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What Is The Difference Between Fear And Phobia

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So What Is The Difference Between A Phobia And A Fear

The Difference Between Fear and Phobia (Mental Health Guru)

Many of us have fears of one kind or another, such as fear of examinations, fear of speaking in public, etc.

Fear is a natural phenomenon that helps us to protect ourselves from nervousness and uncontrollable activity.

We can take this best example as many have this situation in their life.

Like, everyone, I also have a fear of public speaking. I’ve often asked here to stand up in front of a crowded room and talk on a specific subject.

As I recall, just before moving onto the stage. My hands started to sweat, I felt anxious, and my legs turned almost to jelly.

You can understand what happens if you have been in such a situation.

These feelings are normal and, once I move out from the stage and into my native. Then slowly, I started to feel good, and all of a sudden, the anxiety along with my sweaty hands and jelly legs disappeared like magic.

If you also have this experience, comment below on how you managed that.

Now let’s understand about Phobia. Suppose If I had a phobia about speaking in public, then no one in this universe can take onto that stage in front of all those people.

A Phobia is for certain things without any logic and meaning. But it is hazardous because it is uncontrollable at any cost if have anyone for certain things.

These all activities controlled by Phobia. We can say that no means no that’s all this can continue till the end of life never can change but can avoid.

Phobia is only for certain things. It depends on which Phobia you have with you.

How Do You Treat A Phobia

Cognitive behavioral therapy with exposure is the first-choice treatment for phobias. CBT helps you identify how your thoughts and feelings influence your actions. Youll also do repeated exposures related to your phobia to practice new ways of responding to fear.

The exposure part of therapy can vary in technique. For example, imaginal exposure involves learning how to cope with thoughts of the feared object or situation. This differs from direct exposure, such as touching a feared animal or speaking in public .

Exposure-based therapy is successful in up to 90% of people who use it consistently. Depending on the complexity of your phobia, exposure therapy may be combined with other therapies.

Tip : Challenge Negative Thoughts About Your Phobia

When you have a phobia, you tend to overestimate how bad it will be if youre exposed to the situation you fear and underestimate your ability to cope. The anxious thoughts that trigger and fuel phobias are usually negative and unrealistic. By writing down the negative thoughts you have when confronted by your phobia, you can begin to challenge these unhelpful ways of thinking. Many times, these thoughts fall into the following categories:

Fortune telling. For example, This bridge is going to collapse Ill make a fool of myself for sure I will definitely lose it when the elevator doors close.

Overgeneralization.I fainted once while getting a shot. Ill never be able to get a shot again without passing out That pit bull lunged at me. All dogs are dangerous.

Catastrophizing.The captain said were going through turbulence. The plane is going to crash!The person next to me coughed. Maybe its swine flu. Im going to get very sick!

Once youve identified your negative thoughts, evaluate them. Use the following example to get started.

Negative thought: The elevator will break down and Ill get trapped and suffocate.

Ask yourself the following 4 questions:

1. Is there any evidence that contradicts my negative thought?

Yes, for example: People are currently using the elevator and it hasnt broken down.

Even if it did break down, Ive never heard of anyone dying from suffocation in an elevator. There are air vents which would stop the air from running out.

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The Fear Is Out Of Proportion With The Risk

Obviously, you don’t want to be around something you’re scared of. But a phobia, unlike a fear, creates a disproportionate response.

“Fear in its purest form is a normal reaction to a threat , and not a fear of a teacup dog or a weather forecast that says there ‘may be a thunderstorm,'”Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Professor of Psychology Cal State LA, and clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.

Don’t be ashamed, though, if something seemingly small triggers this reaction in your brain. “Phobias are created when the brain associates an object or situation with a highly threatening or traumatic event,”Ofra Obejas, child therapist, tells Bustle. If this sounds like you, it’s a good idea to reach out to a mental health professional.

Types Of Specific Phobias


A specific phobia is defined as an extreme, irrational fear or aversion to a particular thing or situation such as a thunderstorm or being in small, tight places, etc. The fear is so intense it interferes with the way you live. Whats key here is that the object or situation usually does not pose significant danger, and yet the fear of it is intense and often interferes with your life.1

Within specific phobias, there are five different categories:1

  • Phobias of animals or insects like dogs, snakes, or spiders
  • Phobias of natural phenomena like heights, storms, or water
  • Phobias of blood or injury like getting a blood test or needles
  • Phobias of specific situations like flying in planes, driving cars, or being in confined places
  • Other phobias like choking, vomiting, or catching an illness

Its estimated that 12.5% of US adults and 19.3% of teens will deal with a specific phobia at some time in their lives, making it the most common type of phobia and the most common type of anxiety disorder overall. Adult women tend to develop specific phobias at twice the rate as men, while the numbers among teens are closer. Anxiety disorders across the board are more prevalent among women than men. The reasons for this are still being explored, but it likely relates to hormonal differences.4,5

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Are You Suffering From Anxiety

Take our 2-minute anxiety quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

A phobia is an intense as well as irrational fear toward one or more things or situations for which the level or intensity of fear does not match the actual danger of what you fear.

