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Psy 300 - Phobias and Addiction

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Phobias and Addiction


November 19, 2010

Cheri Meadowlark

Phobias and Addiction

Phobias and addiction are two emotional behaviors that are looked at everyday by psychologists. These two psychological diagnoses affect many people in our society. They can range from minor to sever, depending on the phobia or the addiction. "Phobias are persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity, or situation. An individual that has a phobia will either avoid anything that triggers the fear or faces their fear head on causing distress or anxiety" (Publications, 2007, System Checker, para. 1). Depending on the level of fear and anxiety of the phobia will determine if an individual will seek professional help. Addiction is a very powerful and complex disorder. Symptoms include the inability to control what they are doing or consuming and compulsive behavior. Addiction is a disease that needs medical attention. "The disease has psychological, genetic, and psychosocial aspects requiting a form of treatment" (Allaplgs, 2010, Phobias & Addictions, p.1). Both these behaviors can be developed through classical and operant conditioning.

To understand the behaviors that develop from phobias and addiction one needs to understand what operant and classical conditioning and how to apply them to an individual. Kowalski & Westen (2009) stated "Operant conditioning is learning that results when an organism associates a response that occurs spontaneously with a particular environmental effect, also called instrumental conditioning" (p. 167). In simpler terms operant conditioning is learned behavior that is controlled by the environment. According to Kowalski & Westen (2009), "classical conditioning is a procedure by which a previously neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response after it is paired up with stimuli that automatically elicit that response. For example, when a dog is presented with a food he will automatically start to salivate. Pavlov noticed that if a stimulus, such as the ringing of a bell, repeatedly occurring, just as a dog was about to be fed the dog would start to salivate when it heard the bell even if it were not presented with the food. The dog learned to associate the bell with food and because food produced salivating the ringing of the bell also produced this reflex" (pg. 158).

Phobias are fears of an object or situation and can cause very real physical and psychological distress. Not all phobias need to be treated, but if the phobia interferes with one's life they need to seek treatment. Phobias can be developed through classical conditioning occurring naturally in our everyday lives, and by chance, result in strong conditional emotional responses ranging from simple fears to more extreme fears. Stimulus that when presented to us, causes a constant fear is how a phobia is developed. "One treatment used for treating phobias is called "flooding". This treatment is a highly uncomfortable process causing extinction of the phobia. Flooding is achieved by facing the feared stimulus in the absence of any harmful or feared unconditional stimulus creating a forceful and sometimes highly uncomfortable feeling" (Allaplgs, 2010, Phobia & Addictions, p.1). This is just one method used to treat phobias.

Addictions developed through operant conditioning are brought on by stimuli and how that stimuli makes us feel. For instance, and individual addicted to heroin are definitely conditioned by the feeling they get when they use the heroin. When they "shoot up" the heroin into their vein they get feeling of being "high". On the



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