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Format: 04/25/2014
Format: 04/25/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Phobias come in all shapes and sizes

Friday, January 22nd, 2010


By Pohla Smith

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The fourth edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "phobia" as an "irrational, excessive and persistent fear of some particular thing or situation."

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association takes that definition a step further, adding one, more serious, requirement. "We're not supposed to make a diagnosis of a phobia if it doesn't affect a person's life," said Dr. P.V. Nickell, chairman of psychiatry at Allegheny General Hospital and interim chairman of psychiatry at West Penn Hospital Forbes Campus.

"If a corn farmer in the Midwest is afraid of close spaces, you wouldn't diagnose it as a phobia because it doesn't affect him.

"On the other hand, if someone wants to be a deep miner in Western Pennsylvania and is afraid of close spaces, you would diagnose it because it would prevent him or her from doing the job."

And so it was for a patient of Dr. Robert Hudak, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders Clinic at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic of UPMC.

"There was a woman who was in her mid-20s -- call her 25 years old -- who had recently graduated from college and had a job with a business that was involved in flying to different companies," Dr. Hudak said.

"They contracted out to other companies all over the country, so the job involved getting on an airplane and going across the United States."

The woman liked the job and the people with whom she worked and she also was making "very good money."

There was just one problem: She was afraid of flying.


To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.

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