Phidias and Addictions
May 2, 2012
PHODIAS AND ADDICTION 2 Phobias and Addiction As I attempt to describe how phobias and addictions are related to classical and operant conditioning, I would first like to start by defining phobia, addition, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and extinction process to get a better understanding.
A phobia is a learned body response that is associated with a difficult life event. Centered in the amygdala portion of the brain which regulates the "fight or flight" response, a somatic sensation of anxiety occurs in the presence of specific stimuli. The event may have been experienced by the person themselves-or may have been experienced "secondhand" through misfortune that may have occurred to a friend or loved on. In some cases, a phobia may have no discernible cause or may appear "irrational"-to everyone but the person experiencing it. Phobic reactions or symptoms of anxiety can include: an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, an upset stomach and a general feeling of unease (Dictionary of Psycology.com, 2012).
An addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance. Addiction has been extended, however, to include mood-altering behaviors or activities. Some researchers speak of two types of addictions: substance addictions (for example, alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking); and process addictions (for example, gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity) (Dictionary of Psycology.com, 2012). When using the Classical conditional process, as Ivan Pavlov used with his experiment regarding the ringing of a bell just before giving food to dogs. When ringing the bell is called the neutral stimulus (NS), the salivation due to the presence of food is called the unconditioned response (UR), and the salivation in response only to ringing a bell in the absence of food is called the conditioned response (CR)(DrugAddiction/ClassicalConditioning.html).
When working with drug addiction, withdrawal effects need to be present in order for classical conditioning to be a factor. There needs to be a neutral stimulus attached to the behavior. For instance the environment or sensations associated with the behavior. An unconditioned response would be the compensatory withdrawal reactions of the brain in response to the presence of the drug. Once the unconditioned response is associated with the neutral stimulus, the presence of that neutral stimulus evokes the conditioned response of the compensatory mechanisms associated with the presence of the drug, while actually in absence of the drug.
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Classical conditioning therefore tells us that the drug addict's withdrawal symptoms can present themselves without the actual presence, or possibility of taking the drug. Posters containing paraphernalia, or even pictures of drugs can initiate a conditioned response of the withdrawal mechanisms. This can become overwhelming (consider the physical reasons for addiction) thus, throwing the individual into a fit to find the drug, and ease their discomfort (Kowalski, R., Westen, D. 2011). Operant Conditioning, on