The difference between normal fear and phobia is very real. Phobias come is several different forms and while some are common and well recognized, others have rarely been heard of. However, whatever the phobia may be, it is guaranteed that the individual experiencing it is living with intense and irrational anxiety and fear.
Some of the most common phobias involve animals and insects such as spiders and snakes, natural disasters, lightning, heights, viewing blood, germs, injuries, and injections such as people who faint at the sight of a needle. The fear of flying is another common phobia that has gotten worse since the tragedy of 9/11. The list of specific fears is endless – there is even an officially recognised fear called Phobophobia which is described as the fear of being afraid!
The list of phobias is extensive; however, in order for a fear to be defined as a phobia the fear must cause the individual some sort of impairment. For instance, some people are so afraid of spiders that they stop going outside in the dark because they can’t see them.
The Difference Between Normal Fear And Phobia
Fears Versus Phobias:
Psychologist and Psychiatrists often make a distinction between phobias and fears. They describe fear as being an emotional response to either a perceived or real threat. Typical fears are fairly common in our population and are a normal reaction to events and objects. As an example, individuals who fear spiders will experience a mild to moderate reaction of anxiety when they see one. In reality, fear is an adaptive human response that serves as a protective purpose that activates the fight of flight response in humans.
Phobias are very similar to fears except for one major difference: The anxiety the individual experiences is so powerful that it interferes with their ability to perform their usual day to day activities, their ability to function normally, and their overall quality of life. About 10 percent of the population will experience a phobia at some point in their lives.
When someone experiences a true phobia, they will spend an inordinate and excessive amount of time making certain that they avoid whatever it is they fear. The level of fear they experience is above and beyond the probability they will come into harm’s way. Rearranging your schedule and your lifestyle to avoid a harmless spider is extreme and unnecessary.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of a Phobia:
1. Dizziness or light-headedness.
2. Pounding or Racing heart.
3. Difficulty breathing.
4. A sour or churning stomach.
5. Hot or cold flashes and tingling sensations.
7. Chest pain or tightness
8. Shaking or trembling
Emotional Signs and Symptoms of a Phobia:
1. Feeling detached from yourself.
2. Feeling of overwhelming anxiety or panic.
3. Feeling an intense need to escape.
4. Fear of losing control or going crazy.
5. Knowing that you’re overreacting but being powerless to control the fear.
6. Feeling like you’re going to pass out or even die.
While we don’t understand or know the exact cause of phobias or where they originate, they are a form of mental illness. It is understood that genetics play a role, as well as the environment, which means that an individual may have had a previous traumatic experience related to their phobia.
When treating phobias, therapy and self-help strategies can both be effective and will depend on several factors that include how severe you phobia is, the amount of support you need, and what type of insurance coverage you have.
Self Help Treatments
One of the most effective ways to treat and overcome any phobia is by gradually and repetitively expose yourself to your fear in a safe and controlled environment. This will teach you to ride out the fear and anxiety until in inevitably passes. With each passing exposure, you will begin to feel increased confidence and more control until the phobia begins to lose its power over you.
Another method is to make a list of frightening situations related to your particular phobia and arrange them from the least scary to the most. Start facing the fears with the least scary item first and work your way down the list; the more time that you’re exposed to the item or situation that you’re afraid of, the less anxiety and fear you’ll experience the next time you’re faced with it.
Whatever your phobia is, keep working at it and don’t give up; many people work for months to overcome a phobia. Why not consider one of the many self help treatment programs available on the market today – find the best one for you: