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A person with a specific phobia has an excessive fear of an object or situation. (DSM-V). The object or situation is not dangerous, yet the person usually reacts as if it is. As a result, the affected persons tend to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations, and in severe cases, any mention or depiction of them.
A person who encounters that of which they are phobic will often show signs of fear or express discomfort. In some cases it can result in a panic attack. In most adult cases, this kind of phobia is consciously recognized by the person; still, anxiety and avoidance are difficult to control and may significantly impair the person’s functioning and even physical health.
Specific phobias often begin during childhood or adolescence, and continue into adulthood. Specific phobias are common. The prevalence rates of specific phobia in community samples range from 4% to 8%. Over the course of a lifetime, the prevalence estimates in community samples range from 7.2% to 11.3%.
If specific phobias exist in adolescence, they have a greater chance of persisting in early adulthood. Specific phobias that continue into adulthood generally become chronic if they are not treated. Furthermore, there is a greater chance for an individual diagnosed with specific phobia to develop new phobias as a young adult. The specific phobia triggers a lot of distress or significantly impairs an affected individual. Therefore early detection and treatment, even mild cases of specific phobia, is a key to prevent the development of full-blown cases of the disorder and further psychological or physical complications.
The FEEL method assumes that the cause of the specific phobia rely on specific traumatic experiences from the past that continue to govern a person’s responses in the present. These experiences can be large traumas that resulted in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition characterized by, sleeplessness, anxiety, and phobias, or they can be smaller traumas that have a less dramatic but still negative impact on personality and behavior. Every traumatic event has a learning process. To complete the process one should pass through four phases similar to the digestion process. These four phases are: digestion, absorption, metabolism and assimilation. When distress is experienced, it can become locked in the information associated system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. The person ends up feeling “stuck” emotionally, preventing learning from taking place. The information associated system is the memory network which involves a specific part of the body tangled in that specific experience. This event is characterized by producing an electromagnetic activity very specific to that experience which activates a specific part of the brain, a specific organ or area in the physical body which is connected to the specific energy network known by traditional Chinese medicine as a meridian. This memory network between psyche, brain, body and electromagnetic field energy is known as a psychoneurosomatoenergetic short-circuit. Thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations, related to the trauma which is linked in this short circuit are considered as conditioned stimuli.
Repeated experiences through nightmares and flashbacks, or even harmless stimuli that were present at the moment of the trauma, reinforces the somatic reactions and the psychic construction, is established and the trauma is stored.
The psychoneurosomatoenergetic short-circuit memory network could be triggered over and over again, and the person ends up feeling “stuck” emotionally, preventing learning from taking place. The defense mechanisms work by distorting the trauma into acceptable forms, or by unconscious blockage so the real cause of the traumatic terror is stored in implicit memory and may be set off by a conditioned stimulus linked to a previous danger situation and mostly the conditioned stimulus transforms in the object of phobia. Activation of a part of this short circuit by any conditioned stimulus could activate all the memory network emerging as thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations, related to the trauma.
The development of a specific phobia and the time of its appearance may be influenced by a variety of factors:. family background, genetic predisposition, variations in socio-cultural aspects and stress.
The aim of FEEL therapy is to open this short circuit and to complete the learning process of the past trauma