Why Humans Have Phobias - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1884 Words
Date:  2022-12-22


Everyone experiences fear. Each person is afraid of one thing or another. Some are afraid of snakes; others are afraid of heights and others are even scared of spiders. It is usual for humans to experience fear because even animals can experience it. One type of fear is phobia which is intense fear. Phobia is a widespread term which many people do not even know what it means. Uysal, Ozen, & Madenoglu, (2016), defines a phobia as an anxiety disorder which is a persistent and irrational fear usually triggered as a result of been exposed to a particular situation or item, which in turn produces a conscious avoidance of the activity, situation or subject. Not every phobia has a name; however, that does not suggest that it does not exist because these phobias do exist and there is a need to care for them. Humans suffer from different types of phobic disorders, and anyone who has phobia tries his or her best to avoid the situation or thing which triggers the fear. So why do humans have phobias? In this research paper, the causes or the different reasons why people have phobias have been discussed.

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Researchers have categorized phobias into three distinct categories. First, the simple or the specific phobia: This type of phobia is associated with the fear of a specific situation or object like flying or the spiders (Uysal et al., 2016). These type of phobias tend to develop during adolescence or even at childhood; they may or may not lessen as the person grows older. Second, social phobias: This phobia is characterized by a feeling of intense fear especially in social situations and a person will always try to avoid them. A person might worry about the social event before it happens, as it happens or after it has happened, this leads to fear of meeting new people or even speaking in public. Third, Agoraphobia: This refers to the fear of open spaces, a person's tends to feel anxious when in situations or places which may be embarrassing or awkward to get off. Such people may avoid being in crowded places, or leaving their homes to go outside alone (Uysal, 2016).

Why Humans Have Phobias

There are very different reasons why people have phobias, and there are also distinct factors that contribute to the development of phobias.


Genetics is one of the reasons why people have or develop phobias because some of the phobias are known to run in the families and the relatives usually develop the same phobias like that the proband is suffering from. Anxieties, as well as fear, are usually influenced by different genes. The specific combinations of genes children receive from their parents tend to predispose them to respond with a lesser or a higher degree of anxiety. There is enough evidence in humans derived from the study of fraternal or identical twins who have been reared together or apart and from adopted children which suggest that the tendency to experience fear or anxiety is an inheritable trait with a very clear genetic component (Inam, Mahjabeen,& Abiodullah, 2017).

Any people with first -degree relatives who have a phobia have a chance of about three times higher of developing the disorder. Findings suggest that if one twin has agoraphobia, the chances of the other twin developing the same is about 39%,.If one of the twins has specific phobias, the chances of the other twin to develop the specific phobia is about 30% (Inam et al., 2017). These chances are very much higher compared to the 10% chance of the general population developing phobias. It is claimed that these genes are usually inherited or passed down from their ancestors; these phobias are usually passed to the children during conception even before rearing could begin.

Environmental Factors and Traumatic Life Experiences


According to Ranta, La Greca, Kaltiala-Heino,& Marttunen, (2016), immediately after experiencing a traumatic event, the risks of developing phobias are very high due to development of a post-traumatic stress disorder. A PTSD refers to a complex psychological reaction to severe trauma or stress. Although the phobia may not develop immediately after experiencing the trauma, we can always trace a specific phobia to a, particularly traumatic event. For instance, most adults who tend to fear dogs chances are very high that they were attacked by dogs at their childhood. This is because the adverse childhood experiences set our brain always to fear or feel danger. Evidence suggests that the very stressful experiences during childhood can result to increased feelings of anxieties like phobias because the ability of the individual to negotiate through emotional bumps in later life are usually impaired (Ranta et al.,2016). These experiences may include; isolation or separation, loss of loved ones, serious harm to self or loved ones or neglect.

These traumatic events usually alter a person's brain significantly making the individual very susceptible to phobias. They not only make the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) hypersensitive but also changes the person's brain structure. Most people with PTSD or have endured extreme prolonged stress tend to have a smaller hippocampus which works very closely with the amygdala (the brains fear center) (Ranta et al., 2016). Not everyone who has experienced trauma can develop phobias because humans have different brain chemistry and genes; some people are biologically or genetically more susceptible to phobias as compared to others with the PTSD serving as the catalyst. Sometimes the trauma may not be apparent, because some people may develop the phobia out of nowhere; however, after seeking medical attention, the mental health professionals may end finding some clues which indicate undiagnosed anxiety disorder which the person experienced during his or her childhood. For instance, a 21-year-old suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder may have suffered separation anxiety when he or she was a child at around the age of three years (Ranta et al., 2016).

