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An Analysis of Stimulus Confrontation as Self-Help for Specific Phobias: A Scholarly and Personal Narrative

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Perhaps by some ingrained sense of human preparedness, phobias are an outlier in the world of conditioning. Again and again, they are highlighted as the only thing which avoidance makes

Perhaps by some ingrained sense of human preparedness, phobias are an outlier in the world of conditioning. Again and again, they are highlighted as the only thing which avoidance makes worse, rather than alleviates. My own fear of insects had reached its most severe level just as I began learning about phobias, and avoidance, in my undergraduate psychology courses. There, I learned that avoidance of the phobic stimulus \u2014 in my case, insects \u2014 seemed to be a fundamental element of maintaining a phobia, and I was more than guilty of it. Following this realization, I endeavored into what I would later come to call Stimulus Confrontation: A self-designed therapeutic course of action to overcome my fear. This thesis, then, is the record of this project. It weaves together my scholarly research on phobias with my own personal narrative concerning the employment of Stimulus Confrontation, beginning with the etymology and proposed etiologies of phobias, followed by an overview of contemporary treatment options available and a recounting of Stimulus Confrontation as applied to my own phobia. Told from her own perspective, English writer and journalist Jenny Diski's book, What I Don't Know About Animals, tells of her own arachnophobia, and includes an honest account of the fear and anxiety it caused for her, as well as her own journey to overcome it. Like my own, Diski's phobia \u2014 arachnophobia \u2014 had come to affect her everyday life. Prior to seeking treatment for her fear at the age of 58, Diski too had learned to avoid the thing which she so feared. Inspired by What I Don't Know About Animals, the personal anecdotes I have included throughout this thesis serve to elaborate upon my personal experience with my own insectophobia, and the cessation of avoidance that led to substantial progress in overcoming my fears. Throughout this thesis, I refer to this cessation of avoidance as Stimulus Confrontation, with the intention that following the same process I did may benefit others in overcoming their own specific phobias.

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  • 2015-12