, such as fear of dogs, heights, spiders and so forth, are extensions of fears that a lot of people have. People with these phobias specifically avoid the entity they fear.

It is possible for an individual to develop a phobia over virtually anything. The name of a phobia generally contains a Greek word for what the patient fears plus the suffix -phobia. Creating these terms is something of a word game.

Class discrimination is not always considered a phobia in the clinical sense because it is believed to be only a symptom of other psychological issues, or the result of ignorance, or of political or social beliefs. In other words, unlike clinical phobias, which are usually qualified with disabling fear, class discrimination usually has roots in social relations. Below are some examples:

· Chemophobia - prejudice against artificial substances in favour of "natural" substances.

· Christianophobia - fear or dislike of Christians or Christianity.

· Ephebiphobia - fear or dislike of youth or adolescents.

· Gynophobia - fear or dislike of women.

· Homophobia - fear or dislike of homosexuality.

· Xenophobia - fear or dislike of strangers or the unknown, sometimes used to describe nationalistic political beliefs and movements. It is also used in fictional work to describe the fear or dislike of the space aliens.

Some therapists use virtual reality or imagery exercise to desensitize patients to the feared entity. These are parts of systematic desensitization therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy lets the patient understand the cycle of negative thought patterns, and ways to change these thought patterns. CBT may be conducted in a group setting. Gradual desensitization treatment and CBT are often successful, provided the patient is willing to endure some discomfort and to make a continuous effort over a long period of time.

Hypnotherapy coupled with Neuro-linguistic programming can also be used to help remove the associations that trigger a phobic reaction.

Anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications can be of assistance in many cases.

Emotional Freedom Technique, a psychotherapeutic alternative medicine tool, considered to be pseudoscience by the mainstream medicine, is allegedly useful.

These treatment options are not mutually exclusive. Often a therapist will suggest multiple treatments.

Vocabulary and comprehension check

1. Check if you remember the meaning of the following words. Give Ukrainian/Russian equivalents:

morbid, persistent ,excessive, anxiety, mental illness, predisposition, triggering event, life-experience, embarrassment ,avoid, ignorance, desensitize.


2. Give English equivalents of the following words and expressions:страх/побоювання, боятися; рід, страх відкритого простру, спадковість, ретельний огляд, упередження, юнацтво, прибульці, лікування.

3. Read the paragraph and substitute that for which or who. Answer the question in the end.

The worst thing thatever happened to me was this. When I was a little girl, we had an old icebox thatwe kept in back of the hose. It belonged to the people thathad lived there before us. It was small, and it had a door thatclosed tight. There was a shelf that had held large pieces of ice. The shelf was always empty, for nobody used the icebox any more. The shelf made a little seat that was very comfortable. I liked to sit there. It was a habit that almost cost me a life. One day I was sitting e icebox, and my brother closed the door. There was nobody who could let me out. Soon the air that was in the icebox was almost gone. I screamed and made noise until my mother opened the door. It was experience that I will never forget. Now I have a great fear of closed places, and I always will.

And what is the worst thing that ever happened to you?

Read the names of some specific phobias and decide the type they belong to. If possible give some more names.

  Animal type Natural environment type   Situational type Blood/injection/injury type   Other


acrophobia - the fear of heights;

trypanophobia - the fear of medical procedures including needles and injections;

arachnophobia - the fear of spiders;

triskaidekaphobia - the fear of the number 13

claustrophobia - the fear of small confined spaces;

astraphobia - the fear of lightning and thunderstorms;

coulrophobia - the fear of clowns;

nyctophobia - being "afraid of the dark";

ophidiophobia - the fear of snakes;

gerascophobia - the fear of aging;


The sentences below can be arranged into two paragraphs describing how people can lose their phobias. However, the sentences are out of order now, and they are not in proper paragraph form. Arrange the sentences into a clear order and copy the paragraphs.

Losing a Phobia

Paragraph 1

The fear started when she was four years old.

My sister has ochlophobia, which is the fear of crowds.

She was very upset.

We were in the crowd of people at a fair, and she got lost.

She was lost for four hours before we found her.

Paragraph 2

Every day he goes with her to a crowded place.

The third day they went even farther.

Now she is 18 years old.

Soon she will be able to live a normal life

The first day they didn’t go very far into the crowd.

She is seeing a doctor to help her lose her fear.

She is becoming less afraid every day.

The second day they went a little farther.



Lesson 3

Skim the reading to find the answer to the question below. Find the answer in the text: What can you tell about the person by analyzing his/her handwriting?

Detail questions

Read the text. Find the details. Answer the following questions. Then share your answers with a partner:

1. What can the analysis of someone’s handwriting show?

2. How is the analysis done?

3. What’s a stroke?

4. What are the zones of the letters?

5. When was the system of handwriting invented?

6. People of what nationalities contributed to the development of the system?

7. Who can use handwriting analysis?



Handwriting analysis is a scientific system which analyzes someone’s handwriting. An American teacher, M.N. Bunker, invented this system in 1913, but even the ancient Chinese, Greeks and Romans noticed that personality showed in handwriting. In the 1600s an Italian started to develop a system, and 200 years later the French were working on one. Today in Europe, anyone who is studying to be a teacher or a psychologist has to study handwriting analysis.

The analysis shows the person’s personality and character – what kind of person this individual is. The handwriting shows if the person is honest or dishonest, gets angry easily or stays calm, has a good memory or forgets easily. It can tell when people’s feelings have a strong effect on their thinking, or if they usually think logically. It tells if the person has a lot of friends and likes to spend time with them, or if he likes to be alone most of the time. It can even tell when people are shy. They are so afraid of people that they spend most of their time alone when they would like to be with others.

It is known that people act differently in different situations. Someone might get very angry about something important but just a little angry about something else. And handwriting analysts can tell about degrees of anger or laziness or other characteristics. They score this person from one to ten how angry he gets, or to what degree people work carefully, or they are sometimes lazy or careless.

To do the analysis the person is asked to write about two pages on unlined paper. Then each stroke of the letters is analyzed. A stroke is a part of a letter that leaves or returns to the base line. The cross on a t and a dot on an i are also strokes. The parts of the letter are divided into zones. All letters like t, h, and l go into the upper zone. This zone shows people’s imagination, ideas, and how they think about the future. All letters have parts in the middle zone. This zone shows how people think and feel about the present and reality, and their feelings about other people.

Letters like f, g, and p, go into the lower zone. This zone shows how people feel about the past, if they are quick to take action, and what their biological needs are. For example, food is very important for some people. Others are not interested in food at all, as long as they have enough to eat.

Some companies use handwriting analysis when they hire people to work for them. They want to know if they will be good, honest workers. Police use it to try to understand criminals better. Sometimes an individual wants an analyst to help decide what kind of job is best for him/her.

Although all people are taught to write the same way, everyone writes differently. There is about one chance in 68 trillion that two people will write exactly the same. And there aren’t even that many people in the world!

It is necessary to mention that for a while this system has been developed only for European languages, but since everybody writes differently, handwriting analysis should work for any alphabet.

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