Full-blown dental phobia is a more serious condition in which a person avoids the dentist at all costs. People suffering from the phobia usually only show up at the dentist when forced by excruciating pain.
Various factors can keep someone from the dental chair, including a bad experience in the past, fear of injections, and feelings of helplessness (think dental chair and drill in mouth). How to get to the dentist before you have a mouth full of rotting teeth? Realize a dentist can work with you to make you more comfortable during cleaning and other procedures. For instance, you can set up a hand wave that signals the dentist to stop a procedure immediately.
These frightful fliers fall into two evenly split groups: those who are afraid of plane crashes and those who are claustrophobic and risk a panic attack inside a plane's tight cabin quarters, according to Barbara Rothbaum, professor in psychiatry and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine.
Like other phobias, reason plays little role in calming such crash fears. For instance, the lifetime odds of dying in an air travel accident are 1-in-20,000 compared with 1-in-100 for an auto accident and 1-in-5 from heart disease (based on 2001 statistics). However, treatment for flight fears — sans a drunken stupor — which includes virtual reality therapy and other forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy has shown much success, Rothbaum notes.
Westefeld reported on a survey of mostly college-age students in 2006 in which 73 percent of participants had "a little bit" or "moderate" fear of weather. "I think there are more people out there who have [severe weather phobia] than most people might assume," Westefeld told LiveScience. "A lot of the folks I interviewed indicated they were very embarrassed about this so that they hadn't told anybody about it. In some cases they indicated their spouses didn't even know about it."
In terms of treatment, Westefeld recommends "a combination of social support and accurate information, and training in ways of coping with anxiety and panic." That way, those with intense storm frights can reach a middle ground, where they have enough fear to keep them safe without debilitating them.
While scientists had thought such phobia was the result of an irrational fear to normal stimuli, new research is suggesting otherwise.
In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, participants had to judge the height of a building when standing at ground level and when atop the building. Compared with participants who scored lowest on an acrophobia test, those most afraid of heights judged the building to be about 10 feet (3 meters) higher at ground level and 40 feet (12 meters) taller from the top of the building. So the building actually seems taller to acrophobics, it seems.
In a study being published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, David Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that 11-month-old girls quickly learned to associate images of spiders and snakes with a fearful facial expression, while baby boys did not.
From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense, as women would have encountered such creepy crawlies regularly while gathering food, Rakison speculates. And, he says, the cringe factor could keep both moms and their infants safe. Macho men, on the other hand, would have needed to take frequent risks when hunting and so evolutionary pressure to jump at the sight of a spider would be less than beneficial.