PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS

Phobias and Addiction Candi Munguia PSY 300 July 22, 2013

PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS

“Classical Conditioning refers to a procedure by which a previously neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response after it is paired with a stimulus that automatically elicits that response.” (Kowalski & Westen, 2011) This was also the first type of learning that was to be studied as an actual “method of learning”. With the discovery of this learning method, the new view helped to open more doors within the psychological world of brain and character development. Relatively a short time later, Operant conditioning was developed. This method of learning was termed the “instrumental conditioning”. Operant conditioning is the “learning method that results when an organism associates a response that occurs spontaneously with a particular environmental effect.” (Kowalski & Weston, 2011) The environment plays a huge role in the method for operant conditioning and is the fine line that distinguishes the meanings between classical conditioning and operant conditioning. “Although the lines between operant and classical conditioning are not always hard and fast, the major distinction regards which comes first, something in the environment or some behavior from the organism.” (Kowalski & Weston, 2011) Are either of these methods seen within our population today? Absolutely. These learning methods can be seen in the form of phobias and addictions. The similarities are that with the fact that these behaviors are developed through conditioning. The conditioning that lives and circumstances can put someone through, such as the way that one is raised or the methods that one develops as their coping skills. Addiction would be a classic example of operant conditioning. “About 60% of Americans sample an illicit drug at least once in their lifetime, and even after excluding marijuana, the lifetime prevalence for illicit drug use is about 32%. Substantial numbers of

PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS

people do become addicts, of course, but the fact remains that drug use does not inevitably lead to addiction. Addiction is more than mere drug use. It is defined specifically as a compulsive pattern of drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior that takes place at the expense of most other activities.” (Robinson & Berridge, 2003) One of the most intuitive explanations for addiction, according the Robinson & Berridge, is the traditional view that drugs are taken first because they are pleasant, with repeated use, an unpleasant withdrawal symptom ensues upon cessation of use. “Compulsive drug taking is maintained, by this view, to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.”(Robinson & Berridge, 2003) This is a prime example of an individual learning to develop the addictive habit due to the response that occurs when the drug use has decreased or completely stopped. No matter the type of drug or substance that is at the core of abuse, addiction is developed through operant conditioning; the brain is learning that with the decreased use in items such as cocaine, tobacco, and alcohol, an unpleasant feeling is the result, urging the continued use of the substance to prevent the unpleasant feeling. The term “phobia” is derived from the Greek word for fear. Phobias are linked to classical conditioning, which describes when an environmental stimulus produces a response in an organism. There are thousands of documented phobias from around the world, most are believed to have developed due to a response from a negative environment that the individual encountered at one point in life. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2012) “Phobias are emotional and physical reactions to feared objects or situations. Symptoms of a phobia include the following:

PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS

 

Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror Recognition that the fear goes beyond normal boundaries and the actual threat of danger

Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, practically taking over the person’s thoughts

Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation

Extreme measures taken to avoid the feared object or situation

Phobias are separated into three categories according to the reaction and avoidance. 1. Agoraphobia is the fear of being alone in any place or situation where it seems escape would be difficult or help unavailable should the need arise. 2. Social Phobia is the fear of being watched or humiliated while doing something in front of others. 3. Specific Phobia describes people with a specific phobia generally having an irrational fear of specific objects or situations. There are two general treatment options that specialists may use to help control one’s phobia. “In behavioral therapy, one meets with a trained therapist and confronts the feared object or situation in a carefully planned, gradual way and learns to control the mental and physical reactions of fear.” (APA, 2012) This method can be described as “extinction” which is a conditioning “in which the operant is not followed by the consequence previously associated with it” (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Extinction is possible with both classical and operant

PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS

conditioning that developed negative habits or results. Medications are used to help control panic that is associated with the phobic situation as well as the anxiety caused by anticipation of that scenario. (APA, 2011) Medications may not be viewed as a form of extinction conditioning the way behavioral therapy would be but has the same goal in mind. Conclusion Classical and Operant conditioning can be difficult to distinguish but in order to understand one, one would need to understand the other. Both methods of learning are consistently applied in our everyday therapy options and help us to understand one another throughout our day to day social interactions. Both methods are used to study behavior in both humans and animals to determine problems such as phobias and addictions. In the end, the features are just as similar as they are different, using the same extinction method to possibly reverse the effects that one may suffer from.

PHOBIAS AND ADDICTIONS

References Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Robinson, T. E., & Berridge, K. C. (2003). Addiction. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 25-53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/205819384?accountid=458

American Psychiatric Association (2012) Phobias Retrieved from http://www.psychiatry.org/phobias

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