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Psychodynamic Explanation of a Phobia

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Jess Coot

on 21 October 2013

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Transcript of Psychodynamic Explanation of a Phobia

Psychodynamic Explanation of a Phobia
Freud (1906) claimed that phobias are a defence against the anxiety experienced when unpleasant impulses have been repressed.

The repressed feelings are displaced on to an object or situation with which thy are associated with. These situations/objects become phobic stimuli and can be avoided. As a result the individual is able to avoid dealing with the repressed conflict.

Freud believed that these repressed conflicts occurred in childhood.
Evidence for the psychodynamic approach
Case study:
"Little Hans" a five year old boy who developed a fear of horses and the fear of getting bitten. He also developed a more particular fear of the blinkers and muzzles associated with horses.

Freud interpreted this fear in terms of the oedipus complex in which young boys developed an intense, unconscious fear of their fathers.

Freud proposed that little hans had transferred this unacceptable fear of his father to a more appropriate fear object
Evaluation of the psychodynamic approach
- Little evidence to support the theory
-Evidence comes from case studies, no compelling independent support for the theory
-Fears can be explained more simply for example, by the behavioral account. In little Hans' case for example, the fear could have developed after he witnessed the horse accident.
The Learning Theory Explanation of a phobia
Psychological explanations of phobias.

The learning theory argues that phobias are the result of classical conditioning.

Once a phobic response has been established, the individual tries to avoid the feared situation/object. As a result, the individual never experiences the feared stimulus in safe, harmless conditions and so the original fear is never extinguished.

The avoidance behaviour produces feelings or relief, it is therefore rewarding so the behaviour is maintained.
-Seligman (1971)
-It is clear that we acquire phobic reactions to certain stimuli more easily than others.
-Proposed that we are biologically prepared to react anxiously to stimuli that is potentially threatening.
-Following some sort of conditioning experience, we are much more likely to develop a phobia of these kinds of stimuli rather than to stimuli which have no such significance.
Evidence for Learned Preparedness Model
Ohman et al (1975) showed in a series of experiments that, once acquired, a conditioned response to other stimuli takes much longer to extinguish than a conditioned response to other stimuli.
Evaluation of the Learned Preparedness Model
There is a lot of evidence that supports this theory.
Merckelback and de Jong (1999) found that the most common phobias are to stimuli that were present and dangerous in the prehistoric world.
Marks (1977) has also demonstrated that fear is more easily acquired to primitive stimuli than to others.
He has reported a case of a woman who was involved in a car accident when she was looking at a snake and she then developed a phobia of snakes but not cars.

The Modelling Explanation
This is the idea that we learn phobic responses through imitating the behaviour of others (Vicarious Conditioning). The clearest demonstration of this was shown in Mineka et al (1984). They reared rhesus monkeys with parents who had an intense fear of snakes. After 6 sessions, the fear of the young monkeys was indistinguishable from that of the parents.
Evidence for The Learning theory
Little Hans' experience from a behavioural perspective - Hans reported that his fear of horses started after witnessing an accident with a horse.

The horse (neutral stimulus) fell down in front of him making loads of noise,

The noise and danger constitute to an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) which automatically produces an unconditioned response (UCR) - a fear reaction.

The UCS associated with a horse has become a conditioned stimulus (CS) producing the conditioned response (CR) of fear. Hans now avoids seeing horses so he is never able to subject his fear to a reality test.
Evaluation of The Learning Theory
-Simple theory, might explain some cases of phobic disorder.

-Due to this theory many therapies have been invented which have proven to effective in treating some phobias.

-It cannot account for all the data which has been introduced.
Learned Preparedness Model Explanation
Evaluation of the Modelling Explanation
-very simple explanation
-supported in animal experiments (Mineka et al) and human experiments (Bandura and Rosenthal)
-However, many people seeking treatment for phobias have no recollection of becoming fearful after watching the distress of another person.
Cognitive-Behavioural Model Explanation
Davey (1997) has modified the basic behavioural model by including some cognitive factors that might influence the acquisition of phobias:
-familiarity with the feared stimulus: if an individual has experienced numerous trauma-free encounters with a particular stimulus, he or she is less likely to acquire a phobia in response to a signle traumatic exposure.
-learning from others: a phobic reaction can be learned through information provided by other people or observation of someone else.
-previous negative beliefs and expectations about a specific stimuli can influence the reaction to a traumatic event involving that stimulus, making it more likely that a phobia will develop.

The phobia is then maintained through cognitive rehearsal of fear.
Evaluation of the Cognitive Behavioual Model
-Offers a more detailed explanation than the behavioural moderl which is very basic.
-But it depends on a direct conditioning experience and this is not always the case for people with phobias.
-There is some evidence (Davey) that a therapy derived from his theory called 'threat devaluation' can reduce the impact of the fear response, and so provides support for the premise of this explanation.
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