Fear is an emotion. It is generally induced when the subject perceives a threat. Phobia is the Greek word for ‘fear’ and can be defined as the “excessive or unreasonable fear of an object, place or situation.
The difference between fear and phobia
Does that mean that fear and phobia are one and the same? The answer, according to experts, is NO. There is a subtle difference between what is fear and what can be termed as phobia. The main difference lies in the intensity and severity of the emotions experienced in fear and phobia.
Consider the following example:
It is dark, and you are out for a walk. Suddenly a dog jumps on you and bites you. What do you feel? Pain, fear, shock and terror. But will you turn into a dog phobic? The answer is probably not. Imagine for an instance the dog went away or was restrained. Naturally, your fear would subside. However, there are people who have a phobia towards dogs (and that is termed as Cynophobia). In such people, the memory would be relived over and over and the person would be afraid of all dogs, including small poodles, and the great big Danes. He or she would keep thinking of the situation again and again.
In short: Phobia is the heightened form of fear. The Phobic person often tries to fight his phobia leading to greater form of anxiety and also experiences extreme fatigue in the process.
Simply put: Phobia = Fear²
What are different types of phobias?
There are several types of phobias. The common types of phobias can be divided into ‘simple’ phobias or ‘social’ phobias. Simple phobias mainly include fear of specific types of objects, insects or situations such as the fear of flying. Social phobias includes the types of phobias like marked fear of social or performance situations.
How do phobias start? What are the signs and symptoms?
Phobias are very common and may sometimes develop in childhood itself. Traumatic events, anxiety or panic causing situations can trigger the onset of a phobia. Symptoms include:
- Racing heart
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort in chest/abdomen
- Intense fear that may lead to embarrassing oneself
- Passing out
Phobics try very hard to avoid the triggers of their phobia.
How to cope with various types of phobias?
Cognitive behavior therapy can help a phobic:
- Confront the situation
- Deal with his/her frightening thoughts
For example, a person with the fear of spiders is encouraged to read up on spiders, touch their pictures, touch a jar containing the spider , touch the rubber models of spiders and so on, until the individual is able to pick up a large spider.
Therapists also encourage the phobic to write down frightening thoughts along with rational thoughts. For example: people with fear of heights can write:
- I fear I will fall from the building
- And counter this statement by saying: I have stood here several times and nothing of the sort has happened
Everyone is afraid of something
Consider the following points if something frightens you:
- There are several different types of phobias and some are arguably worse than others.
- If you are suffering from any of these phobias, you are not alone. Approximately 10 percent of Americans are known to suffer from at least one type of phobia.
- If your phobia is interfering with your normal life, i.e., you are avoiding situations which matter or are experiencing extreme anxiety, sweating or trembling etc, then there are several counseling approaches that can help you.
For more information on different types of phobias, see the comprehensive phobia list.