A phobia can be specific, like a fear of dogs or being high off the ground. But it can also be overarching, like being in any social setting or public place.2

While fear is a natural and universal human emotion, having a phobia is a medical diagnosis and not a word to be tossed around lightly. To understand phobias, it is helpful to have a deeper understanding of fear and why we experience it.

What Is A Phobia

Almost everyone has an irrational fear or twoof spiders, for example, or your annual dental checkup. For most people, these fears are minor. But when fears become so severe that they cause tremendous anxiety and interfere with your normal life, theyre called phobias.

A phobia is an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, highway driving, flying insects, snakes, and needles. However, you can develop phobias of virtually anything. While most phobias develop in childhood, they can also develop in later life.

If you have a phobia, you probably realize that your fear is irrational, yet you still cant control your feelings. Just thinking about the feared object or situation may make you anxious. And when youre actually exposed to the thing you fear, the terror is automatic and overwhelming. The experience is so nerve-wracking that you may go to great lengths to avoid itinconveniencing yourself or even changing your lifestyle. If you have claustrophobia, for example, you might turn down a lucrative job offer if you have to ride the elevator to get to the office. If you have a fear of heights, you might drive an extra 20 miles in order to avoid a tall bridge.

Barbaras fear of flying

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Potential Mechanisms Of Persistent Fear In Experiential

Fears vs. Phobias: What’s the Difference?

Studies on the conditioning of fear in phobias indicate that fear is high in phobic compared with nonphobic subjects. However, there are studies indicating exaggerated general conditionability in phobia , while in other studies there was either no general conditionability or exaggerated conditionability only with phobia-related conditioned stimuli . The authors also found that phobic subjects display higher amygdala activation in response to the phobia-related conditioned stimulus than to the nonphobia-related conditioned stimulus. In another study, the authors found a stronger conditioning effect in flying phobia. Particularly, compared with healthy controls, patients with flying phobia rated conditioned stimuli more frightening. , using facial expressions as socially relevant stimuli, but no disorder-unrelated unconditioned stimulus, found that only phobic patients, when compared with healthy controls, develop conditioned fear. In an earlier study , aversive conditioning was performed using neutral faces as conditioned stimulus and an unpleasant odor as unconditioned stimulus. Despite the lack of an enhanced conditionability in the phobic group, extinction was impaired .

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When Does Fear Become A Phobia

Fear may be a phobia when you experience overwhelming anxiety that doesnt match your true level of danger. When you have a phobia, just thinking about your fear can trigger sudden and intense anxiety.

A phobia usually causes fear of a specific object or situation. It may also lead you to spend a lot of time worrying if youre going to run into your fear. You might go out of your way to avoid anywhere you might encounter it, even if this limits your life.

For example, someone living with a flight phobia may experience debilitating anxiety when they board a plane. As a result, they may choose to only travel within driving distance. This avoidance can lead to various problems, such as not being able to perform work activities or see family who live far away.

In general, phobias can cause symptoms like:

  • Sweating

What Are The Types Of Phobias

There are different types of phobias. In this post we will focus on specific phobias. A specific phobia is an ongoing fear of a certain object or situation. Up to 15% of people worldwide have a specific phobia.

Below are some of the most common types:

  • Animals, such as a fear of snakes, dogs, or spiders

  • Environmental, such as fear of heights, water, or darkness

  • Situational, such as a fear of going to the dentist or flying

  • Bodily, such as a fear of blood or needles

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The Difference Between Phobia And Fear

Psychologists often make a distinction between fears and phobias. A fear is an emotional response to a real or perceived threat. Fears are common in the population and are often normal — or at least innocuous — reactions to objects or events. For example, many people fear spiders — they experience a mild to moderate anxiety reaction when they see one.

A phobia is similar to a fear with one key difference: the anxiety they experience is so strong that it interferes with their quality of life and/ or their ability to function. Whereas many people fear spiders, only a small subsection of the population will meet criteria for a spider phobia. People who have a spider phobia often spend considerable time worrying about spiders, spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring they do not come in contact with a spider, and will avoid places and activities in order to avoid spiders.

Making a distinction between a fear and a phobia is useful because they are qualitatively very different problems.

