Where do phobias come from?

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Where do phobias come from?
Where do phobias come from?

A huge number of people around the world suffer from one or another phobia. Phobias are intense fear of very specific things or objects. Phobias can be caused by places, certain situations. insects or animals. Fear of specific animals, such as cats and dogs, is very common among children and adolescents. And among adults, the most common are arachnophobia and hemophobia - fear of spiders and the sight of blood. When a person suffers from a phobia, then at all costs avoid places, things or animals that cause fear. And this is not so easy. But where do phobias come from and why are there so many?

How do phobias develop?

Specific phobias are very common, especially among children and adolescents. Research shows that approximately 10% of children will experience some type of specific phobia, making this type of anxiety one of the most common anxiety disorders in the world. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), phobias are the most common mental illness among women and the second most common among men. In Russian megalopolises, about every tenth person suffers from one or another phobia. Many phobias occur during childhood or adolescence, but they can haunt a person into adulthood. Researchers identify three main scenarios that can affect the development of a phobia.


A phobia develops when you see someone close to you get very scared (by a particular situation or a certain animal / insect). This is called “modeling”. When you see someone else “simulating” fear responses to certain things, you can learn to fear the same things. Situations where parents often tell their children that (for example) dogs are dangerous, they should not be approached, dogs should be avoided, and so on, teaches the child that ALL dogs are ALWAYS dangerous. Such stories from adults can contribute to the development of a real phobia at an early age.


Agoraphobia - fear of open space

Traumatic experience

Negative experiences can trigger phobias. Psychologists call this "direct conditioning." It occurs when you are bitten by a dog, trapped in an elevator for a long time, got into a car accident, or found yourself in the middle of a storm. All such experiences are often very scary and can seriously injure the psyche of both adults and children. The development of a phobia occurs when a person is again in a similar situation.

Evolutionary phobias

Research results show that phobias often develop in members of the same family. This may indicate the genetic origin of some phobias. Arachnophobia is a prime example of how our ancestors feared spiders and transmitted this fear to modern humans. You can read more about arachnophobia and its causes in our special material. However, researchers do not exclude that a person's personality, along with factors such as life experience and the experience of others, can play an important role in whether a phobia develops or not.


Some spiders bite can be fatal

But there is good news too

The good news is that there are a number of other factors that can help guard against developing a phobia, even if you have had negative experiences in the past. For example, support from family and friends can be soothing when something terrible happens.

Some studies show that optimism can help defend against fear. A positive outlook on the world can not only significantly reduce the impact or development of anxiety and fears, but also have a positive effect on life expectancy. Finally, the most effective way to stop fear turning into a phobia is to face your fears. Otherwise, you may never know that you are braver and stronger than you think.