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to ask WHY people have irrational fears?

(76 Posts)
PaddingtonStare Fri 03-Jun-11 23:33:14

Brought on by some of the dog threads, this intrigues me. I don't mean logical fears, such as being scared of dogs or of needles because of an unpleasant experience or even because the parent/s of the child or adult concerned have passed fears on, but totally irrational fears.

I've heard it said that fear is a learned experience but surely that can't be the case for, say, the person who is scared of dogs but has never had a bad experience with them and whose carers have never encouraged the fear.

Scared of common house spiders, for instance. WHY?! They can't harm you, but you could easily kill them.

Or is it all down to an irrational childhood dislike, as kids are wont to have, which has been indulged, for example when Johnny declares a fear of dogs or spiders and Mum and Dad make a big effort to "protect" him from the thing he has, in his moment of wild imagination, decided he doesn't like, just as all of a sudden he may not like peas or wearing his blue shoes?

My two fears are needles and water, the former I feel is rational because they bloody hurt and the latter a fear which is kind of logical and which developed after years of going on the Thames until the Marchioness tragedy. The Captain of that boat, who lost his life that night, was a good friend of my own best friend and had been at the helm on several of the many occasions when I was a riverboat party-goer, so it hit home.

I don't think I have any wildly irrational fears and don't understand why people do. Can anyone enlighten me and AIBU to think that there is not always a reason for serious fear of things?

khaleesi Fri 03-Jun-11 23:42:15

it is what it is...

phobia - A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

some people just have them

PaddingtonStare Fri 03-Jun-11 23:43:24

So learned experience is just urban myth then?

khaleesi Fri 03-Jun-11 23:44:23

for example i have arachnophobia i've never had any bad experiences with spiders, they just scare the living s**t out of me, it's completely irrational as most are completely harmless, i know that, it's just something that comes naturally to me - if i see one, i scream, if it touches me i nearly have a fit and start crying.. i don't want to do it, it's just how i react..

tabulahrasa Fri 03-Jun-11 23:45:01

But if there was a logical cause it wouldn't be an irrational fear, it'd be a rational one

khaleesi Fri 03-Jun-11 23:45:09

sorry xpost

i think they CAN be triggered by bad experience but it's not always the cayse if you see what i mean smile

LineRunner Fri 03-Jun-11 23:45:18

Jungian archetypes, anyone?

VivaLeBeaver Fri 03-Jun-11 23:46:34

I know someone who has a fear of a normal household object as she can't stand the thought of the smell of it. Firstly it's not an item that smells, secondly even if it did smell she has no sense of smell.

I have a bit of a fear of crowded, enclosed spaces. I can manage everywhere but sometimes am freaked out in the bakery aisle at tesco as it's so far from the door. Oddly I'm fine on the tube.

TakeMeDrunkImHome Fri 03-Jun-11 23:47:43

Most fears are totally illogical, I really don't have the necessary brains to even respond to this with anything worth listening to! I can't stand heights - no reason. I don't like being near canals - no reason I am a very very strong swimmer. Spiders make me want to pass out - no reason, I know I am bigger than the largest spider in the world by a million times, makes NO difference. Isn't a phobia by and large an IRRATIONAL fear? Unexplainable by definition?

ohmyfucksy Fri 03-Jun-11 23:47:44

Well a phobia is irrational by definition

It can be sparked off by an event, or it can be random

However, fear of spiders isn't really irrational because you CAN get really poisonous spiders. So if you are prehistoric man, it's probably best not to go near the scuttly thing because it might bite you and you might die. Same with snakes and other creepies

PaddingtonStare Fri 03-Jun-11 23:50:28

Ever felt the need (or attempted to) overcome the fear, khaleesi? I'm just thinking that a fear of something you must come across a fair bit must be bloody troublesome and distressing for you.

I can avoid water, I don't have to go on boat cruises, and the needle thing I had to overcome to an extent when I needed life-saving surgery. I don't like them still but overcame it enough to volunteer for research involving injections after the surgery to give something back to those who'd saved my life. I do admit that even if I were offered the holiday of a lifetime with all of my favourite football club as companions I still wouldn't go on a cruise, I just couldn't.

