Who Discovered Phobias?

Who discovered phobias? is an oft-discussed topic with no clear answer. A phobia is usually an irrational fear of a situation or object causing evasion and terror in the person affected.

Though there is no clear answer as to who discovered phobias it is definitely not a modern concept. In fact it can be traced back to the writings of Plutarch.

He wrote that Pythagoreans interpreted phobias as recollections from former lives. The most famous example is of the Roman hero Germanicus, who exhibited phobic reactions in the presence of a cock.

While discussing on the topic of who discovered phobias we can mention that there are mainly three kinds of phobias:

  • Social phobia is a fear regarding other people and social relationships.

  • Agoraphobia is a fear of leaving your home or your known circle of inhabitance.

  • Specific phobia is the fear of a single specific thing or condition.

Who discovered phobias is a question that opens the door to varied psychological and biological viewpoints regarding the origin of phobias. In 20th century, the celebrated Sigmund Freud suggested that phobias were the result of the excessive exploitation of oppression and displacement defense mechanisms.

It would be impossible to deduce the discovery of phobias if different standpoints are not compared. So if we evaluate what modern psychoanalysts have to say we will find that they consider real or feared childhood severance from a parent or guardian as the cause behind agoraphobia.

Behaviorist theorists’ belief that phobias are trained behaviors where individuals may learn to fear certain situations/events, objects resulting from indirect or direct experience.

This often matures into a habituated reaction of fear to the motivation and the victim might also avoid the object or situation, resulting in the phobia to be more firmly deep-rooted. For example a simple event like a dog chasing a child may result in a specific phobia like cynophobia.

Another group of researchers feel that early humans possessed what we call a strong intuition as to what can cause them harm. This often protected them from natural hazards and accidents.

In this way the humans who possessed the ability proved to be the fittest for survival, which can be related to Darwin’s theory.

These researchers are the ones who discovered phobias as that very inclination to sense danger that has been passed down hereditarily through generations to modern man.

Therefore, the question as to who discovered phobias is not a specific question and it encompasses in itself many more questions. It is a condition experienced by human beings from time memorial and each century and different groups of researchers have their own way of interpreting it.

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Posted by Jan Heering
Phobia Treatment Expert and author
Founder and President of the Morpheus Institute and

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