Fear, phobia or anxiety – what’s the difference?

As humans we are biologically wired to be scared of certain things. These are normally things that will cause us grievous bodily harm, think snakes and spiders. Fear serves to protect us by signalling danger and kicking our ‘fight or flight’ response into gear.

We are all scared of different things and experience fear at different levels of intensity – for some people seeing a snake will make them cautious and move slowly away whereas someone else may be paralysed with fear. So, how do you tell the difference between a fear and a phobia, and for that matter, anxiety?

A Fear

Fear is a natural, emotional response to the threat of real danger. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat to one’s safety.

Anxiety

Fear should not be confused with anxiety, which is very similar to fear but usually occurs without any external threat. With anxiety you anticipate a future danger. Anxiety can be mild, such as being slightly nervous before and exam; or intense. Mild anxiety can motivate you to act, for example by studying for your exam. Intense anxiety, however, can cause you to avoid a specific situation. Sometimes anxiety can be out of proportion.

A Phobia

Phobias are best described as an intense or irrational reaction to something or a given situation. The sufferer often experiences feelings completely out of their control. Once made aware, a sufferer will actively ensure that they never find themselves in any situation that could trigger a phobic reaction.

While phobias vary in severity from person to person, some people can experience panic attacks which can be incapacitating. Most people know that their feat is irrational, but they feel powerless to stop it.

Treatments such as hypnotherapy are very effective in treating phobias as they can help change perceptions of what it is that scares us. Along with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Hypnotherapy can help to gradually desensitise the person to the fear producing object. Relaxation and visualisation techniques usually accompany hypnotherapy and help to form new emotional habits such as being calmer and more relaxed; helping to neutralise the impact of fears and phobias.

If you find yourself being limited by a fear or phobia, you might like to consider an effective, non-invasive form of treatment such as hypnosis. If you’d like to find out more about hypnotherapy, contact us today.

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