How is fear different from a phobia?

How is fear different from a phobia?
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 07-03-2023

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Everyone is afraid of something – scared of living alone in a dark room, afraid of horror movies, fear of insects, fear of flying a lot of situations, or objects like this often trigger fear in us. Fear is a normal, healthy part of life, even sometimes fear plays an important role in preventing us from entering harmful situations and helping us to decide when to get out of situations that are not necessarily the best.

However, fear becomes a phobia when it is out of proportion to the real level of danger in a situation, and when it leads to extreme reactions. For some people, phobias can have a significant impact on their lives and their happiness.

Few symptoms defining phobias:

  • Exposure elicits intense fear and anxiety, sometimes even a panic attack
  • Irrational and unreasonable fear
  • The affected individual recognizes that the fear is unfounded and excessive
  • Powerlessness to control the intense fear

Fear is an emotional reaction to a real or perceived threat. Fears are common in the population and are often-normal reactions to objects or events. For example, many people are afraid of spiders - they experience a mild to moderate anxiety reaction when they see one.

Phobias are the most common mental disorder. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that is distinctly different from normal fear. Phobias are defined, according to DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition), as fear or anxiety that is persistent (even when the object is not there), excessive, and out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the object of the phobia.

Phobias occur when there is a dysfunction in the brain circuits responsible for the response to fear. They recognize non-dangerous objects or situations as imminent threats and experience excess fear and anxiety.

Different Types of Phobias

  • Thanatophobia: fear of death
  • Aichmophobia: fear of sharp objects
  • Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
  • Acrophobia: fear of heights
  • Aquaphobia: fear of specific situations, such as being in the water
  • Astraphobia: fear of natural phenomena, such as thunder and lightning
  • Hematophobia: fear of blood or injuries
  • Mysophobia: fear of experiences and objects like vomiting, choking, dirt, and germs
  • Coulrophobia: fear of clowns
  • Nyctophobia: Fear of dark places
  • Agoraphobia

The clinical characteristics of phobias depend on the type of phobia, the degree of severity in a particular individual, and the amount that it interferes with the individual’s ability to function normally. However, common to all types of phobias is extreme fear or anxiety in response to a particular object or situation.

Seek treatment

Look for Professional Help if the fear seems to continue for a disproportionate amount of time. This might indicate the development of a phobia. Get Social Phobia Treatment at HopeQure.

HopeQure counselors are available to help you cope with the distress and discomfort which is caused by such conditions. Do not let phobia control your life.

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