Once I was conducting a classroom activity to explain the concept of trust to my students. The activity had an instance where one student needed to stand on a chair and fall back without seeing backwards, and four students needed to catch that student. There were four groups when the third group came in front of the class. The student who is supposed to stand on a chair said she would not do that as she was afraid of ‘heights’. Teenagers likely developed different fears when they entered teenage, for instance; fear of needles, fear of fire, or fear of a thunderstorm. What makes them afraid of any object or situation? To understand this phenomenon among teens, we will explore two terms: Fear and Phobia.
What Is Fear?
Fear is the primary type of human emotion programmed into our nervous system that works like an instinct. Even from infancy, we are prepared with the survival instincts essential to respond with fear when we sense danger or feel insecure. Fear makes us vigilant to risk and prepares us to deal with it. Like all emotions, agitation can be mild, medium, or intense, depending on the situation and the person. A feeling of dread can be brief, or it can last longer.
What are Phobias?
A phobia is an intense fear reaction to a particular object or a situation. The fear is out of proportion to the potential danger of a phobia. But to, the person with a phobia may feel the risk intensely.
Phobias cause people to worry about, terrorise, feel upset by, and avoid encountering objects or situations they fear most. Phobias may interfere with everyday life activities that include concentration and mental work. A girl or a boy with a phobia of thunderstorms might be afraid to go to school if the weather forecast predicts a storm. She might feel terrible distress and fear when the sky turns cloudy. A guy with social phobia experiences intense fear of public speaking or even interacting with people and maybe afraid to give a report or speak to classmates in the lunchroom.
Sometimes, teens get teased and bullied about their fears. Although the person doing the teasing doesn’t mean being unkind and unfair, it only makes the situation worse.
What Causes Phobias?
Phobias generally develop when a person has a frightening experience with a particular object or situation. A tiny brain structure called the amygdala keeps track of our daily experiences triggers strong emotions. Once the feeling of fear activates due to a particular condition, the amygdala warns the person by prompting a fear reaction every time they encounter the same situation.
For example, a person might develop a bee phobia after being stung during a terrifying experience. Due to this, even looking at a bee photograph may trigger the phobia emotion in that person.
How the fear of Phobias affected Students learning skills
Students’ high levels of fear during teenage may negatively affect their ability to learn in the classroom. In our case, being afraid of heights not only affects that student’s learning but also increases the life-long risk of developing Acrophobia (irrational fears of heights) in later stages. This persistent fear can hamper learners’ efforts to understand the essential information for academic success. Following some examples where students fear of Phobias impact their class performances as well
- Students with an intense fear of Phobias may also become excessively fearful of their performance due to the apparent risk of failure. Even temporary successes are outshined by the anxiety of failure in the next assignment or test.
- Remember this compassion line ‘These people are bound to do better than me in class’, which is one of the feelings when pupils are afraid to work for their progress and sometimes feel excessively burdened by competition with others to accomplish good grades.
- Students may become shy or even terrified of being singled out in class. Some may suffer from a condition known as geliophobia (the fear that others will laugh at them).
How to overcome Phobias?
Teenagers may learn to overcome phobias by slowly facing their fears. I know it is not sound that easy at first. However, a person starts practising it frequently; they begin to take control of their worst fears — all. It takes readiness and bravery. Usually, the process of controlling phobias starts with making a long list of a person’s concerns in the least-to-worst order. For example, with a dog phobia, the list might start with the things the person is least afraid of, such as looking at a photo of a dog. It will then work up to worst fears, such as standing next to someone who’s petting a dog, petting a dog on a leash, and walking a dog.
Gradually, and with support, the person tries each fear situation on the list — one at a time, starting with the slightest fear. The person isn’t forced to do anything and works on each terror until they feel comfortable, taking as long as needed.
Moreover, people may also consult a therapist who teaches teenagers relaxation practices such as specific ways of breathing, muscle relaxation training, or soothing self-talk. These may help them feel comfortable and bold enough to face fears on their list.
Remember, the most challenging part of overcoming any phobia is getting started. Once a person decides to go for it — and gets the right coaching and support — it can be surprising how quickly fear can melt away. Good Luck 😊