Phobias, or the persistent, irrational fear of a specific thing, tend to develop in individuals very early on in life. Even though phobias can haunt people for the entirety of their life, there is usually a traceable source from which the fear originated during one’s childhood or adolescent years. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the average age-of-onset for phobias is seven years old. This is just one of the few reasons as to why it is important to understand how phobias develop, worsen, and continue to affect individuals well into their adult years.

At Long Island Counseling, we specialize in a number of therapies including phobia, trauma, substance abuse, personality disorders, and much more. We’ve successfully helped individuals and couples regain control of their lives so that they can experience the quality of life which they deserve. If you would like to learn more about Long Island Counseling’s available services, or would like to schedule a one-on-one consultation, contact us today.

How Phobias Develop

Phobias can generally be traced back to a traumatic or frightening event early on in one’s life. When a specific event traumatizes someone, that memory is quickly suppressed so as not to cause emotional distress. However, certain situations can trigger the traumatizing event to surface in different variations, causing fright and confusion to the individual suffering from a specific phobia. For instance, an adult may be afraid of heights due to a traumatic roller coaster incident they may have experienced when they were younger.

Many researchers have linked phobias to the amygdala, a key part of the limbic system within the brain which can affect emotions and one’s fight or flight response. In simpler terms, think of the amygdala as the body’s alarm system. Sometimes, the amygdala can trigger a body’s emotional response before the brain’s cerebral cortex is able to process the stimuli being experienced. This miscommunication between the cerebral cortex and amygdala can cause irrational, fear-based reactions which many are unable to process while it is happening. This reaction is so common among individuals that Daniel Goleman, renowned psychologist and writer for The New York Times, coined the term Amygdala hijack, or the “emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.”

Common Phobias

  • Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders
  • Acrophobia: Fear of Heights
  • Aerophobia: Fear of Flying
  • Agoraphobia: Fear of Large Crowds
  • Glossophobia: Fear of Public Speaking

As with many fears, phobias are much easier to confront when you are able to rationalize and understand what is fully happening. If you suffer from a phobia and are looking for a qualified and highly knowledgeable therapist to help you resolve your phobia, contact the experts at Long Island Counseling today. We’ve helped countless individuals understand their phobias, and take careful measures to ensure that we do not expose someone to their fears early on, which could result in the surfacing of a traumatic event or memory. If you would like to learn more about the many different types of therapy we offer, contact us today!