ELAC Psychology Club discusses fears and phobias

By Johanna Rodriguez

Phobias have the ability to put a hold on life and the Psychology Club at East Los Angeles College, Psi Beta showed how therapy can help.

Club members presented the ways phobias are formed and what treatments are used to treat them at their meeting on Thursday.

Phobias can be established in childhood through early adulthood and can occur after a traumatic experience or a stressful event. They can also be inherited or learned from generations before.

There is a strong distinction between a fear and a phobia. Fears are manageable and do not deter people from accomplishing tasks, but phobias can have a large impact on daily life.

An example shown by Daniella Valdez, vice president of the Psi Beta club, said how the fear of needles, trypanophobia, can become dangerous when a person who suffers from a chronic condition such as diabetes, avoids getting medical treatment that involves the use of needles or injections.

“Studies show that a remarkable 20% of the population has some degree of fear of needles or injections and 10% within that suffer from trypanophobia,” Valdez said.

Psi Beta Club said treating phobias is a good option to live a normal life.

Treatment for phobias can occur with a professional or by oneself.

The most common treatments presented to treat phobias are exposure therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also known as CBT.

“Exposure therapy is often times very successful,” Jocelyn Campos, the club historian said.

The goal with exposure therapy is to gradually expose the subjects to the feared objects or situations. This will progressively help decrease the level of fear and anxiety towards the object or situation.

“Even a picture can cause the subject to start sweating and get nervous,” Campos said. “So exposing them to a picture first and allowing their anxiety levels to decrease, will cause them to lose their fear.”

CBT is a goal-oriented treatment that helps the subject overcome the fear of the object or situation by focusing on reconstructing their negative thoughts and behaviors.

A short “BBC Primal Fears” video was shown of a woman in therapy for her phobia of birds and feathers. She had a debilitating fear of birds and the sight of a feather made her extremely uncomfortable. 

The therapist exposed her to a single feather and let her dictate how comfortable she was with the object near her. At the end of her CBT session, the woman was able to hold the feather without feeling overwhelmed.

As the presentation came to an end and phobias were discussed by students, Bryant Horowitz, adviser of the Psi Beta Club said, “A lot of times they (phobias) are self diagnosed, so you say that you are afraid of something but maybe it does not elicit that fight-or-flight response.”

The fight-or-flight response happens when coming across a feared object or situation your brain decided if you will fight the fear or flee from it. This response to fearful things  often times makes it difficult to live a normal life avoiding the object or situation at all costs.

“When it becomes disruptive to your life, when you can’t leave the house, that would be the reason why you would want to try to expose yourself to what you are afraid of. We want someone to live a normal life and to be able to function,” said Valdez.

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