Difference Between Fear and Phobia

Fear vs Phobia

Human beings display a vast number of emotions. Happiness, sadness, excitement, fear are some of the many such emotions conveyed by human beings at different times according to different situations. Human beings are also subjected to many psychological conditions and phobias are one amongst many such psychological conditions diagnosed by psychologists around the globe. However, due to the similarities displayed between the two it is often seen that these two words are sometimes used interchangeably. Therefore, in order to use these two words in the appropriate contexts, one must know the differences between them first.

What is Fear?

Induced by threat, fear is an emotion experienced by living beings that affects the brain functions and which in turn causes a change in behaviour. Fear occurs in response to certain stimulus occurring in the present or in the future, perceived as a risk to life, health, security, power or anything valuable. Fear induces various reactions in human beings such as running away, freezing, hiding etc. They arise from the perception of danger leading to either avoiding the threat known as flight response or confrontation of the cause of fear. In extreme cases, this can lead to paralysis or freeze response, as well. Fear is a natural emotion driven by the process of learning and cognition. Fear can be judged as rational and appropriate as well as irrational and inappropriate.

What is Phobia?

A phobia can be categorized as a type of anxiety disorder where the sufferer shows a persistent and irrational fear of an object or a situation, going to great lengths to avoid it, typically disproportionate to the actual danger posed by it. If the situation cannot be avoided entirely, it has been noted that he or she will endure the situation with great distress that significantly interferes with occupational or social activities. The term phobia is usually discussed in terms of social phobias, specific phobias and Agoraphobia. Social phobias include discomfort in crowded areas or persistent fear of public speaking whereas specific phobias include arachnophobia which is the fear of spiders or acrophobia, fear of heights. Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving a familiar area such as home and the panic attacks that may be triggered by this act. However, phobias such as xenophobia transcend and overlap many such categories.

What is the difference between Phobia and Fear?

Fear and phobia are two interrelated words that often go hand in hand. However, the differences between these two words prevent them from being used as synonyms for one another.

• Fear is a normal human emotion triggered by threatening conditions. A phobia is an anxiety disorder.

• A phobia is an irrational fear where the reaction of the sufferer in avoiding the said cause is grossly disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the object or the situation. Fear is a rationalized and justified emotion that comes in response to a threatening situation.

• The reaction caused by fear can be managed. The reactions triggered by phobias are usually extreme and cannot be controlled.

• A phobia can be treated medically. Fear cannot be and should not be treated medically.

  • Josie

    Where did your sources from this article come from? – College student

  • Marcus Kildare MD

    So if you see two guys smoking each others sausage on a park bench, is that a phobia or fear or is that just plain disgusting?