The idea that we are born with phobias is quite a common question and there has been extensive research on this particular subject. When you bear in mind the array of medical conditions which are genetically present across an array of family members it is not inconceivable in principle that we inherit phobias from our parents. However, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that phobias are genetically passed from family member to family member and you may be surprised how we come to develop phobias.
* There is evidence to suggest that ALL humans are born with two fears - a fear of falling and loud noises.
If you sit back and look at the situation from a distance, maybe you suffer from a fear of spiders, fear of flying or some other phobia. There is evidence to suggest that many of the phobias which you fear will be similar if not exactly the same as those of your parents, family and friends. Research has identified situations where for example as a young person you may see one of your parents reacting with a scream or with fear to the appearance of a spider. This does not mean that you will develop a phobia about spiders but it does put some doubt in your mind as to whether they are dangerous.
The next stage in the development of a phobia is when you are say for example by yourself and a spider does make a surprise appearance. If you are caught unawares, perhaps you have something else on your mind or you are already in a state of fear then this could prompt the development of a phobia which could be with you for many years to come. When you consider this scenario, it does make sense because when we are young we look to our parents for guidance on general life skills.
One interesting scenario which is mentioned on numerous occasions by medical researchers is the fear of injections by schoolchildren. Those who administer these injections will tell you that if one of a group of boys or girls has a "bad reaction" and faints for example then they can pretty much guarantee others in the group will suffer the same fate. If you do think about it this does make perfect sense because we spend the most amount of time with our parents and family during our early years and also with friends at school. These are the specific groups that help to mould our lives in the early years. So, those of us who have left education may now appreciate the importance it does have for the rest of our lives!
Periods of economic uncertainty
One subject directly linked to an increase in phobias seems to be times of economic turmoil and financial pressure. A number of medical practitioners have commented on the fact that recent years have seen an increase in phobia sufferers, with some reporting increases of up to 20%, which are now running at levels last seen in the 1980s. Those old enough to remember will be aware that the 1980s were part of a famous boom and bust phase of the UK economy which resulted in heightened economic turmoil and pressure on household incomes.
So, it seems safe to conclude that the development of phobias can be linked to our parents, our peer groups and also the added stress of economic turmoil and financial pressure in later years. There will obviously be other situations specific to individuals that have the same impact and prompt the emergence and development of phobias. However, they are most certainly not genetically linked in any way shape or form.