Phobias PSYB1 AS

  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 28-03-12 20:43


  • A phobia is a persistent, disproportionate, irrational fear of a specific object or situation that effects everyday life. 
  • The feared situation/object causes the fight or flight response. 

There are 3 categories of phobias: 

  • Specific - an intense and irrational fear of a particular item or situation
  • Social - a persistent and irrational fear of social situations
  • Agoraphobia - a fear of having a panic attack in a public place


  • Excessive and unreasonable relative to the actual danger posed by the object or situation
  • Triggered immediately on exposure to object or situation
  • Interferes with everyday functioning e.g work or relationships


  • Social phobias for specific situations - e.g a fear of public speaking or a fear of using public toilets. Panic attacks usually occur in these situations.
  • Generalised social phobia - when the fear is less specific and involves many types of social interactions e.g fear of initiating conversations, fear of speaking to authority figures, fear of attending parties. 
  • Usually developed in adolescence, around 11% in men and 15% in women.


  • Agoraphobia as a complication of a panic attack - they are anxious of having a panic attack in a public place and not being able to escape and find help, so they begin to avoid situations of fear and panic and some never leave their homes
  • Agoraphobia without panic attacks - less common than the above and is a spreading fear of the environment outside and the safety of their home. The fear gradually increases in severity until the individual becomes housebound. 


Genetic Explanation: 

Fyer et al. found that people who had first degree relatives with a specific phobia were much more likely to have a specific phobia themselves, however there was no such concordance for social phobias. 

Torgesen investigated pairs of identical twins (100% same genetic make up) and fraternal twins ( 50% same) where at least one of the pair are agoraphobic. Findings showed that there was a much higher likelihood of the other twin also being agoraphobic in identical twins than fraternal twins. 

Vulnerability: People vary in the extent in which they are vulnerable to experiencing anxiety. Eysenck proposed that some people are more easily frightened by fear provoking stimuli. He suggested that some people have high autonomic nervous reactivity which makes them more likely to develop a phobia. 

Preparedness Theory: Seligman proposed that we develop phobias to items and situations that were potential sources of danger to us thousands of years ago. Those who developed such a phobia and avoided the harmful situation/item would be favoured by evolution. We have a "preparedness to be sensitive to certain stimuli" from birth and it isn't the phobia that is innate but the tendency to aquire a phobia to potentially harmful items. 


  • The link between anxiety and ANS is more complicated than Eysenck's theory proposed, as shown by OCD and anxiety sufferers. 
  • Findings from genetic studies could be explained by alternative theories like SLT. E.g close relatives might observe…


No comments have yet been made