Fears and Phobias Treatment and Information Part 3

About fears and phobias, definitions of a variety of phobias, information on treatment and therapy options.

Find Your Phobia

Many clinics throughout the country are trying to help phobic patients with radical departures from traditional treatment methods. Dr. Manuel D. Zane of White Plains Hospital, N.Y., for example, contends that the why is not the important question in phobia cases. "Don't try not to have a fearful reaction, because it will come," he tells his patients. "Try to learn to deal with the fear when it happens. The most important thing is to learn not to panic over getting panicked." Such behavioral therapy is also practiced by a national organization of "nervous and ex-mental patients" called Recovery, Inc., based in Chicago, which abounds with slogans like "The situation is distressing but not dangerous," "Don't think in extremes--life is neither a disaster nor a picnic," and "There is no limit to the amount of discomfort you can bear." Another psychiatrist goes so far as to treat patients with contamination fears by having them sniff and dab samples of their own urine, and still another therapist, Dr. Herbert Fensterheim, has developed a "relaxation machine" to help treat phobic patients at his New York hospital clinic.

Behavioral therapy doesn't get at the root reason for a phobia. In fact, it dismisses the underlying reason as irrelevant and is interested only in eliminating or modifying the fear. At any rate, it has proved less costly, far less time-consuming, and much more successful for phobia patients than conventional psycho-analysis. Just ask the man behaviorists have cured of fear of his own handwriting; the man who once feared 101 of 102 phobias on the Long Island Jewish Hospital's "Fear Inventory"--he omitted only the fear of being raped; the woman who once showered every half hour for fear of body odor; or the man who so gravely feared heart attacks that he often ran to his doctor's office, racing up 3 flights of stairs to get there.

At any rate, even though we've learned how to treat phobias successfully, nobody has yet discovered just what a phobia is or exactly what causes a phobia. There may even be a certain survival value in being phobic or paranoid today. Whatever the case, you can get a good case of ergophobia, the fear of work, just trying to keep up with the phobias circulating presently. About the only phobics that haven't turned up are politicians suffering from verbophobia, an aversion to words--though many have had sophophobia, the fear of learning, especially from past mistakes.

In short, we can only conclude that the best you can do today is hope you don't develop iatrophobia, the fear of doctors, so you can still be cured when you develop the phobia of your choice--cured, that is, if your friendly neighborhood psychiatrist doesn't develop the fear of phobic patients. Or it might be advisable for everyone to contract phobophobia, or pantophobia, both shorthand for the fear of fears.

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