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Self-Test for Inner-Ear Phobias, OCD and Related Anxiety

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A Summary of Dr. Levinson's Groundbreaking Phobia/OCD and Anxiety Research


The "inner-ear" or cerebellar-vestibular (CV) and related origins of phobias occurred by a chance observation. The phobic and anxiety symptoms of CV dysfunctioning dyslexics rapidly and unexpectedly improved when treated with CV-enhancing medications. And upon follow-up neuropsychological analyses, the phobic and related anxiety and even some mood symptoms characterizing thousands of patients were found determined by known CV mechanisms. These insights were reported by Dr Levinson in his many books and research papers, and especially in PHOBIA FREE. Over 90% of all phobics seeking help we're found to have CV dysfunctioning. And a majority responded favorably to CV enhancing medications. All were significantly helped by the holistic understanding that follows.

Simple Phobias

Diverse sensory and balance/coordination triggered phobias, often in association with vertigo, have been neuropsychologically analyzed and treated by Dr Levinson. They were found caused, or predisposed to, by vestibular and related cerebellar deficits acquired genetically, developmentally or acutely following infectious, traumatic, toxic and metabolic disturbances. Both the quality of these phobias and anxiety triggering mechanisms as well as the presence of diagnostic cerebellar-vestibular signs and related symptoms further validated their proposed neurophysiological origins. Most important, the favorable response of these phobias to inner-ear enhancing medications and their rapid reappearance when these medications were discontinued, or the doses lowered, just about proved their inner-ear origins.


  1. Impaired motion processors predisposed individuals to corresponding fears of moving elevators, escalators, cars, trains, planes and buses.
  2. Fears of heights and bridges were released by imbalance, especially when visually reinforced by a terrifying, irresistible feeling described as a "gravitational pull" towards the ground.
  3. Fears were triggered by walking unassisted across busy, distracting intersections or wide open spaces without stabilizing reference points for visual fixation and orientation and/or something solid to grab onto. Thus agoraphobia was found related to imbalance and disorienting as well as hypotonic "jelly leg" mechanisms.
  4. Stationary situations deprived many of a vital compensatory need for motion to stabilize balance and minimize disorientation and vertigo, and so represented a functional danger. Thus claustrophobia or fear of being trapped and unable to move was often triggered when forced, or anticipated, to be stationary, ie., waiting on line, stuck in traffic, seated in the middle of an aisle afar from an exit, etc.
  5. Trapped fears triggered by rooms without windows, darkness, subways, tunnels and caves also appeared related to situations predisposing to sensory deprivation and destabilized cerebellar- vestibular functioning.
  6. Commitment phobias were similarly traced to underlying feelings of being emotionally trapped, resulting in an irresistible need to escape.
  7. Impaired coordination mechanisms often triggered fears of driving, sports, writing for some with dysgraphia, and talking for many with impaired speech and auditory processing.
  8. Fears of choking were traced to swallowing incoordination and poor gag reflexes.
  9. Impaired visual and sound filtering with rapidly ensuing overloading often resulted in crowd phobias as well as light and glare avoidance (photophobia) and a sound phobia to thunder.
  10. Party as well as social phobias are intensified when noisy backgrounds magnify preexisting difficulties with distractibility and impaired auditory/speech-input processing.
  11. Telephone avoidance was similarly triggered by poor processing of speech input, especially since compensatory lip-reading and facial expressions were absent. Some also feel trapped by the anticipated conversation and its duration.
  12. Directional and orienting uncertainty contributed to fears of getting lost, being alone or traveling to new and distant places.
  13. Fears of darkness were often related to increased disorientation and an intensification of preexisting imbalance and dyscoordination when predisposed individuals were deprived of potent compensatory visual and related concentration mechanisms.
  14. Darkness also contributed to fears of falling asleep, whereas the further disinhibition during sleep not infrequently triggered nightmares and even night terrors.
  15. Proprioceptive difficulty in feeling and knowing where body parts are in relation to each other and external space complicated balance and coordination phobias while creating significant body-image anxieties.
  16. Taste, texture and smell impairments were most often involved in food avoidance and phobic responses.
  17. Severe tactile sensitivity frequently contributed to a need for emotional distance and corresponding fears of being touched, hugged--closeness. Many experienced claustrophobia and so resisted wearing tight fitting and specifically textured clothing. Some avoided underwear, socks, shoes, gloves and hats while others felt least anxious when nude and/or alone.
  18. A diverse group of academic and cognitive fears involving reading, writing, spelling, math, memory, concentration and test- taking were traced to cerebellar-vestibular determined functional deficits resulting in dyslexia and ADHD, often culminating in school phobia as well as interpersonal and work related anxieties.

