Several emotions have overlapping meanings and are classified under one branch of emotions. This creates confusion and becomes difficult to distinguish the emotion. Two such common emotions are fear and phobia.
Table of Contents
Both the emotions are related to anxiety but have distinct differences between them.
Fear vs Phobia
The main difference between fear and phobia is that Fear is triggered by real threats or danger while a phobia is triggered by imaginary aggravations and is irrational. Is generally a mild to moderate kind of anxiety while a phobia is very high anxiety or excessive fear.
Fear is a natural and universal emotion. It is protective against any potential threat. Fear causes a stimulus of anticipation or risk that may be involved in the present or future.
Fear can be experienced into two major categories that are – avoidance or flight and immobility.
While a phobia is a disorder of anxiety that is caused due to excessive and persistent fear about a situation or an object. The severity and intensity of phobias differ among individuals. Phobias are also classified as irrational fear.
Comparison Table Between Fear and Phobia
|Parameters of Comparison||Fear||Phobia|
|Etymology||Fear is associated with the word danger||Phobia is associated with the word terror|
|Types||Fear can be divided into two major types – innate fear and learned fear||Phobia can be further divided into three types specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia|
|Rationality||It can be rational or irrational||It is usually unreasonable and irrational fear|
|Response or symptoms||Fear can lead to responses like confrontation, escape, avoid, horror, or freeze response which is known as paralysis||Powerlessness, dizziness, panic attacks, persistent fear|
|Definition||It is an emotion that is caused due to a trigger of imminent threat or danger||It is excessive fear or anxiety about a specific situation or object which may or may not pose a danger|
What is Fear?
Fear is an unpleasant emotion that is caused due to a trigger of threat or danger. The emotion can be very intense and cause psychological changes.
It may also cause a change in the behavioral responses such as aggression or fleeing from the trigger of threat. Fear causes a stimulus of anticipation or risk that may be involved in the present or future.
Fear can lead to responses like confrontation, escape, avoid, horror, or freeze response which is known as paralysis. The emotion is modulated by cognition and learning. So the emotion can be rational or irrational depending upon the cause.
Fear is considered as the antonym of courage which is declared as incorrect by various scholars.
Fear is often categorized with the occurrence of a fight or flight response. It is an innate response to cope with danger.
The response can increase muscle tension, heart rate, cause vasoconstriction, and even piloerection commonly known as goosebumps. Fear can be divided into two major types – innate fear and learned fear.
The behavior of fear can vary for every species but is mainly experienced into two major categories that are – avoidance or flight and immobility. In humans, the part of the brain involved to decipher fear is the amygdala.
It further communicates between the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, hypothalamus, thalamus, sensory cortex, septum, and brainstem.
What is Phobia?
Phobia refers to a disorder of anxiety that is caused due to excessive and persistent fear about a situation or an object. The term phobia is derived from the Greek word “photos”, which signifies fear, aversion, or even morbid fear.
Different phobias are irregularly named using the Latin prefixes. Phobias can also imply hatred or dislike towards something, and not fear. Example – Chemophobia, Xenophobia, Islamophobia, and even Homophobia.
Phobia can be further divided into three types – specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Specific phobias are caused due to certain natural environment situations, animals, injury, blood, or any particular situation.
It can also be related to a negative experience with a situation or object in childhood. Social phobia is caused due to fear about a situation and worrying that others would judge the person.
Agarophobia is induced due to fear from a situation that is difficult to escape from.
Some various medications and treatments are prescribed for every particular type of phobia. Like specific phobias are treated with exposure therapy and medications are not quite useful.
While social phobia and agarophobia can be treated with a combination of counseling and medications. The medications that are used are antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers.
The treatments which are used in phobias are exposure therapy, medications, and counseling. Phobias can increase the rate of suicide. The severity and intensity of phobias differ among individuals.
Phobias are also classified as irrational fear. Phobias are most prevalent among the age group of 10 to 14. The onset of phobia can be rapid and can last for ages. Phobia can cause fainting, panic attacks, injury, or even paralysis.
Main Differences Between Fear and Phobia
- Fear is a natural and normal emotional response that forms a protective part while a phobia is excessive, irrational fear, and is not normal.
- The cause of fear can be an imminent threat or danger while the cause of phobia can be childhood trauma, genetic reasons, dysfunction in the brain circuits, or other unknown reasons.
- Fear is not a type of anxiety disorder while a phobia is a type of anxiety disorder.
- Fear does not require diagnosis or treatment while phobia may require a diagnosis or treatment.
- Fear does not occur when the source of threat or danger is not present while phobia persists even when the source is not around and can last for months.
Emotional responses are often grouped and labeled together. However, similar reactions may be different from each other in terms of source, duration, instinct, and management ability. Two such similar emotions are fear and phobia.
Both the emotions are related to anxiety, but fear is a natural response and phobia can be a disorder. The different type of fear does not have different terminologies while every type of phobia has different terminology.
Fear is universal in every species. Knowledge about the differences between both emotions can help in the identification of the emotion easily.
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