Phobias

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  • Phobias
    • Behavioural characteristics
      • Panic
        • A phobic person may panic in response to the phobic stimulus. My include crying, screaming, running away
      • Avoidance
        • Unless the sufferer if making a conscious effort to face their fear they tend to go to a lot of effort to avoid coming into contact with the phobic stimulus
    • Emotional characteristics
      • Anxiety
        • An unpleasant state of high arousal. Prevents sufferers from relaxing. Can be long term
      • Emotional responses are unreasonable
        • The emotional responses we experience in relation to phobic stimuli go beyond what is reasonable. Often the fear experienced is wildly disproportionate to the danger posed
    • Cognitive characteristics
      • Selective attention to phobic stimulus
        • If a sufferer can see the phobic stimulus, their attention remains on it
      • Irrational beliefs
        • A phobic may hold irrational beliefs in relation to phobic stimuli
      • Cognitive distortions
        • The phobic's perceptions of the phobic stimulus may be distorted
    • Behavioural approach to explaining phobias
      • The Two-process model
        • Acquisition by CC
          • CC involves learning to associate something we initially have no fear of with something that already triggers fear response
            • Albert was shown a white rat (NS) and did not show any anxiety. Whenever the rat was presented they made a loud noise (UCS). Through CC Albert learned to be frightened when he saw the rat without the loud noise being made (CS).
        • Maintenance by OC
          • OC takes place when our beh is reinforced or punished. Reinforcement tends to increase the chances of a behaviour being repeated, punishment makes it less likely
            • In the case of neg reinforcement an individual avoids a phobic object/ situation that is unpleasant. Such beh results in a desirable consequence, lack of anxiety/ fear. Means the avoidance beh will be repeated and phobia maintained.
      • Evaluation
        • Not all traumatic events result in a phobia- sometimes people develop a phobia and are not aware of having had a bad experience. Makes the behavioural approach incomplete in explaining phobias.
        • Good explanatory power- 2 process model is useful in explaining how phobias could be maintained overtime, having important implications for therapies.
        • Effective therapies based on the explanations
    • Behavioural approach to treating phobias
      • Systematic desensitisation
        • Beh therapy designed to gradually reduce phobic anxiety through the principle of CC. A new response to the phobic stimulus is learned. Counter conditioning.
        • Wolpe developed a technique where phobics were introduced to the feared stimulus gradually. Works on the basis of reciprocal inhibition, the inability to experience two opposing emotions at the same time
        • 3 processes involved in SD
          • The anxiety hierarchy- put together by the patient and therapist. It is a list of situations related to the phobic stimulus and that provoke anxiety arranged in order from least to most frightening
          • Relaxation- the therapist teaches the patient to relax as deeply as possible. This could be through relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises
          • Exposure- finally the patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus while in a relaxed state. Occurs over several sessions. When a patient can stay relaxed in the presence of the lower levels of the phobic stimulus they can move up the hierarchy. Succesful when they remain calm at the top
        • Evaluation
          • Evidence of effectiveness- shows reduction in anxiety and proves the effects are long lasting
          • It is accepted by patients- pleasant elements such as relaxation. Low refusal rates
      • Flooding
        • Patients go straight to the top of the hierarchy and imagine, or have contact with their most feared scenarios
        • The idea is that patients cannot make their usual avoidance responses and anxiety peaks at such high levels it cannot be maintained and eventually subsides
        • Flooding sessions are usually longer than SD sessions, but sometimes only one session is needed to cure a phobia.
        • Flooding is also based on CC and the idea of extinction. A learned response is extinguished when the conditioned stimulus is encountered without the unconditioned stimulus. The result is that the CS no longer produces the CR.
        • Evaluation
          • It is cost effective- flooding is at least as effective as other treatments for specific phobias. Has a quick effect, making treatment cheaper.
          • Less effective for some types of phobias- such as social phobias. Because of cog aspects, this treatment doesn't tackle irrational thinking.
          • The treatment is traumatic for patients- may be unwilling to see it through to the end.

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