What is fear?

It is one of the seven feelings that everyone can experience. When one perceives injury to their bodily, emotional, or psychological well-being, it manifests. It is possible for the harm to be imagined or genuine.

Difference between fear and anxiety

Fear is a reaction to flee from specific or dangerous situations while anxiety is an excessive fear without a particular trigger. Both can occur together but they are different. Anxiety is a reaction to emotions and rotational danger. Fear is a functional reaction, it preps your body on how to react to danger while anxiety is excessive and dysfunctional, as it can be triggered by various stimuli at once. Similar to anxiety, another term used interchangeably with fear is a phobia. These two terms are similar but phobia is exaggerated fear.

Symptoms of Phobia

Fear is the root cause of phobia but when fear becomes uncontrollable and in the way of a person’s normal lifestyle, it has become a phobia and might need urgent medical care. Symptoms of phobia include:

  • Uncontrollable anxiety when scared
  • Feeling the need to stay away from the source of the fear
  • Knowing how irrational your reaction to the fear is and still not having the ability to control it.

Types of fear

Fear of different things like objects and situations is classified as a phobia. Phobias can, however, be acquired/learned, unlike fear which is based mainly on instinct and triggered by real danger. Phobias also create extremely high anxiety levels and are usually caused by perceived and mostly unreal dangers or threats. Even though phobia is used interchangeably with fear, it is a form of anxiety disorder and it sometimes triggers a panic attack. It is advisable that if a person begins to develop a fear of an unspecific, unrealistic, or unknown situation, they seek medical intervention.

Scientists have been able to group phobia into 3 broad categories.

  1. Specific phobias: These kinds of phobias are simple and related to specific objects or situations. Mostly developed at a younger age and it can get better with age. Examples are fear of dogs, water, needles, height, or fear of tight spaces
  2. Social phobias: this is an extreme fear of public embarrassment that results in total avoidance of social situations.
  3. Agoraphobia is a more severe kind of social anxiety. Due to their dread of becoming trapped in a busy or public place without a clear exit, people who suffer from this type of phobia frequently find themselves chained to their homes.

Common symptoms of phobias are:

  1. Sweating
  2. Trembling
  3. Chest pain can occur from a very high anxiety level
  4. Difficulty in breathing or convulsing is also a common symptom
  5. Rapid heartbeat
  6. Dizziness
  7. Panic attack

Causes of phobia:

  1. Genetic: research has revealed that persons who have relatives who suffer from phobias are more likely to develop them themselves. This is an environmental component that can cause a very young person to develop the phobia. A youngster may gradually develop a subliminal fear of something if they repeatedly witness a family member becoming terrified anytime they are near it.
  2. Trauma: Phobias may arise as a result of early experiences such as discovering a large spider in your bed or experiencing spider bullying. This aspect is not just related to childhood tragedies. A person’s life can experience trauma at any time. Due to the trauma of being humiliated in front of others when they were in high school or university, some adults struggle with social anxiety.
  3. Learned phobias: Similar to picking up a phobia from a family member, watching other people go through a phobia can lead to you learning them. For example, watching your sibling run away from dogs or scream when they are spiders can cause you to develop fear for those things as well.
  4. Mental disorders: a change in brain function can cause a person to experience phobias.

Common examples of phobias include:

Fear of heights – aerophobia

Fear of flying – aerophobia

Fear of good – agoraphobia

Fear of spiders – arachnophobia

Fear of public speaking-Glossophobia

Fear of dirt and germ -Mysophobia

Fear of social humiliation/embarrassment -Sociophobia

Fear of sleep- Somniphobia

Fear of dogs – Cynophobia

Fear of injections – Trypanophobia

Fear of germs – Mysophobia

Treatment of phobias

Overcoming fear begins with admitting and understanding the fear. Even though can be stressful, there are treatment options for most phobias and many can be cured.

  1. The easiest option seems to be, avoiding every possible source of fear. However, this is not possible for every type of phobia though, and would only escalate your fear.
  2. Therapy: there are various therapy options depending on the kind of phobia you are experiencing
  3. Self-help therapy: you can practice certain exercises on your own that can help you face your fears and get over them. These exercises include relaxation exercises, breathing exercises (to help you relax whatever you are experiencing anxiety), and visualization exercises (this is done outside of your anxiety/panic attack. It involves imagining how you would rather act whenever you experience heightened fear/anxiety).
  4. Psychotherapy: a person can consider seeing a doctor if their phobia is beginning to interfere with their daily activities. A medical practitioner will be able to diagnose and recommend the appropriate therapy to help overcome or manage the fear.
  5. Use of Medications

Some medications can be prescribed by a medical practitioner. Examples of those drugs are Beta blockers that are used to reduce the physical signs of fear that come with anxiety like increased heartbeat, muscle tension, profuse sweat, and so on. Another class of medications used for the treatment is antidepressants to help put the patient in a better mood by increasing their serotonin levels. Finally, we have tranquilizers that are also used in the treatment of anxiety symptoms.

6. Exposure Therapy.

This kind of therapy is the direct exposure of the patient to the source of their fear to help improve their response to them. For example, a person who is scared of driving would first be made to think about themselves driving, then they will be taken to watch a person drive, followed by having them seat in the car while someone else drives before eventually making them drive. This is similar to other phobias as well, they are not exposed to the sources of their fears immediately but they are taken through several other steps to help them feel more comfortable by the time they are faced with the actual source.


Fear is a normal feeling or reaction to danger or threats, whereas, a phobia can result in being scared when you are not even in danger. Knowing the difference between the two will give you a better understanding of whether to get professional help or not.