Universal Phobias

Dr Levinson's cerebellar theory of universal phobias suggests that they represent archaic gestalt-specific warning triggers, which pathologically release phylogenetically adaptive fight/ flight danger mechanisms. Both the universal triggers (i.e., snakes, reptiles, spiders, rodents, knives, etc.) and the released danger mechanisms are considered to be genetically imprinted within man's deeply suppressed evolutionary unconscious. Since these anachronistic triggers in man no longer indicate realistic threats, the current maladaptive release of danger responses represents a neurophysiological failure of inhibitory control. This hypothesis readily explains the universality of specific archaically based fears and panic as well as their spontaneously occurring in individuals who have never been realistically exposed to these anxiety triggering forms before, except perhaps in photos. The cerebellum, recognized as the highest brain of most animals, is known to play a vital role in adaptive inhibition and filtering as well as in the modulation of vital reflexes, including fight/flight. Dr Levinson thus postulated that universal phobias may result from a failure of both cerebellar inhibitory and anxiety modulating mechanisms.


Panic and a fear of it occurring may result when the cerebellum fails to properly signal higher anxiety processing centers and /or fails to adaptively moderate exaggerated responses. It may also be pathologically triggered by non-cerebellar mechanisms within higher anxiety centers of the brain.


Obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions may occur when normally suppressed subconscious thoughts and actions are released by a failure of cerebellar inhibition. An additional cerebellar failure to inhibit the repetition of thoughts and actions after their initial release results in obsessions and compulsions via a pathological mechanism known as perseveration. This mechanism is also responsible for causing children to continue writing off the paper onto the desk, unable to stop. It keeps the eyes glued to words when reading, forcing dyslexics to blink in order to let go and move onto the next word. It keeps stuttering going, until enabling reflex breathing breaks the "hold."

An Explanation

Upon clinical analysis, the above group of neurophysiologically based phobias were specifically hypothesized by Dr Levinson to occur when a highly selected pattern of triggers and/or their anticipation further destabilized the impaired cerebellar and vestibular mechanisms required to process them. It was further postulated that a dysfunctioning cerebellum often failed to send accurate warning signals to higher anxiety processing centers, and/or failed to dampen their released maladaptive panic. Combinations of phobias per individual were explained by the active presence of diverse triggering mechanisms. Often one named phobia masked completely different ones. Thus a fear of flying might be triggered by heights, feeling trapped, accelerated or decelerated motion, disorientation, anticipated crashing on solid ground or in water and drowning, etc. Secondary neurotic and traumatically conditioned phobic determinants as well as their symbolic representations most often accrued to, and sometimes intensified, the primary cerebellar-vestibular core impairment. This phobia concept appeared compatible with Freud's view of "somatic compliance" in shaping and codetermining emotional disorders and further clarified the benefits derived from differing and combined therapeutic modalities. Additionally, the favorable responses of the above phobias and their determining mechanisms to cerebellar-vestibular stabilizing medications further supported their postulated cerebellar-vestibular origin.

A New Classification of Phobias

According to Dr. Levinson’s research, the current descriptive classification of phobias left much to be desired and required major modification. In other words, fears and phobias were merely" obsessively and compulsively" labelled, often with complex Greek and Latin names. And little to no scientific attention was given to determining and differentiating their mechanisms of origin. Despite significant neuropharmacological advances, there lacked insight into what determined the specific quality of phobias, their onset and combination per patient. Even the distinction between what caused fears vs. phobias remained elusive. Phobias with different names were often found by Dr. Levinson to have one common determining mechanism. Thus fears of heights, claustrophobia and agoraphobia or walking alone across a busy intersection were discovered by him to be frequently triggered by a fear of falling due to imbalance. By contrast, phobias with the same name were discovered to frequently have many different determining mechanisms. Thus a fear of planes may have a realistic trigger following a plane crash. It may also be triggered by fears of heights, acceleration, deceleration and other forms of motion, and barometric changes--especially when associated with vertigo. Fears of flying were also found related in some to claustrophobia, inability to swim and a fear of drowning upon crashing in water, dying when hitting solid ground, sitting next to strangers and forced conversation, traveling to new, unfamiliar and distant places, etc. Importantly, without a classification based on determining mechanisms, it is difficult to specifically target and best utilize therapeutic modalities.

