AO1, Description:

(1) Phobias — Behavioural, Emotional and Social Characteristics

Phobic disorders are including in diagnostics manuals (DSM and ICD) within the category of ‘anxiety disorders,’ a group of mental illnesses that share the same primary symptom of extreme anxiety. Phobic disorders or phobias are cases of irrational fears that produce a conscious avoidance of the feared object or situation.

Behavioural Symptoms/Characteristics of Phobias:

Avoidant, anxiety responseConfrontation with feared objects and situations produces a high anxiety response, efforts are made on the part of the individual to avoid the feared objects and situations in order to reduce the chances of anxiety occurring. For example, if someone is afraid of ghosts, they would avoid taking a short cur through a graveyard at night.
Disruption of functioningAnxiety and avoidance responses are so extreme that they can severely interfere with the ability to conduct everyday working and social functioning. For example, a person with a social phobia will find it very difficult to socialise with others.

Emotional Symptoms/Characteristics of Phobias:

Persistent, excessive fearAnxiety is produced from the presence of or anticipation of feared objects/situations
Fear from exposure to phobic stimuliPhobias produce an immediate fear response (e.g. panic attacks) due to the presence of the phobic object/situation

Cognitive Symptoms/Characteristics of Phobias:

Recognition of exaggerated anxietyPeople who suffer from phobias are consciously aware that the anxiety levels they experience in relation to their feared object or situation are overstated (over exaggerated)

There are many psychological and biological explanations of phobias, specifically, the AQA A level specification requires that students learn the Behavioural Explanation of phobias.

Interested in how the Behavioural Explanation would approach treating a phobia? Click the hyperlink to find out!

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