Student Phobias: from snakes to plants

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

Do you have a fear of chickens, garlic or school? Believe it or not, these fears are three of several different phobias that exist in the world today, but what exactly is a phobia and how extreme can they get?

Merriam-Webster defines a phobia (noun) as, “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.”

Dr. Brady Phelps, SDSU psychology instructor, says that a phobia is, “out of proportion to a threat and the person knows it’s irrational, but the person still is troubled by it.”

According to research, one out of every nine people has a phobia.

The severity of the phobia doesn’t necessarily have to be extreme, however.

“People can have a mild phobia and just live with it. As the severity increases, that’s probably when the person seeks therapy,” Phelps said. “You can have people who are squeamish about snakes and probably would call it a snake phobia and live with it, but just try to avoid snakes.”

Snake phobia is probably the number one phobia in the world, Phelps says. Following snakes are the arachnids in arachnophobia. The answer to why snakes lead in the list of phobias may actually be found in evolution.

“A long time ago, those were very common threats and the people who had that fear reproduced and it became selected for, but that’s attributing the behavior, this fear, to genes,” Phelps said.

If you don’t buy into the theory of evolution, another cause of phobias can come from a traumatic experience in life.

“In many cases they cannot find the exact event that triggered it, but it could be due to some traumatic experience with snakes or heights or whatever,” Phelps says.

Phobias can be overcome. One example that Phelps uses is the transition of children to adults.

“Children are afraid of the dark and a lot of adults aren’t,” Phelps said. “It’s a matter of severity and how much of the stimulus has to be present for you to have the response.”

Just as phobias can be overcome, new phobias can be produced as new inventions and technology are created.

“I think with new technology, there could be new phobias,” Phelps said. “There couldn’t have been a fear of computers before computers were invented. With new devices and new technology, there can be a fear of cell phones now that was not possible until cell phones were invented.”

Fear Factor: SDSU

Lions, tigers and bears! Oh my! No, we’re not in the Land of Oz, but we do have phobias right here on campus.

“I’m not sure if this is considered a phobia, but I can’t sleep in my room anymore because there’s a TV and a mirror across from my bed,” says freshman Kari Buysse. “I just watched The Ring 2. I’m afraid that I’ll see her in the mirror or that she’ll come and get me through the TV.”

Even though she knows that it isn’t a logical fear, Buysse has altered her living habits since seeing the movie.

“I have to sleep in the living room, on the couch, with the TV on because then I don’t think she can come out and get me,” Buysse says.

Freshman Blaire Bressen can’t stand to touch ice cubes.

“I’m scared of ice cubes that come out of the tray in the freezer,” Bressen said. “After they’ve been in water and not sticky anymore, they’re fine.”

This ice cube phobia stems from a childhood experience.

“When I was little, my fingers got stuck to them, so I just stopped touching them. So, I used plastic bags to pick them up,” Bressen says.

After growing up in the Black Hills, around lakes that are filled with algae, Hayley Speires fears water plants.

“I’m afraid of water plants, as in, plants that grow in the water,” Speires said. “I always have been since I was really little. When I was little, I thought they were stingrays.”

Despite her water plants phobia, Speires wouldn’t consider herself to be a fearful person.

“I consider myself fairly well-adjusted and nonfearful in most senses. I’m able to squash spiders with impunity,” Speires says.

Freshman Mark Handla’s phobia is needles.

“I’d get all sweaty and get really nervous around them,” he says. “Now that I’ve had them for shots and stuff, it’s getting a little better, so it’s not too bad, I guess.”

It’s more nerve-wracking for Handla when the shot is about to be given to him than when it’s about to be given to someone else. He isn’t sure where this fear came from.

“I can’t think of anything in particular that caused it,” Handla said. “I don’t know why I have it.”

At the top of the list of phobias, even here at SDSU, is snake phobia. Freshman Cody Catron is one of the many people in the world that can’t stand to be near a snake.

“I cannot stand snakes,” Catron said. “Anytime I see them, ‘Run away.'”

Freshman Hilary Krogman shares that same fear.

“When I was little, we had rattlesnakes where I lived,” Krogman said. “I was always told to watch out for them and not to go near them.”

If she were to encounter a snake, Krogman’s reaction would be one of terror.

“If there was one standing right in front of me, I’d probably jump out the window,” Korgman said. “I’d start screaming and yelling and jump on the chair.”

Even Phelps, who teaches students about phobias, has a phobia.

“I don’t like heights, but it depends. If you put me high with a firm rail, a firm place to stand, I’m fine,” Phelps said.

#1.885031:1501107587.jpg:VPhobiaAa.jpg:There are three general types of disorders that are very common. One of them is anxiety disorders, such as fear of heights.: