Fear is a natural response caused by real danger. For example, we are all scared of coming face to face with a wild, hungry animal, and fear is a survival instinct which warns us against certain things or situations. A phobia , on the other hand, is an irrational fear of an object or situation that causes little or no danger. For example, arithmophobia (fear of numbers) may cause certain individuals anxiety, but the fear itself won’t cause any danger. Phobias are linked to our subconscious, and because they are irrational, they can often be dealt with effectively.Phobias are extremely common and range from the less well-known i.e. asymmetriphobia (fear of asymmetrical things) to the more commonly recognised dentophobia (fear of dentists). There will usually be strong avoidance behaviour connected with the phobia, and feelings of anxiety, loss of control and panic. Sufferers usually know their fear is irrational, but they cannot control it.Some common examples of specific phobias are closed-in places, spiders or a fear of flying. It is a fear of a particular thing rather than just extreme fear.Social phobia is extreme anxiety and discomfort in social situations. Fear of being watched and judged by others is overwhelming and although those suffering are aware that they are acting irrationally, they are unable to control and overcome their fears. Social phobia can vary from fearing just one situation to fearing all situations involving other people. Social phobia also usually begins in childhood or adolescence.Phobias often begin early in an individual’s life and may occur for a number of reasons. It seems phobias can run in families; however whether this is hereditary or simply learned behaviour is unclear. For example a child may learn a phobia by observing a family member’s reaction to an object or situation. Traumatic experiences and brain chemicals are also believed to influence the development of phobias.
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