I wonder how successful formal, medical led fear overcoming is and how others deal with their fears ir if they've managed to overcome them without professional help.

livetolaugh Fri 03-Jun-11 23:57:33

I have a fear of fire and didn't realise why until recently. I think it's to do with when my gran used to kennel her fire and she would put a shovel and newspaper page against the opening and just leave it!!!! Actually leave the room!!! I used to sit in fear and couldnt take
My eyes off it. The noise was horrendous. A few times the chimney would go on fire.

I'm pretty sure that's where it came from

billybobchilly Fri 03-Jun-11 23:57:36

OP I would say your fear of needles is irrational - they don't really hurt at all. Prawns though - don't start me.

malibustac Fri 03-Jun-11 23:58:36

I have an irrational fear of staying away from home, its like a type of aggoraphobia but I'm fine being outside but not going on holiday or anything like that and it stems from when I was 14 I was away on a school trip to France. During this time my little sister was taken into care, due to alcoholic parents. Anyway I somehow got it into my head that if I hadn't went away it wouldn't have happened. What I'm getting at is that strange things can trigger fears that are maybe unrelated iyswim.

Has anyone managed to overcome irrational fears and how?

ohmyfucksy Sat 04-Jun-11 00:01:36

Oh, me miss!

Until very recently I was terrified of the dentist (for no good reason, no bad experience) and really couldn't face the idea of it. I needed a bit of work done, and even just having a check-up made me cry and shake. I got referred for sedation, but decided to just man up and have it without sedation. It was fine - a bit scary but I didn't cry. I am still a bit scared, but the irrational fear of it has gone. And honestly I was really terrible before.

PaddingtonStare Sat 04-Jun-11 00:04:46

billy, needles damn well do hurt! But prawns? Prawns?! Live? Dead? Or does it not matter?

Ohmy, well done you. Come to think of it, I don't like the dentist either. They hurt too!

CRS Sat 04-Jun-11 00:05:26

I am also interested. I have a morbid terror of heights - and I do mean things like standing on a chair to change a bulb, as well as real heights! I don't know why at all, but I dream of falling a lot.

CRS Sat 04-Jun-11 00:08:37

I also can't BEAR when they put a canula(sp) in your arm. To the extent that I had to be sedated last time. Mental, I know.

Pandemoniaa Sat 04-Jun-11 00:11:47

I'm not scared of much but with me, drops is the thing. Which is subtly different to fear of heights. So while I can go up in ski lifts or to the top of very high buildings, I'd rather toast my own eyeballs over a bonfire than I would go on a rollercoaster. There's no logical reason for this either. Admittedly I didn't like the first rollercoaster ride I went on as a child (which surprised me because I loved all fairground rides) but I wouldn't say it traumatised me either.

tomhardyismydh Sat 04-Jun-11 00:13:28

i just hid the spider thread then this popped up straight after.

have no idea why Im so afraid of them I will sit up awake in the living room just to track a spider as im too afraid to move or go to bed. have never had a bad experience or learned this from a a parent.

but very aware not to project this on to dd, when she around I can handle them. strange and very irrational.

CRS Sat 04-Jun-11 00:16:18

I could not go up a ski lift. There would be melt down of the most embarrassing kind. I don't know why I hate heights so much - but it IS a phobia, as I'm scared of even tiny ones. I can't watch my son, aged ten, climb a tree without feeling sick!
(Not allowed at park - I spoil it!)

billybobchilly Sat 04-Jun-11 00:19:21

Paddington - only for a second though. Sorry i didn't mean to make fun. I can have needles in me until they come out of my ears (nice metaphor) but freaking prawns! Irrational much, me?

PaddingtonStare Sat 04-Jun-11 00:21:28

This has led to more questions than answers. So many people seem to share the same fears. Why spiders? Why not bluebottles or greenfly? (Not talking about those who live in Oz and have to tolerate the bitey kind of arachnid but Brits and house spiders). Sure, some people must have fears involving bluebottles but why is this rare in comparison to spiders and equally why is the fear of heights far more common than a phobia about cotton?

PaddingtonStare Sat 04-Jun-11 00:22:56

Please don't apologise, billy. No need to, really. smile

I admire your bravery, it would have helped my nurses, doctors and poor stepsister who had to deal with me no end!

VivaLeBeaver Sat 04-Jun-11 00:23:45

I don't mind spiders but hate, hate, hate bluebottles. Feel sick if one is in the house. Won't have back door open even in summer to stop flies coming in. Windows only allowed open at night.

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