Sybil Shaibu column: Fear or Phobia?


Fear and phobia are two emotions that have been used interchangeably for so long that, many people tend to assume they mean the same thing. There’s the need to understand the difference so as not misuse them. We must understand that human as we are, there’s nothing wrong if you experience these anxiety emotions one time or another.

Fear is a natural emotion that protects people from harm when they face real and imminent danger. Usually fear is something good as it warns people when things are getting dangerous, it’s our personal alarm system. However, if the fear induces anxiety, which causes a loss of control, panic attacks or paralysis then there is an anxiety disorder, the most common mental illness of our time.

People fear things or situations that make them feel unsafe or unsure. A fear can be healthy if it cautions a person to stay safe around something that could be dangerous. People tend to avoid the situation or things they fear. But this doesn’t help them overcome fear. Avoiding something scary reinforces a fear and keeps it strong.

People can overcome unnecessary fears by giving themselves the chance to learn about and gradually get used to the thing or situation they’re afraid of. Fear is partly down to your genes, but this process changes as you grow older.

Fear and anxiety are influenced by many genes, there is no such thing as a simple “fear” gene that is inherited from one generation to the next. The genes controlling neurotransmitters and their receptors are all present in several different forms in the general population. Is fear innate or learned? Most fear is learned, these are called natural fears, developed at a young age, influenced by our environment and culture.

A person may experience one fear or the other, these common fears are known as the seven deadly fears. The fear of….

  1. Being alone.
  2. Being abandoned.
  3. Self assertion
  4. Lack of recognition
  5. Failure and success
  6. Being fully alive

Have you experienced any of these fears?

Phobia on the other hand is an excessive fear or anxiety related to specific objects or situations that are out of proportion to the actual danger they present. The difference between fear and phobia lies in the normality of fear versus the abnormal features of a phobia. The three types of phobias are Specific phobia, Social phobia and Agoraphobia. Social phobias are the most common type of phobias.

The cause of phobia is unknown but experts assert that there are environmental and genetic factors linking specific phobias. Research suggests that phobias can run in families, and that both genetic and environmental factors can contribute to developing a phobia.

Our uniqueness as humans transcends in all areas, even with the fears and phobias we experience. Never down play someone’s emotion as weird, what is weird to you is not to another.

So you think your fear is weird……let’s take a look at some interesting phobias:

  1. Athazagoraphobia is a fear of forgetting someone or something, as well as a fear of being forgotten.
  2. Agoraphobia-Fear of open spaces.
  3. Aviophobia/Aerophobia-fear of flying
  4. Claustraphobia-fear of enclosed spaces
  5. Entomophobia-fear of insects
  6. Ophidiophobia-fear of snakes
  7. Cynophobia-fear of dogs
  8. Autophobia/monophobia-fear of being alone
  9. Trypanophobia-fear of needles
  10. Mageirocophobia-fear of cooking
  11. Heliophobia-fear of the sun
  12. Pseudodysphobia-fear of swallowing/choking.
  13. Philophobia-fear of falling in love.
  14. Geliophobia-fear of laughter
  15. Ablutophobia-fear of bathing, cleaning or washing.
  16. Cibophobia-fear of food
  17. Brumotactillophobia-fear of touching food
  18. Nyctophobiafear of night or darkness.
  19. Nomophobiafear of not having mobile phone access.
  20. Hemophobiafear of blood.
  21. Allodoxaphobia-fear of opinions.
  22. Spectrophobia-fear of mirrors and one’s own reflection.
  23. Chorophobia-fear of dancing.
  24. Optophobia-fear of opening one’s eyes
  25. Didaskaleinophobia-fear of going to school

How is fear & Phobia treated?

Early diagnosis is important. It’s important to be able to make the diagnosis as early as possible. With early therapies, an anxiety disorder can be treated. Treatment is usually based on an individually tailored psychotherapy, which is accompanied by drug therapy if symptoms are severe. Be it fear or phobia, never underestimate such emotions they can be detrimental to your mental health.

Leave a Reply