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Fears, Frights, and Phobias

Fear is an interesting emotion. With Halloween coming in just a few weeks, some of us will get to experience our terrors all around us. Whether it be a fake spider at our desk, eerie skulls lying about, or children and adults parading around in scary costumes, fear can come in many forms. Some fear can be healthy and even sought out by thrill seekers. Those who love a good roller coaster or watching horror flicks enjoy engaging in their fear. But for some, fear can take on an intense reaction.
Someone who lives with a phobia has powerful fear regarding a particular thing or situation. The fear felt is out of proportion to the potential danger but feels real because of the immense terror. Phobias may cause worry, dread, and avoidance of certain things. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 4-5% of the U.S. population (19.2 million people) has one or more clinically significant phobias in a given year. Most phobias develop in childhood and tend to continue into adulthood.

The American Psychiatric Association categorizes phobias into three different types:
1. Social Phobias – These types of phobias include extreme fear of social situations. Research has shown that social phobia may have hereditary component.
2. Agoraphobia – This phobia involves the fear of being trapped in a place or situation that is inescapable.
3. Specific phobias – Such phobias involve the fear of a particular object and can fall into one of four categories: natural events (hurricane, tornado, storms, etc.), animals, medical (i.e. fear of seeing blood), or situational (i.e. fear going over bridges or fear of flying)

Any type of phobia can have a deep impact on someone’s day to day life. The good news is that phobias are treatable, and with the right combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy can even be eliminated. Exposure treatments include deliberate exposure to the feared object. This type of therapy works to reset your amygdala, the part of your brain that is quick to press the “fight or flight” button. Strategic exposure will help the individual realize the object they so fear is not a threat. Counter-conditioning is another method used to treat phobias. A person undergoing this type of treatment is taught a new response to the feared object. Relaxation techniques are learned and quickly replace the panic that presents with the particular phobia.
To learn more about the most common phobias, visit .


Janae Shillito, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Janae Shillito is the newest edition to The Kim Foundation and serves as Project Coordinator. She holds two science degrees with her alma maters including the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Janae’s love of volunteering and helping those without a voice created a strong desire to become a part of the non-profit world. She enjoys instructing kickboxing classes, reading a good book, and being outside with her husband, Cory, and Rottweiler, Hank.