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Are you Afraid of the Dark?
By: Amanda L, Westgate Collegiate, Thunder Bay, ON

“Mommy don’t turn off the light! The monster is going to get me!” the child screams, as he runs to the light switch. The majority of us were afraid of the dark when we were young. While most of us have overcome this fear, there are people out there that haven’t.

Which brings me to phobias. What are phobias? The scientific definition is: persistent or irrational fears of certain objects or certain situations. So if its all in our head, why do people have phobias? A phobia is more than a scientific explanation. To the sufferer, it is harsh and useless to just tell them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Their phobia is their reality.

The majority of the people who experience fears of objects usually only have a mild reaction to their fear. Social phobia sufferers, however, can have their life significantly affected by fear. This fear can interfere at the workplace,in friendships and relationships, because they are unable to socialise and use communication skills in some situations.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) people of all ages can develop phobias. The average age of people who suffer social phobias is 15-20. Although social phobia can start in early childhood for some. Both males and females suffer equally from this disorder. However, men are usually more inclined to seek treatment.

So what causes these people to be afraid? Traumatic events can often trigger phobias. Research done points towards social phobias being hereditary. People with phobias, in particular social phobias, may also have problems with substance abuse.

Phobia suffers become so anxious when confronted by their fear that they experience panic attacks. These attacks consist of intense and unexpected bursts of terror, which may be accompanied by physical symptoms as well.

Maybe people with social phobias are justified in their thinking. The world is a scary place for a teenager. There’s peer pressure, teasing and rejection to deal with in ‘the crowd’.

So if you feel uneasy in a situation just take a deep breath and look around. It’s not as bad as it seems. If you still can’t calm down, don’t worry. There are treatments out there to get you back in the group.


National Institute of Mental Health

Canadian Mental Health Association

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