By Kasey Doyle/Accent editor
Caitlin Flood goes into hysterics any time a person touches her neck. “I have no idea why,” Flood said. “It’s always freaked me out… as long as I can remember.”
Flood, a freshman elementary education major from Cincinnati, Ohio, said she has a fear of being choked, which is why she gets upset when someone even tries to touch her neck.
“It scares me,” Flood said. “It’s just weird. Nothing else scares me or bothers me like that.”
Flood is not the only Eastern student to suffer from a phobia. According to Don Beal, professor of psychology and coordinator of the clinical training program, many students at Eastern suffer from phobias.
Beal said phobias are different from normal fears and anxieties.
“Anxiety and fear… involve a suggested sense of discomfort, a feeling of tenseness,” Beal said. “Lots of people have these kind of fears. The thing that makes it a phobia is… a sense of discomfort… but then it begins to interfere with their life.”
Beal said people with phobias greatly overestimate dangers and underestimate their ability to cope with these dangers.
Beal said it is unknown why people develop phobias, but there are several factors that contribute to the development of phobias.
According to Beal, people who are tense, nervous and hyper are more likely to develop phobias than people who are more laid back.
“Phobias (also) seem to run in families,” he said. “That often implicates maybe a genetic factor or a learned behavior.”
Flood said her mother is afraid to be touched on the neck.
“My mom has the same thing too,” Flood said. “I guess I inherited it from my mom.”
Beal also said phobias may develop if someone has experienced a traumatic event.
“We seem to develop phobias of certain things,” Beal said. “You find lots of people with fears of snakes and spiders and large animals, and talking in front of groups. That is a very common one.”
Beal said there are three classes of phobias: specific, social and agoraphobia. Specific phobias include the fear of spiders, snakes and open spaces. Social phobias include the fear of being in public and the fear of talking in front of large groups. Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving home or a safe place.
Beal also said another class of phobias is the blood injection phobia. These people are terrified at the sight of blood and injections. They may avoid receiving shots and vaccinations.
According to Beal, certain phobias can last a long time if they are not treated. Psychologists use several methods to treat patients with phobias.
Beal said many patients are prescribed anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants. He said these drugs make the patient feel comfortable, but they never get over their fear.
Beal said the best method to treat phobias is cognitive behavioral interventions, which work to help the person discover their irrational fears.
Beal said many students at Eastern are social phobic. Social phobias generally develop during adolescence and, if not treated, they may last for the rest of a person’s life. He said some students are uncomfortable talking in front of large groups and afraid to eat alone; these are considered social phobias.
“As we go through life, a lot of people say ‘I don’t like spiders, and I don’t like snakes,’ but yet they go through life. It doesn’t really interfere,” Beal said. “When it gets to the point where they won’t take their children on a picnic to the park, where it is relatively safe, because they might run into a snake, that’s when you get that interference.”
Flood said she has had the neck phobia since childhood.
“I don’t even like to watch other people touch each other’s necks,” she said.
Flood admits that her friends tease her about the phobia.
“My guy friends will pick on me and try to touch my neck,” she said. “I freak out.”
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