I am okay seeing feet. I am okay with foot rubs. I am okay with my feet. But...when, for instance, my husband's feet come into contact with me, I almost flip out. I don't get it. I have never had a problem with feet before, or even his feet, for that matter. I have given him pedicures in the past and sometimes I still tickle his feet (something I like to do because he isn't typically ticklish).
As the last 6 months have progressed though, if he tries to put his feet in my lap I cringe. And it's gotten worse. Today I actually cried because he was playing around and put his cold foot on my leg. Now, I do need to clear one thing up. My husband has "pretty" feet. They are not bad at all, for a man that refuses to get a pedicure. LOL. But seriously, he doesn't even have foot odor, but if I even touch his feet I feel like I need to wash my hands. And I only use him as an example because, lets face it, I don't exactly get exposed to a lot of peoples feet.
But all of this has got me to wondering...how do people develop phobias, especially so late in life (not that I am old, but you know what I mean)? Is it possible for a 30 year old to develop a phobia and why?
Most of the articles that I read said that the starting point of phobias can be tracked to a 'Significant Emotional Event' in which the person links the phobia trigger to the negative feeling. The trigger may be an event, a situation or a specific object. What appears to happen is that it becomes integrated and neurologically linked or 'anchored' to the emotion. This process is something that we naturally use to remember memorable events. A phobia is simply an extreme version of an anchor linked to a negative emotion.
Anchors are easy to create. In a well quoted test, Martin Seligman an American psychologist bound a small electric shock to certain images. Only two to four shocks were enough to create a negative anchor or phobia to images of spiders or snakes, while a much larger series of shocks was required to cause a neurological link to images of flowers. The key factors are the intensity of the experience, in this instance the pain of the shock and the number of repetitions needed to create the link.
When faced with a real-life extreme experience it is much easier to create a phobia in just one significant emotional event. That's because the brain learns very quickly in intense situations - you only have to touch a naked flame once to learn not to do it again.
But this doesn't make much sense to me in my situation. It's not like my husband, or any one else, has attacked me with their feet or traumatized me with their feet, somehow. I really can't figure out what is going on....