November 20th, 2017

Portraying a Specific Phobia: Realistic Reactions/Thoughts to Trigger?

Hi Little-Details,

My setting is medieval Japan (1300s into 1400s for this section), in the capital city of Kyoto. The main character, Akiko, is a prostitute. She's also a human-nonhuman hybrid, specifically inugami and human. The work is historical fantasy: historical setting, fantasy details.

My question pertains to *writing* a phobia. The character has a specific phobia, and her inability to deal with it or discuss it ends up causing chaos in her relationships later in life (with husband and her kids). I would be happy to elaborate on that if it's necessary. The phobia in question is tokophobia (fear of pregnancy and childbirth). She has both primary and secondary. This question pertains to primary tokophobia, and phobias in general.

I don't have a phobia, and while I know someone who has this, I'm not barraging her with questions. I'm hesitant to use the boards and forums for the topic for the same reason of not wanting to invade people's safe space for the sake of my story. That said, I'm afraid that I don't really know how encountering the trigger feels, and what always comes to mind is the "hysterical fear reaction" seen in most portrayals of phobias (and internet stories).

I'm wondering, what's a realistic range of reactions to the trigger, beyond full-blown "fight or flight"? Thoughts, also, are a help. I know disgust and fear are common. I can use my own PTSD as a reference point, and I have, but I don't think it gets close to what a phobia really is.
My sources include:

- The DSM-V
- Fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology (textbook)
- "Management of Tocophobic Women" - Anna Roland-Price and Zara Chamberlain (a chapter from "Preconceptual Medicine", a textbook)
- Functional and Dysfunctional Sexual Behavior (textbook)
- Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel
- Interviews with very kind aforementioned friend

For context: the secondary ends up occurring with her second child after having a fairly positive and trouble-free experience (and very supportive environment) with her first. For those of you who are familiar with this phobia, having children is an oxymoron. To address that: her first child was conceived by accident, and she was presented with no option except going ahead, luckily finding a supportive environment in her husband's community that helped to allay some (but not all) of her fear. The second kid is a plot point.

Thank you very much for your help. I understand that this is a potentially very sensitive topic, and I appreciate your time and willingness to answer it.