Similarly, we can make a distinction between being afraid of rejection and being phobic of rejection. Whereas most people are at least mindful and vigilant for rejection , there is a subsection of the population that would be considered rejection phobic. While these two groups — fearful and phobic — obviously share some commonalities, they are fundamentally different groups.

Re-arranging your day and even your life to avoid being near a harmless spider is extreme and unnecessary.

You Have Serious Physical Symptoms

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Every once and a while, getting scared is going to make your heart race. But if you live with a phobia, these sorts of physical symptoms are more common â and more intense.

“Whenever an experience or the sight of something triggers rapid breathing, nausea, anxiety, trembling, a sense of terror, and a total fear of losing control, that’s a phobia,”Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a licensed clinical psychologist, faculty member at the Columbia University Teacherâs College, and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, tells Bustle.

These uncomfortable physical symptoms can lead to even more stress, if you want to avoid your reaction to the fear stimulus, as well as the stimulus itself. Luckily, these physical symptoms can be mitigated with the help of a therapist or other mental health professional.

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How To Get Diagnosed

One of the first things to determine is how your specific fear or phobia impacts your life. The good news is, you dont have to figure this out alone.

During your psychological exam at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health, Dr. E can determine if you have a fear or phobia. We can also diagnose and treat co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety.

You Avoid Reminders Of The Thing Not Just The Thing Itself

Another way to examine whether your fear is something more is to ask yourself: “Can I handle media that includes this thing?” In general, phobias exist even when the stimulus isn’t physically present.

“Fear tends to be reactive and protective when the threat is present, whereas a phobia is something that may persist even when the feared stimulus is not present,” Dr. Durvasula explains. ” generalizes to even non-noxious forms of the feared stimulus.” In everyday life, this could look like avoiding like elevators or protected observation decks if you have a fear of heights. In more serious cases, it could also include being scared of images of the thing you’re afraid of, or being afraid of even talking about it. Again, if this is the case for you, it’s worth it to talk to a professional about how the fear might be affecting your life.

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Treating Phobias With Technology

The treatment of phobias is going high-tech as well, with virtual reality being used as a tool in helping people overcome their anxieties.

“Virtual reality is the other newer treatment being used for phobias,” says Wilson. “It’s three to four years away from being used on a broad basis because the equipment is so expensive to use, but there are four or five places in the U.S. that are using it today.”

The University of Washington is one institution that uses virtual reality , coupled with real life, in treating phobias. According to a news release, “Researchers at the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology Lab measured aversion and anxiety responses of students, some of whom had a clinical phobia of spiders, before and after undergoing VR therapy. During the therapy, some of the subjects touched a realistic model of a large spider while grasping a virtual one.”

The combination of fact with fiction worked: Those students were able to come twice as close to a real spider after completing three therapy sessions, and reported a greater decrease in anxiety during treatment, than those who underwent VR therapy alone.

Phobia And Fear: Arent They The Same

What Is The Difference Between A Fear And A Phobia

Before going into more detail on the main differences between the concepts of fear and phobia, it becomes necessary to briefly describe the two terms.

First, it is understood by the fear of the emotion that manifests itself in a situation that can be threatening for the individual. Normally, in most cases where it does appear, it does so almost naturally, without the need to first know about the threatening situation. Others, on the other hand, learn from experience which situations to fear, as they can jeopardize the integrity of the person.

Fear, like all the emotions that make up the broad human emotional spectrum, has a very important adaptive function, being its goal. ensure the survival of the individual.

Phobias, on the other hand, are seen as unadjusted patterns of behavior. They involve a very high degree of fear, too much for the stimulus they are afraid of. The causes of this phobia can be anything and are usually acquired, either by trauma or by proxy learning.

Many psychologists consider, from the point of view of psychoanalysis, that the origin of phobias occurs during childhood, especially at the phallic stage . At this stage, the child develops a strong anxiety about the experience of an unpleasant event.Forcing you to apply a very powerful self-defense mechanism which will eventually be the phobic disorder.

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Getting Help For Fear And Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are associated with many mental health conditions. These feelings of most often linked to anxiety disorders, such as specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Approximately 20% of U.S. adults experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder during any given year, and women tend to experience these symptoms more often than men. Because of this, experts now recommend that all women over the age of 13 should be screened for anxiety conditions. If you are having symptoms of fear and anxiety that have become unmanageable, make an appointment with your doctor.

Your doctor will consider your current symptoms and your medical history to help determine a possible cause of your fear and anxiety. From there, expect your doctor to make a diagnosis or refer you to a specialty treatment provider for further assessment. Once diagnosed, you can start on a treatment plan that can assist in reducing and controlling your fear and anxiety.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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