Taking a short cut home through a rural cemetery, a teenager stumbled into a newly dug grave seven feet deep. After struggling to get out, he finally gave up, deciding to wait until morning when someone might hear his cries for help.
Meanwhile, a drunken man also took a short cut through the cemetery and he, too, fell into the open grave. He began a desperate struggle to get out; unaware that someone else was in the pit with him. After a few moments, the teenager reached out in the darkness and laid a hand on his shoulder, saying, “You can’t get out of here.”
But the man did! This brings us to the subject of fear. “Fear is the most destructive force in the world today,” says Walter Stone. “There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear,” Jawaharlal Nehru added.
Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never has a fear in his life indeed! “Fear causes people to draw back from situations; it brings on mediocrity; it dulls creativity; it sets one up to be a loser in life,” deplored American television personality Fran Tarkenton.
Phobia is how medical science called those morbid or aberrant fears. Phobia is where a best man will deliver his best man speech in front of a crowd. Or when someone is about to do his recital for the first time. It is defined as “a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.”
“People who have a phobia avoid situations that trigger their anxiety and fear, or they endure them with great distress,” notes The Merck Manual of Medical Information. “However, they recognize that their anxiety is excessive and therefore are aware that they have a problem.”
According to medical science, the most common and disabling symptom of a phobia is a panic attack. Features of a panic attack include: pounding or racing heart, shortness of breath, rapid speech or inability to speak, dry mouth, upset stomach, nausea, elevated blood pressure, trembling or shaking, chest pain or tightness, a choking sensation, dizziness or lightheadedness, profuse sweating, and a sense of impending doom.
Social phobia is described in the standard psychiatric manual as “a marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations.” The disorder has two common patterns: Some people are pathologically shy from infancy, while others – also shy – become pathological when puberty hits.
Believe it or not, Academy Award-winning British actor Lord Laurence Olivier once suffered from severe stage fright. Multi-awarded singer-actress Barbra Streisand also has a certain type of social phobia.
American singer Donny Osmond grew up performing with his family and experienced stage fright for the first time at age 6. Later during a stage production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Osmond experienced a panic attack while onstage. His anxiety soon seeped into his everyday life, making him afraid to go out in public.
Michelle Pfeiffer, best known for her roles in the films The Fabulous Baker Boys, Scarface, Batman Returns and Dangerous Liaisons has talked publicly about being shy and fearful of small talk and how she has grown: “I was the kind of person who entered a room, found the nearest corner and hoped no one noticed me before it was time to go home. Now I’m better at socializing.”