Week 8: Phobias
Phobias are defined as intense, irrational fears. They typically focus around objects or situations. Phobias toward objects include arachnophobia which is fear of spiders, ophidiophobia which is fear of snakes and misophobia which is fear of germs or getting contaminated. Situational phobias include acrophobia which is fear of heights, hydrophobia which is fear of water and didaskaleinophobia which is fear of going to school!

Thousands of phobias have been noted and classified. Some affect our fundamental day-to-day lives such as somniphobia which is fear of going to sleep, or agoraphobia which is a fear of open spaces, being out in crowds or fear of leaving the safety of one's own home. Some phobias seem fairly remote, for example triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13 (perhaps you've noticed this floor is skipped in some tall buildings) or arachibutyrophobia which is fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth and not being able to scrape it off with your tongue!

Phobias are part of a general category of disorders called anxiety disorders. These disorders involve behaviors the surround overwhelming anxiety and attempts to reduce this anxiety through maladaptive means. Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychological disorders treated by professionals. Other types include generalized anxiety disorder and OCD, which we've already studied in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Scarlet Letter. Frequently, sufferers of anxiety disorders suffer panic attacks, which we've also studied in Pigeon Feathers.

There are several explanations for the causes of anxiety disorders. The biologicial model believes they are a result of organic or biological imbalances. The behavioral model suggets they result from prior reinforcement or conditioning of the maladaptive behavior. The cognitive model asserts they are based incorrect reasoning, and a distortion of real events and unrealistic expectations. The psychodynamic model suggests they are the result of an unconscious conflict or fear.

Our stoy deals with a young boy who suffers from agoraphobia. The DSM-IV outlines the following symptoms for someone to be diagnosed with a simple phobia:
  • a marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable
  • this fear can be cued by the presence or that anticipation of the feared object or event
  • exposure to the phobic stimulus provokes an immediate anxiety response
  • the person recognizes the fear is excessive or unreasonable
  • the phobic situation is avoided or is endured with intense anxiety
  • avoidance, anxious anticipation or distress interferes with the person's normal routine or functioning

OPTIONAL: Listen to a case study that involves a case of agoraphobia or fear of open spaces, being out in crowds or fear of leaving the safety of one's own home. Read through all the following instructions before proceeding to the taped case study.

Next, we get to our reading passage.

    1. What is unique about Peter and Francis as brothers?
    2. What excuse does Francis try to use so as not to go to the party?
    3. What does Francis do when his mother asks him about his illness at breakfast?
    4. Graham Greene writes, "To address Peter was to speak to his own image in a mirror, an image a little altered by a flaw int he glass, so as to throw back less a likeness of what he was than of what he wished to be, what he would be without his unreasoning fear of darkness, footsteps of strangers, the flight of bats in dusk-filled gardens." What does this passage tell us about Francis?
    5. What game at the party provokes the most fear in Francis? What excuse does he try to use so as not to play this game?
    6. What does Peter say to Mrs. Henne-Flcon to try to help his brother out? How do the kids at the party respond to this?
    7. Greene writes, "Peter stood in the centre of the dark deserted floor, not listening but waiting for the idea of his brother's whereabouts to enter his brain. But Francis crouched with fingers on his ears, eyes uselessly closed, mind numbed against impressions, and only a sense of strain could cross the gap of dark." What does this tell the reader about the brothers' communication with one another?
    8. To what extent does Francis Morton meet the criteria of simple phobia as described in the DSM-IV?

    When you've finished paste your work into an e-mail titled "Week 8 Homework." Then e-mail your work to me at aeaptl@gmail.com.

Week 8 homework is to be completed by 3:00 pm
Monday, April 20
for full credit. It will accepted after that date for half credit.

When e-mailing your work, be sure to paste your work INTO your e-mail.
Do NOT include your work as an attachment.

Lesson Copyright ©2009 Clay Sisman