Updated: 2/13/2020 Everyone is afraid of something. It might be spiders, heights, the dark or even the dental drill. Many people are wary of going to the dentist, but some…

Phobias and How You Perceive Them

Phobias and How You Perceive Them

Updated: 2/13/2020

Everyone is afraid of something. It might be spiders, heights, the dark or even the dental drill. Many people are wary of going to the dentist, but some people have so much fear that it actually becomes a phobia. Check out these phobias that deal with dentistry and the mouth:

  • Odontophobia– the fear of dentists
  • Dentophobia– the fear of dental procedures
  • Honondasdontiaphobia– the fear of losing teeth
  • Halitophobia– the fear of bad breath
  • Phagophobia– the fear of swallowing
  • Arachibutyrophobia– the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
  • Geumophobia– the fear of taste
  • Sitophobia or Sitiophobia– the fear of food or eating
  • Tetanophobia– the fear of lockjaw
  • Chrometophobia – the fear of money (if you have no dental insurance, a discount plan can help!)

Studies show that most people simply avoid that of which they are afraid (though I’m not sure you could avoid food or swallowing for very long!). However, studies also show that avoiding your fear could worsen the problem.

Fear and Exaggeration

How do you deal with fear? A recent study conducted by The Ohio State University psychology department showed that people’s perception of what they fear may be affected and increased by their phobia. Michael Vasey, psychology professor at the university and lead study author, said their aim was to understand the reasons behind phobias so they can better target treatments to directly address those reasons. They hope to expand the options for treating these fears through their findings.

Facing Your Fears

They started with the common fear of spiders, selecting 57 people who admitted to some form of arachnophobia. Each person interacted with 5 different tarantulas at specific time periods over the course of 8 weeks. The tarantulas, alternating in size from 1-6 inches, were kept in glass boxes that were open on top. Each individual was asked to stand 12 feet away from the spider. Participants were then asked to walk toward the spider, and once they approached the box, they were instructed to nudge the spider with an 8-inch stick.

Following the experiment, participants were asked to rate on a scale of 0-100 how distressed and frightened they were when interacting with the spider. They also filled out a review of their personal feelings, emotions and distress. Study subjects were then asked to estimate the size of the spiders with which they interacted by simply drawing a line equaling how long they remembered the spiders being from the end of one leg to another.

Phobia Perception

When analyzing the personal responses, researchers quickly noticed a connection between a subject’s level of distress and how large they remembered the spiders being. Those with the highest measured stress levels during the interaction perceived the spiders as noticeably larger than they actually were. To verify these findings they authorized other tests with subjects who had varying levels of arachnophobia and continually found the same connections between perception and fear.

Vasey told OSU Research Communications:

“It would appear from that result that fear is driving or altering the perception of the feared object, in this case a spider. We already knew fear and anxiety alter thoughts about the feared thing. For example, the feared outcome is interpreted as being more likely than it really is. But this study shows that even perception is altered by fear. In this case, the feared spider is seen as being bigger. And that may serve as a maintaining factor for the fear.”

Phobias can be difficult to overcome, therefore few people actually attempt it. This study shows that if the phobia is clouding your perception, it can be even harder to distinguish truth in the midst of your fear. Scientists hope that this new information will aid doctors in helping patients conquer their fears and phobias.

If you’re worried about going to the dentist, a site called Dental Fear Central is full of useful resources to help you overcome your anxiety and have a better experience at the dental office.

What are you afraid of?


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