By: Celine Chin

Image Credit: Flickr @ stuart anthony

Many of us have fears: whether it be a fear of heights, spiders, blood, or something else, these fears can actually affect us more than we think they do. For example, a fear of heights could deter you from standing on an apartment balcony that is high up, or you might be afraid of flying and therefore refuse to go on a plane because you feel terrified. From anxiety to extreme reactions even when there is no serious threat, extreme fear is known as a phobia; a variety of phobias exist, and they can range from fears of specific places, situations, or things.

Not all phobias are severe for everyone; for some, they can simply be annoying but extremely disruptive for others. As a result, it can be tough to tell whether we have perfectly normal fears or if these fears have already developed into phobias. So when is a fear considered a phobia? Well, the person experiencing the fear must react with a response great enough that it causes a great interference in their daily life. It must also persist for more than six months in order to be considered a phobia.

There are also psychological and physical symptoms that one may experience due to a phobia. Although not everybody will be experiencing the exact same symptoms, generally the most common indicators of a phobia are feeling extreme fear and anxiety when coming across instances that one is afraid of. Psychological symptoms may include feeling out of touch with your body and being scared of fainting, loss of control, or death when encountering situations that you are afraid of. Phobias can also cause physical symptoms such as sweating, a faster heart rate, dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Experiencing these symptoms can cause some people to be stressed, frightened or feel embarrassed. Because of this, some try to avoid dealing with their fears. However, this can result in developing even stronger fears that can affect your everyday life negatively.

Although it is hard to determine whether there is a sole cause for phobias developing, there may be multiple things that can contribute to it. For example, specific events that have caused trauma from the past can cause phobias. Somebody who was bitten by a spider as a child might end up developing arachnophobia, which is an intense fear of spiders. Another thing that may also contribute to the development of a phobia is genetics. Research studies suggest that some people are more susceptible to having phobias due to their genes. Someone’s environment may additionally play a role: if a child has a family member diagnosed with anxiety disorder, he or she can have a higher chance of having a phobia.


Q: What is a phobia and when does it become a phobia?

A: A phobia is an intense, extreme fear that has the ability to cause anxiety and interference in our daily lives. It is not simply a fear, as it must last at least six months and cause a response that is great enough to disrupt day-to-day life.

Q: What can cause a phobia?

A: Some things that can cause a phobia are past traumatic events, genetics, and the environment.




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