Everyday Phobias

Halloween is the time where fears come to life; from a creepy clown lurking through the darkness of a haunted house to a teenager dressed up in a Freddy Krueger mask trying to scare people. However, this is not the only part of the year when fears are realized.




According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, fear is an “anxiety caused by real or possible danger, pain, etc.”


Fear can really affect your brain. The two parts of the brain affected are the amygdala and the frontal cortex. In the amygdala, there is an increased amount of activity when someone is scared, according to Mark Bardgett, regents professor of psychological science.


“People with damage to this area have problems perceiving threatening stimuli, such as unfamiliar faces,” Bardgett said.


Another part of the brain that’s affected is the frontal cortex.


“Its job is to inhibit the amygdala, and it is possible that it does a lousy job in the presence of an object that sparks a phobic reaction,” Bardgett said.


Many people have fears during the Halloween season, but a lot of people have to struggle with fears on a regular basis. One of these people is Kacie Kotnik, junior mathematics major, who is afraid of stop signs.


“One day one made me late,” Kotnik said. “I try to get through them as quickly as possible.”


As for Cassidy Hill, junior German and Spanish double major, she has a few fears. One of them is about her future.


“I guess right now as a student, my biggest fear is going down a career path that, in the end, won’t make me happy,” Hill said. “I guess it is the wondering if you are making the right decisions for your future.”


To conquer her fear, Hill tries to reassure herself that everything is going to be ok.


“I tell myself that since I am already working hard towards the things I love, then everything will fall into place in the future,” Hill said.




According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a phobia is an “exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects or situations.”


Phobias are constant fears that people have.


“The persistent fear seems uncontrollable to the person and the individual tries to avoid the feared object or situation,” said Smita Ward, psychology professor.


Hill also has a major phobia that has to do with bugs.


“I really hate those house centipedes, like the ones you find in basements,” she said, “They make me shriek every time.”


Hill’s phobia of silverfish started by just seeing the creatures run all around her house.


“They are the kind of bugs that just kind of appear no matter how clean or well-maintained your house is. So sometimes I’ll go down to the lower level where my room is, and I’ll see one scurry across the hall,” Hill said. “They are just so fast! With so many legs!”


Hill’s phobia became a reality when she woke up to a centipede on her.


“I ran out of the house,” she said. “I know they can’t hurt me, but still.”


Another person who has a few phobias is Deborah Nacimiento, junior business marketing major. She has arachnephobia. Her fear of spiders started at her house.


“I was at my house with my parents and was going to the kitchen, which was pretty dark,” Nacimiento said. “There was a big spider hopping across the floor towards me.”


Another phobia that she has besides spiders is ophidiophobia, a fear of snakes.


“I was little and there were a lot of black snakes in my yard,” Nacimiento said. “Every time I tried to play outside I would see them.”


Students at NKU also have acrophobia, including Brittney Powers, senior criminal justice major.


“The heights and being upside down came from people holding me upside down when I was little and pretending to drop me,” Powers said. “It was horrifying when they did that to me considering how small I was and them starting it at the young age of four.”


Depending on the phobia, people can have immediate anxiety when they come face-to-face with their phobia.


“The phobia usually causes immediate anxiety and sometimes just thinking about it can cause anxiety reactions that are very intense,” Ward said. “The last criteria examined is if the phobia is significantly interfering with a person’s life.”


How to handle your fears and phobias


Caleb Patterson, social studies education major, is afraid of heights and doesn’t like to be five feet from the edge of anything.


“When I’m up on some kind of height, I feel extremely nervous. My hands get clammy and I feel a little dizzy sometimes,” he said.


Patterson has this fear, but he doesn’t let his fear of heights get to him.


“Even though heights scare me, I still like to get out and hike up mountains, canyons or whatever to enjoy the scenery,” Patterson said.


According to the American Psychological Association, “More than 10 million adults in the United States suffer from some sort of phobia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”


There are a few treatments that can be done to help people manage their phobias. The typical treatment used to handle phobias is exposure treatment, and there are three methods that this can be done. The most common method is systematic desensitization.


Using this form of exposure treatment, people gradually learn how to approach the object or situation they fear the most. They are then taught techniques on how to manage their anxiety in the presence of their fear.


“The person is repeatedly exposed to what they fear until it does not have the same negative impact on them as it used to. The idea is that the person recognizes that what they fear is ‘not really that bad,’” Ward said.


With this treatment, the clinician approaches the feared object or situation while the patient watches. According to Ward, the client faces his or her fear after several observations.


These people deal with their phobias everyday, but with 10 million people around the world dealing with phobias, according to the American Psychological Association, they aren’t alone.