How phobias are different from fears, according to psychology

Cover credit: Flickr

Cover credit: Flickr

A phobia is an irrational and intense fear of something, like heights, dogs, insects or driving, to name a few.

But generally, the target object of the phobia is harmless and does not cause any serious danger.

Normal fears exist in all of us, but when these fears start interfering in someone’s daily life, making it unbearable and difficult to lead, they become phobias. Phobias cause anxiety and stress, and even though the person has an idea that their fear is unreasonable, they do not have control over it.

Phobias are very common, but it is very important to know that they can be treated no matter how out of control the fear was.

Fear is a normal reaction when facing an apparent threat, but phobias are an exaggerated and maximized reaction to what is considered by the person as a threat.

Normal fear is feeling anxious and nervous on a plane during takeoff, while a phobia is avoiding and refusing the option of traveling because of an extreme fear of flying.

Normal fear is feeling stressed and frightened in the presence of a dog, while phobia is staying home whenever there is a minimum probability of seeing a dog outside.

Normal fear is feeling scared and dizzy in an elevator, while phobia is rejecting a job because of the necessity of using an elevator in the workplace.

Phobias are usually developed since childhood, but can appear later on in life, whenever a person is in the same situation that generated the original fear. There are various normal fears found in children, such as the fear of darkness, strangers, or death, among others. But, soon enough, those fears will disappear. It is only when they persist that it is important to take them into consideration.

Mainly, there are four types of phobias:

  1. Animal phobias, including the fear of spiders, snakes and insects.

  2. Situational phobias, including claustrophobia (the fear of closed spaces), and the fear of flying and driving.

  3. Natural environment phobias, including those related to some weather phenomena.

  4. Blood-injection-injury phobias, including the fear of blood and injections.

However, there are some uncategorized phobias, like the fear of choking and the fear of clowns.

The manifestation of a phobia goes from casual stress and nervousness to a real panic attack. The symptoms of a phobia include dizziness, tachycardia, chest pain, trembling, sweating, tingling, numbness and difficulty breathing.

Overcoming phobias is possible, and we'll explain ways and steps to do so later.