Page 20-Friday, September 9, 1977-The Michigan Daily
Phobia-plagued patients suffer in
slence; few psychiatrists ofer help
By KAY BARTLETT
Thoreau wrote, "Nothing is so much
to be feared as fear."
Years later, FDR told a frightened
nation: "We have nothing to fear but
PHILOSOPHER and president were
reassuring those of us who l now only
ordinary fear. Their words were not all
that helpful to the millions of Ameri-
cans who know special fears - those
who are phobics.
They suffer from anxieties that are
not understood, fear that can be totally
debilitating, fear that overtakes their
rational minds, fear that paralyzes the
limbs, makes the heart race and the
stomach twitch with nausea.
Their best friends think they're just a
little crazy. Imagine, they sniff, a
grown woman who has been afraid to
leave her home for 28 years. Another
lady so terrified of toy balloons she
won't take her children to the park be-
cause somewhere&a balloon may be
spotted. Or think of the electrician who
walked up 17 floors a day because he
was afraid of the elevator. Even worse,
adds the 34-year-old electrician, "I ac-
tually had to run so no one would catch
IT ALL SOUNDS slightly ridiculous.
But ridiculous it's not. These phobias
cause jobs to be lost, marriages to
dissolve, friends to be alienated,
'Fear, that bugbear of childhood, still has feet
adults. For many, it is a paralyzing numbnes.
defies reason and cripples lives, an inesca
nightmare as real as the adrenalin-rush that kno
stomach and glazes the eyes.'
........o''. .-.'.'.. .o'.....o....-
she says. "He provided the atmosphere
where I could do these things."
productive lives of very bright people to
And all because help is not readily
Phobias, which researchers believe
iave existed since primitive times, are
isually curable. It's a question of fin-
ling the right treatment for the right
AND EVEN IN Manhattan, where
:here are more psychiatrists than delis
?er square block, it's tough.
Take Clare, an articulate woman who
,as extremely phobic and had been
since she was a child.
"In school, instead of concentrating
in what the teacher was saying, I would
!oncentrate on whether the door was
)pen, on whether I could get out," she
THINGS BECAME worse, and Clare
,vent to see a psychiatrist. For three
dears, she told him about her dreams,
zer relationship with her father, her sex
ife, her true feelings about her ,
He said he did not want to hea
;he symptoms - symptoms th
;rowing worse. He did not want
:hat her world was closing in, t
could travel less and less far fr
zome in the Bronx.
She then went to another psycl
Fe treated her for four more yea
1o relief. She was becoming
and worrying that her marriag
creak up. And the little world
treated for herself was ever shr
CLARE WAS a case wher(
:ional psychoanalysis didn't
although there are other cases
'he deep-rooted and long-term a
is the only answer.
She then found Dr. Manuel
psychiatrist who makes hou
when the situation demands it.I
ply asked her to try to go a little
than the four blocks.
"It took him six months to ge
go from 165th Street to 161st
CLARE IS NOW fully functional, able
; thai to fight through a crowd of people in a
pable noisy cafeteria and laugh: "This is no
place for a self-respecting phobic."
)ts the Dr. Zane, who works with a phobia
clinic in White Plains, N.Y., and prac-
tices privately both in Manhattan and
White Plains, has taken other patients
on elevators, out into open fields, -on top
mother. of high buildings, and once even ac-
ar about companied a phobic on a° cruise to the
at were Caribbean.
to hear Says Clare: "He is completely non-
that she judgmental. If I had said let's put bags
rom her on our heads and go into the super-
market, he would have said okay, let's
hiatrist. do that."
suicidal THE TECHNIQUE Dr. Zane uses is
e would called "in vi o" or, on the West Coast,
she had "exposure therapy." It is one of the
inking. newer methods of treating phobics.
Besides talking about the fears, the psy-
e tradi- chiatrist or psychologist actually takes
work, the person to confront the fear and un-
s where derstand the relationship between the
analysis physical twitchings of the body and the
reactions of the mind. Little by little the
Zane, a patient is brought to an understanding
isecalls of the two.
He sim- The psychiatrists who treated Clare
further represent diversity of opinion. There
are traditional analysts who believe the
et me to problem is deeply rooted, with the
Street," phobic behavior just a symptom of the
problem. And then there are those who
say let's cure the symptoms and return
the patient to society.
There are a few phobia clinics in the
country, including one at Manhattan's
Roosevelt Hospital which operates on a
group encounter basis.
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H -- r .lA
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PHOBICS OF various sorts meet and
discuss their problems; experts are
called in for reassuring lectures and
"helpers" are assigned to each patient.
But psychologists and psychiatrists
say there isn't nearly enough available
around the country for an affliction that
affects millions, that is basically
curable and that tends to strike imag-
inative and creative people.
The size of the problem varies great-
"A GROWN MAN in New York City
who is afraid of snakes should just stay
out of the Bronx zoo," says Dr. Derner.
"A man who is afraid of cockroaches
should just 'move out of New York
The therapists say a fear becomes a
phobia when it starts affecting one's
daily life, when it becomes more and
more difficult to cope because of the
In other words, there are irrational
fears that easily can be avoided. And
there are fears that make good sense.
Says Dr. Derner: "If I told you to im-
agine there was a snake on this floor
and you started to panic thinking of it
that's phobic. If you looked down and
saw a rattlesnake and said 'Let's get
the hell out of here, that's common sen-
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