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This direct conditioning model, though very influential in the theory of fear acquisition, is not the only way to acquire a phobia.Vicarious fear acquisition is learning to fear something, not by a subject's own experience of fear, but by watching others reacting fearfully (observational learning).The original fear of almost falling down is associated with being on a high place, leading to a fear of heights.In other words, the CS (heights) associated with the aversive UCS (almost falling down) leads to the CR (fear).Unlike specific phobias, social phobias include fear of public situations and scrutiny, which leads to embarrassment or humiliation in the diagnostic criteria.Rachman proposed three pathways to acquiring fear conditioning: classical conditioning, vicarious acquisition and informational/instructional acquisition.
Most specifically, the medial prefrontal cortex is active during extinction of fear and is responsible for long-term extinction.Most phobias are classified into three categories and, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), such phobias are considered sub-types of anxiety disorder. Specific phobias: Fear of particular objects or social situations that immediately results in anxiety and can sometimes lead to panic attacks.Specific phobia may be further subdivided into four categories: animal type, natural environment type, situational type, blood-injection-injury type. Agoraphobia: a generalized fear of leaving home or a small familiar 'safe' area, and of possible panic attacks that might follow.Stimulation of this area decreases conditioned fear responses, so its role may be in inhibiting the amygdala and its reaction to fearful stimuli.The hippocampus is a horseshoe-shaped structure that plays an important part in the brain's limbic system because of its role in forming memories and connecting them with emotions and the senses.
Most individuals understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but are powerless to override their panic reaction.