Phobias plague students and faculty

By Megan Kutulis
October 23, 2008

Shannon Keough

Halloween is coming and along with it comes the cavities, hangovers and of course, the scary movies. Although celebrating this wonderful holiday has taken on a different meaning now, there was once a time when it was actually as basic as a month-long celebration of spooking and scaring. In honor of Halloween or what Halloween used to be, Cabrini students, faculty and staff have unveiled their biggest phobias.

Phobias are the most extreme form of fear and, depending on the case, can have serious social and medical side effects. While this is usually only true for phobias dealing with social anxiety disorders, most of our common phobias, like public speaking, flying and spiders have been known to spark anxiety.

Sara Maggitti, director of counseling services at Cabrini, explains how these phobias go from being a simple fear to becoming extreme.

“For some people, there is a situation that triggers it, while others have personal experiences. For example, if someone was bitten by a spider or a dog, it might happen. Or it could happen just by watching a movie like ‘Jaws.’ Sometimes phobias can even be passed down from a parent. If a parent is afraid of balloons, the child may learn to be afraid of them, too,” Maggitti said.

Maggitti, who admits that her biggest fear is dark water and not being able to see what it is she’s swimming in, stresses that the phobia depends on two things: proximity and state.

Proximity deals with being closer to the animal or object one feels the most fearful of can definitely increase their anxiety, as well as its state?whether or not it be dead, alive, moving, not moving, etc.

This idea of proximity rings true for senior accounting major Jenna Pinto, whose phobia includes a little invasion of personal space.

“I hate close-talkers and I get freaked out when people walk too close to me. I like to have my own space,” Pinto said.

Brittany DeCicco, graduate assistant for the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership, is quick to admit her biggest phobia.

“I have a fear of mice. That scene in ‘Lady and the Tramp’ where the babies are upstairs sleeping and the mice go up, that’s why I’m afraid of mice,” DeCicco said.

Although it would seem that an animated movie about puppy love could never spark such a feeling in anyone, Maggitti’s statements prove that DeCicco is not alone. Fears and phobias can come from almost anywhere. And so the inevitable question is, can it be cured?

“Yes, definitely. To cure a phobia, an individual needs to be taught relaxation strategies and then be exposed to the feared stimulus. It might just start as showing them a picture or saying a word, and practicing the relaxation strategy until they can conquer it,” Maggitti said.

Megan Kutulis

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