Take Back Control From Your Driving Anxiety
Thus, fear would gradually decline if the rodent phobic had repeated harmless encounters with rats. Given a sufficient number of trials of CS without UCS, the CS eventually ceases to elicit the CR. When this occurs the CR is said to be extinguished. Extinction does not occur if the UCS is occasionally encountered. Driving phobia would be unlikely to extinguish if a person occasionally experiences near misses while driving. For many people with phobias, the process of extinction is blocked from occurring because the person learns that fear can be minimized (at least in the short term) by avoiding or escaping from the CS. In other words, avoidance or escape (operant behaviors) prevent classically conditioned fears from being unlearned.
The treatment of fears is not a trivial undertaking. Severe phobias can produce extreme distress and can severely impair a person's functioning. Driving phobia, arising after a motor vehicle accident, for example, may prevent the person from earning a living and may lead to social isolation if the person lives in a remote area. Even common phobias such as spider phobias can be debilitating. One patient reported being too afraid to enter rooms of her house in which she had seen spiders, and experienced intense panic attacks whenever she unexpectedly came across a spider. She lived in an area in which spiders were commonly encountered, and therefore was chronically hypervigilant for spiders, and worried about encountering them. This was associated with persistent tension and irritability. Her fear, avoidance, and preoccupation significantly interfered with her marital relationship. Fortunately, even severe phobias such as this one can readily be treated by exposure therapies.
While panic attacks are most often thought of in regard to panic disorder, with and without agoraphobia, panic attacks can also be experienced in specific phobia and social phobia. One study examining specific phobias found that 47 of individuals with a phobia of heights, 20 of individuals with an animal phobia, 50 of individuals with a blood injection phobia, and 36 of individuals with a driving phobia experienced a panic attack when encountering the phobic situation or object (Antony, Brown, & Barlow, 1997). Thus, the panic attacks or panic-like symptoms can exist among all of the phobias and may play an important role in the maintenance of the phobia. Zitrin, Klein, Woerner, and Ross (1983) found in their study that while individuals received treatment for agoraphobia and specific phobia, the occurrence of panic attacks would decrease, but avoidance behavior continued because anticipatory anxiety remained high. After continued treatment, in the absence of the panic attacks, the...
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