Just What is a fear and what is a phobia - Explained!

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CrimsonRed

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Jun 17, 2016
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#1
Hi folks,

Many people do not know how to establish the difference between an extreme fear, and a phobia. So I thought I would explain, as it may help you understand how to overcome these in a more productive manner. Both create extremely distressing responses, often unwanted feelings, anxiety, panic to name a few. However in our minds, both are processed a completely different way :)

A phobia is a chemical response to a given stimulus or stimuli in my opinion. For example a person with a bird phobia would not be able to appproach a bird, watch bird videos, see bird pictures without freaking out. Quite often a phobia is learned from parents (not always the case) or another close person around you, as you have seen how they react to a given stimulus during your younger years, and therefore associated that reaction to the stimulus. Often these can seem irrational, but are not to the person experiencing them.

A Fear however I like to describe as below:

Future Events Appearing Real

Basically a fear is a perceived response to a given stimulus, a potential of what may happen, rather than it actually happening. Often people avoid the given stimulus for the fear of a repeat episode. Many people experience this after a bad episode involving a TYPE of the given stimulus.

For example

A person with a FEAR of dogs. As a child they had a bad experience with a dog in some form, a dog that they did not know... Queue fear of unknown dogs, dogs that they do not know how they will react, because every time they see a dog they do not know, they freak, react, scream, run. They do not know that the dog will react differently to the last time.

However

Queue family dog, a dog that you have grown up with and you know how it behaves, and its general demeanor. You are calm and composed around this dog, as you have been around it for some time, you know it will most probably not attack.

So in conclusion, a fear can be JUST as scary as a phobia, often very extreme and frightening, however a fear is more a perceived expectation.

I do hope you have found this useful <3
 
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A

Allinthemind

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#2
Going by your definitions:

Are you saying that there are no chemicals involved with a fear? (Aren't thoughts created by chemical reactions?)

Are you saying that a phobic person does not have a perception of their situation/object/response? How would they know that they ought to avoid it then? Is that not a perception of an anticipated response?

I have had patients who have their own dog but have a had phobia of all other dogs ("they freak out"). How would your definitions explain that?
 
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CrimsonRed

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#3
Hi Allinthemind.

Not at all, at some level or form there is a chemical reaction in both a phobic and a fear response. I never stated that a phobic doesn't.

As for patients that have their own dog, how do they react around their dog? Do they freak with it also? If they had a full blown phobia, they wouldnt even be able to be around their own dog. I merely explained that they obviously know the temperament of their dog, where as an outside dog which they don't they perceive that potential threat.

I hope this explains further.

P.S - Good to see your a hypnotherapist. I am too :)
 
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Allinthemind

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#4
Repeated question that you didn't answer:

Are you saying that a phobic person does not have a perception of their situation/object/response? How would they know that they ought to avoid it then? Is that not a perception of an anticipated response?

Re dogs: They are comfortable with their own dog but panic around other dogs. So what is their phobia? I notice you used the term "perceive" which you asserted as being a necassary part of having a fear, but didn't include this in your phobia definition.
 
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CrimsonRed

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#5
Hi Allinthemind

Im not sure if you are wanting to goad or somewhat, and apologise if i missed your question.

Not at all, of course they have a perception. However when it comes to a fear, you cannot in anyway compare the two.

For example a phobia, a person is exposed to a given stimulus, instantly remembers that first time and freaks, runs, avoids. Therefore avoids any contact whatsoever in any shape or form to a given stimulus to avoid anxiety, panic etc.

As for fears, it is a perception of what may happen again, or a repeat of a previous time. However the panic would not happen around a dog that they know because obviously they know its temperament.

Happy to clarify further should this be needed, however i feel i have explained this enough.
Crimson
 
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CrimsonRed

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#6
Also Allinthemind if you feel my information i have provided is incorrect I would happily love your steer and thoughts on the subject and the differences from your perspective :) As many believe they are the same, when actually they are very different :)
 
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Allinthemind

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#7
There is no attempt to goad, my aim is to discuss. Discussion is useful to explore and reclarify one's own definitions (this is helpful for me). Forums are often used for this purpose.

Would the phobic "remember the first time" when given the stimulus? With a phobia is it not the severity of the conditioning that makes the response more automated? As if the prior negative learning is so "hardwired" that there is an absence of negotiation with a response.

(No offence intended, I am happy if you do not wish to discuss this further.)
 
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CrimsonRed

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#8
Absolutely Allinthemind,

Maybe i read the term "Repeated Question that you did not answer" the wrong way. Its been a long day :)

Your explanation is probably a little bit more on point that my own, and maybe this question and my own post needs to be rewritten more clearly.

I related to a famous quote relating to Hebbs law - "Neurons that fire together, wire together"

Every time a person is exposed to that stimulus, it further becomes ingrained, therefore strengthening their reaction to that stimulus.

For me its more of a point of distinguishing why a fear isn't a phobia and visa versa.

Purely on the basis of a dog fear, if a person had a phobia of dogs, they couldnt be around any dog regardless. Where a fear is more a thought of something that might happen to a dog which they do not know (often i know this can not be the case and then the situation changes).

Ive always found this to be the case in previous clients :)
 
A

Allinthemind

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#9
A patient will arrive with their definition of their condition which, through the process of discussion and clarification, you can reach into their perceptions to treat them (fear or phobia).

So with the dog patient, their fear (of other dogs)/trust (of their own dog) becomes a potential reference to reframe their "distrust" of other dogs.
 
A

Angela Swope

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Jul 25, 2019
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#10
Hi,

My name is Angela I am from London I'm also afraid of heights. I have trouble sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed, running on an elevated track, and standing on my third-floor balcony.

In the case of the height phobic, this process has become specific to heights, and detection of bodily sensations and interpretation of them as threatening is channeled into negative thoughts related to heights: “I will lose my balance.

However, my fear has become less potent lately. Earlier this summer, I took a vacation in Las Vegas. I went the fourth tallest building in the United States. There's a ride at the very top where you're strapped in a chair and go all the way up and down very quickly. After crying for about ten minutes, I was finally convinced that I should go on this ride. I was afraid of that ride initially, but once I got on I found it rather enjoyable.

The outcome of this experience was very positive. I now know that I can be very high up and still be physically safe. When fear threatens to overcome me, I remember that I was on top of that building and overcame one of the strongest fears in my life in that one moment.
 
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