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Understanding Phobias: Causes and Symbolic Meanings

  • Post category:Disorders
  • Reading time:6 mins read

A Phobia

A phobia is a neurotic fear that refers to a certain situation, although there is no objective reason for that. In that its unjustifiability, phobia differs from physiological fear; by being limited to a particular situation it differs from anxiety. The content of the phobia is different – the patient is afraid of open space (agoraphobia), or closed rooms (claustrophobia – phobia), or is afraid of any hill, is afraid of animals, travel, dirt and infection, is afraid of blushing in a certain situation, etc.

Childhood Phobias

The patient is aware of the futility of his fear, but he cannot get rid of it, nor can he refrain from removing himself from a situation that provokes a phobic reaction. In childhood, phobias are a rare occurrence, they usually occur only in puberty and adolescence, mostly in timid, emotionally whispered, and diligent, conscientious and very ambitious youth. The content of the phobia is not important; it has only a symbolic meaning.

Symbolic Meaning of Phobia

Because the patient is not really afraid of what is the reason for his phobic reaction, but there is a constant anxiety in him that he occasionally tries to release by projecting it into some external, indifferent situation. Thus, a phobia is a kind of masking of timidity, life anxiety and feelings of insecurity in front of tasks that the patient does not want to admit to himself or his environment. There are no specific reasons for the appearance of phobia.

Causes of Phobia

Anything that can make a young man insecure can also cause a phobia in him. What may be the cause will be shown by the example of our 17-year-old patient.

Case Study: Jully’s Agoraphobia

Jully has been suffering from agoraphobia lately. When she goes out on her own, she is suddenly seized by fear, she feels great insecurity, it seems to her that the ground is slipping under her feet, she is all sweaty, trembling and cannot take a step. If someone follows her, there is no interference.

Jully’s Background

Jully developed as the only child between four adults – with her parents, grandmother and aunt. Everyone pampered her, raised her in isolation from other children and cultivated in her a sense of superiority over the rest of the world. So she developed into a very sensitive, egocentric, conceited and capricious girl. At home, she was open, lively, a little defiant, she gladly took advantage of the educators, extorting all kinds of gifts and privileges from them. She was withdrawn at school, very serious and ambitious, an excellent student, but lonely, without contact with her friends. She never took part in any children’s endeavors, she was of “exemplary” behavior, but always in fear for her success. She spent her free time at home, learning music and foreign languages, and did not go to society or dance.

Triggers for Jully’s Agoraphobia

In recent months, the environment has begun to demand that she leave her “glittering isolation.” Her parents began to tell her that she would soon have to decide on a vocation when she graduated. Music teachers required her to perform at the concert. At school, young men began to visit her; they persuaded her to meet, to attend youth parties, and the like. All of these were too much of a burden for Ned’s great insecurity. So far, she has successfully masked her lack of self-confidence with excellent grades and “exemplary” behavior. But now it suddenly no longer satisfies the people around her; they are now looking for more. Her vanity and sickly sensitivity to her personality did not allow her to prove incapable of what was expected of her. She could not even imagine giving up her complete disinterest in any vocation and a terrible fear of independent, responsible activity. It was not possible for her to admit her great trepidation before the public appearance, nor was she allowed to be ashamed in front of the young men, to show that she had no idea how to govern them.

Jully’s Unconscious Solution

From that difficult emotional conflict, Jully looked for a way out in agoraphobia. The environment, of course, immediately recognized her as seriously ill. This automatically eliminates the need to appear in public, to make big decisions, to go to society. This is exactly what Jully unconsciously wanted to achieve.

Impact of Jully’s Phobia

With his phobia, he seems to warn his surroundings that he must not leave himself to himself, that he must always be with her, that he must not be left unprotected. While at home, i.e., among the people who serve her in everything, the girl feels safe, so she is calm. But as soon as she finds herself alone on the street, i.e., exposed to the burdens of life, which she has to deal with on her own, she gets lost, she can’t cope, she panics.

Symbolism of Jully’s Agoraphobia

Ned’s agoraphobia clearly reflects her anxiety at the reality of life she symbolizes – open space.