AQA A2 Psychology- Phobic Disorders

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Introduction to Phobias
Introduction to Phobias
Pathological or Abnormal fear
Pathological means a diagnosed disease or condition, therefore the condition is outlined in
DSM IV or ICD 10.
Anxiety is a diagnosed abnormal fear.
General Anxiety Disorders (GAD)
Panic disorder
Phobic disorders
Characteristics of Anxiety Disorders (AO1)
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental disorders in the Western culture.
Kessler et al (2005) propose that approximately 18% of individuals will
experience some form of anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
Fear and stress are normal, it is the loss of control which causes a problem (interference
with daily life.)
Anxiety Disorders are classed under neurosis. (Intense distress that patients know is not
healthy but cannot control)
Phobic Disorders
Being scared and feeling fear is not the same as a phobia.
A phobia is abnormal and diagnosed.
A fear turns into a phobia when a persons life becomes disrupted because of the fear.
A Phobia can be defined as `an excessive, unreasonable, persistent fear triggered by a
specific object or situation'. (Neale, 2008)
Phobias are therefore irrational and rarely disappear without treatment.
Approximately 6% of the population have them
They aren't psychotic as the sufferer is aware that their fear is unreasonable.

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Issues of Classifying and Diagnosing Phobic Disorders
The purpose of Psychology is to help people, therefore classifying and diagnosing someone
has to be beneficial for it to be worthwhile.
Diagnosis (AO1)
Validity: refers to the extent that a diagnosis represents something that is real and distinct
from other disorders, and the extent that a classification system measures what it claims to
Comorbidity : an issue with the validity of diagnosis. It refers to the extent that two or more
conditions cooccur.…read more

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Interrater reliability: comparing the results of measurements and seeing if they give
consistent and similar scores.
There is supporting evidence for the interrater reliability of diagnosing phobias. Evidence
comes from Skyre et al (1991) who assessed the interrater reliability by asking 3 clinicians
to assess 54 patient interviews obtained using the structured clinical interview.
There was high interrater agreement sowing the diagnosis of phobias is reliable.…read more

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Biological Explanations of Phobic Disorders
Phobias may have originally aided survival and may have an evolutionary origin.
There are three main theories:
1. Ancient Fears & Modern Minds
2. Prepotency Theory
3. Biological Preparedness Theory
For phobias to have an evolutionary (or survival) benefit they must be passed on from
generation to generations. i.e. inherited
Inherited Genetic Factors may be one explanation of Phobic Disorders.…read more

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Evidence suggests that phobics have some biochemical differences to nonphobics.
Oversensitive Fear Response:
People inherit an oversensitive fear response. This would mean that people with phobias
often respond to normal situations, abnormally.
The fear response affects the autonomic nervous system and some phobics had high levels
of arousal in the ANS meaning that they will have higher levels of the hormone adrenaline
than normal. (Adrenergic Theory)
Abnormal Transmitter Levels:
could include
High dopamine levels or high serotonin levels.…read more

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However, this ability to learn isn't consistence as Rhesus monkeys rapidly develop a fear if
they see another monkey showing fear of snakes but they do not develop a fear when a
monkey reacts to a flower ( Mineka et al 1984). Therefore the theory may lack some validity
due the inconsistency with all behaviour.
Support for genetic explanations comes from twin and family studies evidence.…read more

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Psychological Explanations of Phobic Disorders
Cognitive Theories:
According to Ellis (1962) and Beck (1963) phobias are a result of:
Faulty, irrational or distorted thinking. i.e.
Over focus on negative stimuli/situations and events
Exaggeration of negative events and their consequences
A tendency to over focus on the possibility of negative events occurring again is called an
`error in logic' (Beck 1967)
e.g.…read more

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Behavioural Theories:
Phobias are acquired three ways:
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning
Social Learning Theory
Classical Conditioning:
Fears are acquired when an individual associates a neutral stimulus with a fear response.
e.g. Little Albert:
Watson and Rayner (1920) used an 11 year old boy.
UCS (loud noise) provokes the UCR (fear).
Pair the loud noise with something not scary a fluffy bunny
CS then becomes the fluffy bunny which provoked a fear response and made him cry.…read more

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Biological Therapies
For there to be a biological cause for phobias, there must be a biological cause.
Drugs can help reduce the high levels of anxiety and be used with psychological therapies to
deal with the psychological causes of their phobia.
Bind to the receptor cells on the heart and other major organs.
Reduces the effects of hormones adrenaline and nor adrenaline by not allowing them to be
received into the heart cells.…read more


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