Based on Dr. Levinson's neuropsychological analysis of phobias as well as the insights obtained from their improvements, phobias were reclassified by their determining mechanisms into four basic types, albeit combinations frequently occur:

Type 1: Realistic, traumatic and learned fears/phobias which best respond to conditioning therapies;

Type 2: Neurotic fears/phobias reflecting unconscious conflicts which best respond to psychoanalytic therapies;

Type 3: Cerebellar-vestibular determined fears/phobias, many found to best respond to cerebellar-vestibular stabilizing medications and related modalities;

Type 4: Fears/phobias of universal and other origins as well as panic and generalized anxiety states triggered by neurochemical and neurophysiological based mechanisms. They are usually of a non-cerebellar-vestibular origin and respond best to SSRI's and related medications and therapies.

For the very first time, it became possible to holistically understand phobic individuals and their diverse and often over-determined phobias while more clearly targeting and effecting needed therapeutic efforts.

A Self-Test For Inner-Ear Phobias, OCD And Panic

A thorough neuropsychological analysis is required to accurately diagnose the origin(s) of phobias in any given patient, especially for therapeutic purposes. However, it is possible for a self-test to provide important insights. These insights alone were found to provide amazing therapeutic benefits to individuals previously told to "just get over it" and thus feeling hopeless and even crazy.

Because CV phobias often occur in those with CV determined dyslexia or LD and ADHD, and the reverse, a greater degree of understanding is obtained when this test is combined with corresponding self-tests for dyslexia or LD and ADHD. Needless to say, this combined understanding will inevitably result in enhanced self-esteem vs. self-blame; and it will guide desperate individuals to knowledgeable clinicians and therapists — and thus successful outcomes.

If one or more of the following phobias and related anxiety symptoms is present and appears triggered by a corresponding inner-ear mechanism(s), then the phobia may likely be of an inner-ear or cerebellar-vestibular origin:

Phobias Corresponding Mechanisms
Fears of moving elevators, escalators, cars, trains, planes and buses Impaired motion processors
Fears of heights and bridges Imbalance, impaired visual processing
Agoraphobia — fears of walking unassisted across busy, distracting intersections or wide open spaces Imbalance, disorientation, hypotonic "jelly leg" mechanisms
Fears of being trapped and unable to move. Fears of waiting on line, stuck in traffic, seated in the middle of an aisle afar from an exit, commitments Motion deprivation destabilizing balance, orientation and/or triggering vertigo
Fears of rooms without windows, darkness, subways, tunnels and caves Sensory deprivation destabilizing cerebellar-vestibular functioning
Diverse balance and coordination phobias Proprioceptive difficulty in knowing and feeling where body parts are in space
Fears of driving, sports, writing, talking Impaired motor and sensory processing
Fears of choking Swallowing incoordination and poor gag reflexes
Crowd phobias, light and glare avoidance (photophobia), sound phobia to thunder Impaired visual and sound filtering with overloading
Party, social phobias Difficulties with distractibility, impaired auditory/speech-input processing
Telephone avoidance Poor speech-input processing, absent compensatory lip-reading and facial expressions
Fears of getting lost, being alone or traveling to new and distant places Directional and orienting uncertainty
Fears of darkness Increased disorientation, imbalance and dyscoordination
Taste, texture and smell phobias Sensory processing impairments
Academic and cognitive fears/avoidance involving reading, writing, spelling, math, memory, concentration and test- taking, school, work Cerebellar-vestibular determined dyslexia or LD, ADHD
Panic Triggered by, or in association with, the above phobias and mechanisms
OCD In association with the above inner-ear phobias and cerebellar-vestibular mechanisms

Inner-Ear Self-Tests

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  • Elephant Blurring Speeds
  • Auditory Blurring

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