Phobias - psychopathology

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  • Phobias:
    • Characteristics of a phobia
      • Behavioural: Panic (crying, screaming or running away), avoidance, endurance (when sufferer remains in presence of stimulus but anxiety is still high - e.g flying on plane when scared of flying)
      • Emotional: Anxiety
      • Cognitive: irrational beliefs about stimulus, selective attention when in presence of phobic stimulus, cognitive distortions.
    • explanations of phobias - (Behaviourism): Mowrer proposed a two process model, where phobias are learnt through classical conditioning and maintained through operant conditioning. Neutral stimulus becomes associated with the unconditioned response of fear - can lead to the formation and conditioning of phobias. Avoiding contact with conditioned stimulus reduces anxiety and so negatively reinforces phobia through operant conditioning.
      • Strengths - Supporting research: Baby Albert (learnt to associate white fluffy things with loud noises, which produced feared response. // Good application to therapies, such as systematic desensitisation- effective in eliminating phobia.
      • Limitations: Some phobias may be evolutionary and thus biological... e.g. fear of snakes or spiders. Suggests there is more to acquiring phobia than just learning them. People less commonly develop a fear of guns, which are much more dangerous...
    • Behavioural approach - treating phobias: systematic desensitisation(involves creating anxiety hierarchy, relaxation and finally exposure) - person associates the phobic stimulus with relaxed feeling. // Flooding (person is exposed immediately to stimulus after giving fully informed consent. Phobia becomes extinct.
      • Strengths: SD - effective and long term // suitable for diverse range of patients and phobia types (social phobias) // patients prefer.
      • Limitations: SD - More expensive than other treatments such as flooding, so may not be used by public health services such as NHS which suffers from extreme financial struggles.
      • Strengths: Flooding - cost-effective and fast (fewer sessions)
      • Limitations: Flooding - Less effective for certain types of phobia (e.g. social phobias where cognitions are more important than experiences) - other therapies such as CBT may prove more effective as they tackle irrational beliefs. // It is also traumatic for patients - not unethical but means the may drop out.


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