Environmental Factors

For some humans, it is self-evident that environmental factors play a significant role in the development of phobias. These environmental facto is very close to traumatic events because it also creates a very strong association between the specific things which are reminiscent of the event and the intense fear. Ollendick, King, & Muris, (2002) argue that people suffer from different phobic disorders depending on the environment they live in and especially during observational learning. For instance, when parents of the child have some specific phobias like fearing heights, this can make their children or any other person who grows with them to develop the same type of fears because they used to see their parents or elders having the same fears without knowing the reason as to why.

Another environmental factor which can lead to the development of phobias is informational learning. This is where the child reads or hears stories about some kinds of events or situations which have never even happened to him or her. Any person can develop specific phobias from informational learning ( Ollendick, 2002). For instance, a person may be afraid of flying because of repeatedly reading stories or hearing people talking about how a plane crash can be fatal. Similarly, any child can develop phobias from animals like dogs when his or her parents keep on warning him or her about it by saying that it is dangerous. The environment can also lead to people having phobias especially due to neutral stimulus and anxiety responses. For example, when a person is driving in a highway (the neutral stimulus), and he or she gets a sudden attack which makes him or her to panic (the anxiety response), this can make the person avoid highways and develop a phobia( Ollendick, 2002).

Cultural Factors

Some phobias are only associated with particular cultural groups. Some children and even adults who migrate to foreign nations where they may face the issue of language barrier may develop some socialization phobias because they may feel embarrassed or fear since they cannot speak the same language as the people of that particular country. For instance, the taijin kyofusho phobia which only occurs in Japan. Contrary to what happens when has social phobias; when the person fears been loathed or humiliated by other persons( Essau, Sasagawa, Ishikawa, Okajima, O'Callaghan, & Bray, 2012) The taijin the fear of offending other individuals characterizes kyofusho phobia by showing respect and excess modesty. The person with the phobia usually afraid that an imagined physical defect might embarrass or offend others or his or her social actions and behaviors may offend people. This type of phobia associated with people from Japan can be cured through medication or behavior therapy (Essau et al.,2012). This is an excellent example that some humans have or develop phobias due to their cultural groups or origin.

Biological Factors

Changes in the functioning of the brain can cause people to develop phobias. There is a particular chemical in the brain known as neurotransmitters whose primary function is to send information back and forth about what a person is feeling. The dopamine and the serotonin are the significant neurotransmitters that when they are out of order can lead to some anxiety feelings which can later lead the human to develop phobias. Ollendick (2002), suggests that most of the humans who tend to have or develop phobias or any other anxiety disorder usually have some problems associated with the regulation of the serotonin in the brain because the serotonin plays a significant role in regulation or moderation of mood. Too high or very low serotonin can lead to the development of phobias.

Other risk factors which can predispose one to have phobias include; first, specific phobias usually occur during childhood especially at the age of ten years. It is unusual for phobias to develop at the age of about thirty years since most tend to begin at childhood, during the teenage years or even during early adulthood (Ranta et al., 2016). These phobias tend to improve as the person ages but some phobias especially those associated with crowds and heights tend to get worse.


A phobia is an anxiety disorder which is a persistent and irrational fear usually triggered as a result of been exposed to a particular situation or item, which in turn produces a conscious avoidance of the activity, situation or subject. There are different reasons why humans have phobias like genetics and cultural factors. There are also various treatment methods which can be used to treat phobias with the most effective been behavior therapy where one can confront his or her fears and learn how to control them.


Inam, A., Mahjabeen, A., & Abiodullah, M. (2017). Causes of Social Anxiety among Elementary Grade Children. Bulletin of Education and Research, 39(2).Retrieved from http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/ier/PDF-FILES/3_39_2_17.pdf

Ranta, K., La Greca, A. M., Kaltiala-Heino, R., & Marttunen, M. (2016). Social phobia and educational and interpersonal impairments in adolescence: A prospective study. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 47(4), 665-677. Retrieved from https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/223837/art_3A10.1007_2Fs10578_015_0600_9.pdf?sequence=1

Ollendick, T. H., King, N. J., & Muris, P. (2002). Fears and phobias in children: Phenomenology, epidemiology, and etiology. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 7(3), 98-106.Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1475-3588.00019

Uysal, S., Ozen, H., & Madenoglu, C. (2016). Social phobia in higher education: the influence of nomophobia on social phobia. The Global e-learning Journal, 5(2), 1-8.Retrieved from


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Why Humans Have Phobias - Research Paper. (2022, Dec 22). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/why-humans-have-phobias-research-paper

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