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Phobic Reactions

Dec 23, 1994 01:11 PM
by K. Paul Johnson

In trying to understand recent events, I have derived some help
from the Merck Manual description of phobic reactions.  Here are

..characterized by the presence of irrational or exaggerated
fears of objects, situations, or bodily functions not inherently
dangerous or the appropriate source of the anxiety.  Anxiety,
both acute and chronic, is a prominent feature, but unlike the
free-floating anxiety of anxiety neurosis, it is bound to and
associated with exposure to specific environmental stimuli...
psychologic mechanisms (projection, displacement) focus the
anxiety on specific external objects or situations, which then
come to represent the underlying, original source of the anxiety.
The shifting and binding of the anxiety to the external secondary
symbol enable the individual to utilize the further defensive
maneuver of avoidance of the object in order to control arousal
of the painful anxiety...  The very thought of the phobic object
is sufficient to induce anxiety, and as the patient comes closer
in reality to the phobic stimulus, the anxiety mounts to an
intensity reaching panic.  As a result, the patient protects
himself from experiencing the anxiety by avoiding the phobic

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