An Excess of Phobias and Manias

(two separate units where one is dealing with phobias and the other one presents manias)

An excess of phobias abound in our world.

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Things That Drive People Crazy: An Extensive Examination of Phobias and Manias

The affixes phobo-, phob-, -phobia, -phobias, -phobe, -phobiac, -phobist, -phobic, -phobism, -phobous come from Greek meaning "an irrational, intense fear or terror of a person, object, situation, sensation, experience, thought, or stimulus event that is not shared by the consensual community and is thus out of proportion to any danger.

The victim can't easily explain or understand the phobia, has no voluntary control over the anxiety response, and seeks to avoid the dreaded situation or stimulus in every possible way; however, there are times when this Greek element means "a strong dislike or hatred for something or someone" rather than fear.

Some phobias are recognized as physical or mental disorders while others are considered to be categories of nonce words and contrived euphemisms. Nonce words are coined [invented] and occur or are used only for a "present or particular occasion".

A Variety of Phobias for Most Situations

Simple phobias are defined as persistent, irrational fears of, and compelling desires to avoid, specific objects or situations.

They are characterized by relatively specific fears of objects or sitations and so they are sometimes referred to as specific phobias. Commonly recognized specific phobias include certain modes of transportation; such as, driving, driving across bridges, or flying.

Public speaking seems to be the most common phobic situation for most people. Heights and darkness seem to be the most common simple phobias. Other common phobic objects or situations include harmless animals; such as, dogs and cats, thunderstorms, darkness, and heights.

People with animal phobias usually only have symptoms in the presence of, or anticipated presence of, their phobic objects. Snakes, spiders, and birds have been the most reported animal phobias. Animal phobias are more prevalent among women.

Blood and injury phobias are special types of simple phobias. Unlike other phobias, that cause increased pulse and other physiological signs of arousal, blood and injury phobias produce lower pulse and blood pressure and bring on fainting spells.

Social phobias include those who have excessive anxiety in social situations; such as, parties, meetings, interviews, restaurants, making complaints, writing in public, eating at restaurants, and interacting with the opposite sex, strangers, and aggressive individuals.

They often fear situations in which they believe they are being observed and evaluated; such as, when eating, drinking, speaking in public, driving, etc. Unlike specific or simple phobias, that tend to diminish as the individual grows into puberty and young adulthood, social phobias persist.

Many of these people have traits that interfere with social and marital adjustment. Some have ongoing problems with generalized anxiety, dependence, authority, and depression.

Phobias of internal stimuli consist of those fears within the individual with no external stimuli that can be avoided to reduce fear. Examples are fears of cancer, heart disease, venereal disease, and death. Fears in this category are often characteristic of depressive illnesses; in such cases, they improve when the depression improves.

Illness phobias occur in both genders. Some of these fears may be regarded as an extreme form of hypochondria.

Obsessive phobias include fears that are unequal to the demands of the situations, can't be explained by the individual, and are beyond voluntary control.

Examples consist of fear of harming people or babies, fears of swearing, and fears of contamination that lead to obsessive hand-washing. Such phobias usually occur along with other obsessive-compulsive disorders.

The term phobia comes from he Greek element phobos (panic, terror, fear, and flight), from phobein, to put to flight. Phobos was the son of Ares (Greek god of war) and Aphrodite.

Phobus (Panic) and his brother Deimus (Fear) were constant companions of their father and they often drove his chariot into battle. These brothers represent the personifications of two emotions commonly felt in war.

Phobic References from History Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) may have been the first to describe morbid fears when he wrote about a phobic individual who seemed to fear heights, precipices, and flute music.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), in A Merchant of Venice, wrote of cat phobia: "Some, that are mad if they behold a cat."

Robert Burton (1577-1640), an English clergyman, scholar, and writer, wrote in Anatomy of Melancholy (15621) about fear of going away from the safety of home (agoraphobia?).

John Bunyan (1628-1688), English preacher and writer and author of The Pilgrim's Progress, noted his own fear of church bells ringing and steeples. He demonstrated a common aspect of phobias; that is, their tendency to spread.

At first, he feared just the straight fall of the bell, then its bouncing course, and finally the complete crashing destruction of the whole steeple.

In 1794, Samuel Johnson indicated a fear of death and crowded places when he asked to be excused from jury duty because he came "very near fainting . . . in all crowded places."

In 1789, Benjamin Rush, an American physician and author, published an article in which he gave his definition of phobia: "I shall define phobia to be a fear of an imaginary evil, or an undue fear of a real one." He then listed eighteen species of fear named according to the object of excessive fear or aversion; such as, dirt or rats.

As understanding of the working of the mind advanced during the 19th century, and particularly the latter part of the 19th century, phobias were described increasingly in psychiatric literature. The term agoraphobia was introduced in 1872, in Otto Westphal's (1824-1902) classic paper describing three agoraphobic cases.

Westphal labeled his cases "agoraphobia" because the state of the patients was characterized principally by a dread or "phobia" in streets or public places, like "the agora" (Greek word for market). He commented that the thought of the feared situation frequently was as distressing as the situation itself."

Meanwhile mania-, -mania, -maniac, -mani-acal, -manic, -manically, -maniacally all come from Greek with the meanings:

  1. A specific mental disorder or obsessive preoccupation with something; a madness, frenzy; obsession, or an abnormal desire for or with something or someone.
  2. Excessive enthusiasm or fondness for something. So, what we have here is a plethora of negative reactions (phobias) by both humans and other elements of nature (biological) balanced by some abnormal human attractions (manias).