Fear vs. Phobia: What’s the Difference?

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fear or phobia

A few days back me and friends were discussing what we are fearful of in our lives. Well, we left the conversation with some unknown insight for each other, which was fun. But there was one highlight point of the entire conversation that was- Do I have a fear or phobia? People often get confused between the two words.

So, I thought of wearing my psychologist hat on and helping everyone out there to be able to differentiate between the two words FEAR and PHOBIA.

But, wait! Before we begin, how about a small activity? Make a list of your fears and phobias.

Let us start now.

Fear Vs. Phobia

We often use these two terms interchangeably however, they do not necessarily mean the same thing.

fear and phobia

Fear is an emotional response and one of the primary emotions that we feel in face of danger or anger. It is a primitive emotion that alarms us for possible danger in our environment, thus protecting us. We can say that fear is a healthy response that prepares us for flight-or-fight.

To learn more about phobias, check our other blogs.

Phobia is an anxiety condition. Herein you will be experiencing fear but it is more likely to be irrational, causing some form of impairment. According to DSM-5 phobias are marked with fear or anxiety that is persistent and even the mere thought of it can elicit a fearful response. Generally the response

According to Wilson, the author of the book Don’t Panic, “Phobias involve the experience of persistent fear that is excessive and unreasonable.”

To learn more about phobias, check our other blogs. 

Difference Between Fear and Phobia: A Table at Glance

fear and phobia differences

Fear vs. Phobia and FAQs

1. Do I have a phobia or fear?

The best way to know whether the stimulus that brings out a fearful response from you is a result of your fear or phobia is by consulting a mental health professional. But I would like to share my secret checklist with you, that will give you clarity.

Think of a stimulus that elicits a fear response in you. Now ask yourself these three basic questions and be honest with yourself.

Does the fear eliciting stimulus make my heartbeat go fast or do you sweat by the mere thought of it?

Would you avoid entering a situation where the fear stimulus is present (placed far away from you)?

Can’t you stand the thought or a picture of the object or event that makes you feel fearful?

If your answer to these questions is YES then, it is more likely to be a phobia condition.

2. Will my fears turn to phobia?

Not all fears turn to phobia. However, if a fearful situation is accompanied by emotions that are difficult to deal with, to the extent where it gives it anxiety, then it is likely to develop in a phobia. To simplify it, if a fear stimulus elicits anxiety and starts to interfere in daily functioning it can be called phobia.

3. What one is a more severe fear or phobia?

Considering the fact that fear is a common and primitive emotion, whereas phobias are mental health conditions, it should be valid to say that phobias are more severe than fears. However, it is advised to work on your fears and not let them cause any form of impairment in your life, so that they do not take a form of phobia.

4. Can I have both fear and phobia?

Yes! Honestly speaking most of us do have both phobias and fears. You can have fear of running late to work and getting scolded by your boss. You can have a phobia of spiders. Both of them can co-exist together. Generally, the list of fears is likely to be longer than the one of phobias.

We hope now you know the clear difference between fear and phobia. Now, check the list that we asked you to create at the beginning and see what changes can be made there. Have some of your phobias shifted to fear list or is it the opposite? Do share your experience with us in the comments section.

Note: If you are facing trouble dealing with your phobias, we would recommend you to connect with a mental health professional. They can help you learn effective coping strategies that will conquer your phobias.

Thank you for reading!

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