Phobias and Addictions

April 4, 2018 Psychology

Phobia and Addictions 1 Phobias and Addictions Psy/300 April 20, 2010 Phobia and Addictions 2 Phobias and Addictions Classical Conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training. Classical conditioning is a naturally occurring stimulus paired with a response. A previously neutral stimulus is then paired with the naturally occurring stimulus. Eventually, the previously neutral stimulus will come to evoke the response without the presence of the naturally occurring stimulus.

The two functions are then become the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. The classical conditioning model of behaviorism is based upon the psychological mechanism of association (Kowalski & Weston, 2005). Classical conditioning functions through conditioning trials in which an unconditioned stimulus is repeatedly paired with a neutral stimulus. Operant Conditioning, on the other hand, is a form of behavior modification that is used to either decrease or increase the likelihood that a particular behavior will occur.

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The process relies on the idea that if organisms respond to stimuli and that if it can be taught to associate a specific stimulus with a particular behavior, he or she will be more likely to engage in or avoid the behavior, depending on the type of stimulus involved. Gavin Lyall, the great novelist, once said, “…if God had intended men to fly He’d have given us wings” (Lyall, n. d. , p. 1). Lyall’s quote epitomizes the feeling that most of us experience while defying the law of gravity in an airplane.

It almost seems unnatural; however, when this normal fear becomes an irrational, unfounded fear it falls into the category of aviophobia. What is more, aviophobia can be adequately understood through the psychology perspective of behaviorism, within the context of the conditions and consequences of the behavior, and best treated through several types of behavior therapy. Aviophobia is the fear of flying. This phobia can occur for many reasons. The current terrorist attacks on planes, previous plane crash, and unpleasant experiences can cause a phobia to develop.

This irrational fear can develop into a phobia. Phobia and Addictions 3 The classical conditioning model of behaviorism is built upon the psychological mechanism of association (Kowalski & Weston, 2005). Classical conditioning works through conditioning trials in which an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is repeatedly paired with a neutral stimulus (NS). Once the UCS and the NS have been paired through a many number of trials the unconditional response (UCR) that usually follows the UCS can be associated with the NS, thereby becoming a conditioned stimulus (CS).

Now that the UCR has been linked to the CS the UCR now becomes a conditioned response (CR) and follows the CS. Then the normal responses to death (UCR) are linked to planes (CS), thereby making the normal responses to death (UCR) a conditioned response (CR). It is through this association that those who suffer from aviophobia learn to fear planes and associate them with death and destruction. My father has always had a fear of flying. He once commented to me that his fear is centered around the fact that so many terrorist have been high jacking planes.

He went on to say that the absolute bombings of the planes and crashes, as usually portrayed on news media, has caused him repeated nightmares and even daytime nightmares. It was not until after 9-11 that he developed a completely irrational fear (aviophobia) of planes. Apparently the fear of a terrorist attack paired with absolute uncontrollability was too strong of an association for my father to handle. The downfall to this fear is that planes are completely out of the question. He once drove to Massachussetts to see my grandmother, which took twenty-three hours, instead of just flying and only taking two hours.

My father does not like to drive long distances, but the benefits of flying did not outweigh the perceived consequences. In his mind there is a distinction between the absolute destruction of a plane crash and the sometimes partial destruction of an automobile crash. It is this distinction which allows him to drive for a day through the eastern part of the country and never think about death. It is also this distinction that causes his hands to shake at the sight of a 747 on the runway. Rachman (2004) concluded, after a series of empirical studies that gradual re-exposure and full emersion were he most successful behavior therapies for phobias. Gradual re-exposure entails Phobia and Addiction 4 deliberately superimposing an incompatible response onto what would usually be a fear response. In the case of my father’s aviophobia, this would include the implementation of relaxation techniques while being exposed to pictures of crashed planes. During these exercises he would begin to associate the feelings of relaxation with the pictures of death and destruction. In this way, he will be able to eventually associate the feelings of relaxation with planes themselves.

On the other hand, full emersion is quite a bit more progressive form of behavior therapy. Full emersion entails actual contact with the stimulus that now brings about the conditioned response (planes). On a practical level, my father would be encouraged to fly as much as possible in order to irrationalize his fears of planes. Once he has flown a few times he will begin to associate the positives of flying with flying itself, thereby alleviating his irrational fear. Sometimes these therapies are used in conjunction and sometimes they are more successful when used independently.

My Father would have to be willing to learn how to control his phobia of flying and with guidance and counseling he should be successful in conquering his fears. Phobias can become an addiction. They can fulfill a need within the person with the phobia. The individual becomes accustomed to the feelings the phobia creates and clings to the security of the psychological need. Phobias create anxiety and fear. They create social anxiety and depression. If the phobia is not resolved it can cause the individual to become more isolated and closed off from society.

In conclusion, the behaviorist model of psychology more than accommodates a proper understanding of aviophobia and its underlying causes. Furthermore, my father’s fear of flying is grounded in the absolute destruction and uncontrollability, portrayed by the new media, of plane crashes. Finally, the behavior therapies of gradual re-exposure and full emersion are adequate in confronting the powerful associations that underlie aviophobia. My father can learn to modify his behavior with education and positive flying experiences. Phobias can be controlled and cured with classical and operant conditioning. Phobia and Addiction 5


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