Phobias and Addictions Essay

Phobias and Addictions Joe Blow General Psychology University of Phoenix PA10BSP03 Phobias and Addictions With extensive research over the years in the field of psychology, people have a better understanding of how the human mind works and how the mind affects ones behavior. Phobias and addictions are two emotional situations that have in one way or another, occurred in the lives of everyday people. Different theories expose behavior through an understanding of thought processes.

The theories are based largely on the idea that all human being are naturally logical and rational; making decisions and choices that make the most sense to the individual (Fritscher, 2009). Whenever an irrational or illogical decision such as those found in phobias and addiction, a challenge is presented to find the path that made the choice logical or rational. Addiction is defined as “a state of physiological or psychological dependence on a potentially harmful drug or behavior (Encarta, 2009). ” Addiction has the distinction of creating a positive feeling or a false sense of euphoria.

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This is seen most prominently in drug and alcohol addictions as they both give the user a false sense feeling of well being and happiness. Although drug and alcohol addictions are the prevalent addictions, they are not the only ones. Some other addictions are: shopping, smoking, gambling, and sometimes sex addictions give the addict the same sense of well being. However, they all share the same negative outcome to the individual as his or her compulsion to acquire the “high” overrides the logical and rational sense of self-preservation.

The development of addictions occurs when the individual is able to achieve a continuous and instant positive change in feeling during use of or participation in the addictive behavior (O’Brien, Childress, Ehram, & Robbins, 1998). In the study of drug and alcohol addiction the compulsion or habit is not dependent on the existence of the drug or alcohol in the body because the behavior is precipitated by environmental stimuli. Based on personal exposure to addicts and drug use, addiction is so complex, sometimes therapy is not enough to elp addicts understand the patterns of irrational behavior that occur with addiction. The Operant stage of addiction includes the voluntary addiction seeking behaviors such as those experienced by long term drug and alcohol users. Peer pressure and environmental stimuli are driving factors that persuade people to abusing drugs or alcohol. A social acceptance of this abuse creates a false sense of this behavior being an acceptable form of socializing. The use of extinction in addiction therapy can take more than one approach.

The “Decay” process is a gradual removal of the cues or stimuli that lead to the conditioned behavior of addiction that in turn should relieve the individual of the addiction through the lack of cue response or extinction of stimuli or cue based need. Another widely accepted form of extinction in addiction therapy is that of desensitization therapy. This type of extinction is designed to expose the individual to the stimuli or cues until the individual has become accustomed to them and no longer responds in any way. Similar to addiction, phobias are developed through the classical and operant conditioning stages.

As children, people develop phobias based on experiences or in some cases on beliefs passed on from parents. Such phobias can create a lifelong feeling about certain stimuli. An example of the first would be touching hot items or a bad experience while swimming. A story about the boogeyman would be a phobia generated by parents to instill fear amongst children. Originally it was believed that the only way for a phobia to form was through the learning model of classical and operant conditioning. More recently scientists have begun to focus on the evolutionary perspective of fears and phobia.

The evolutionary theory states that the amygdale and the hippocampus parts of the brain may have cognitive and emotional functions that allow a fear response to certain believed threats (Coelho, & Purkis, 2009). Phobias share a commonality with addiction through the basics of classical and operant conditioning. Although the conditioned response is directly or indirectly related to environmental factors that in turn produce the operant conditioned response to cues or stimuli the similarity of phobias to addiction ends here.

Addiction is a pleasure-based response whereas a phobia is a fear based response (Kowalski & Western, 2009). Conditioning is as much a part of the human condition as any physiological part. Individuals learn through conditioning, conditioned responses, as well as observed and conditioned responses experienced. Classical conditioning is based on the environmental factors in an individual’s life that can include everything from social interaction to geographical placement. Operant conditioning is generally the result of classical conditioning. It is based in the cause and affects principle of being.

Through positive and negative reinforcement an individual’s responses to stimuli or situations is cemented (Kowalski & Western, 2009). This cemented negative behavior is defined as either and addiction or a phobia. References: Addiction. (2009). In MSN Encarta Dictionary. Coelho, C. M. , & Purkis, H. (2009). The Origin of specific phobias. Review of General Psychology, 13(4), Fritscher, L. (2009, February 7). Cognitive Theory. Kowalski, R. & Western, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed. ). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. O’Brien, C. P. , Childress, A. R. , Ehram, R. , & Robbins, S. J. (1998). Journal of Psychopharmacology, 12.


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