Difference Between Fear and Phobia

Difference Between Fear and Phobia

It is highly important to differentiate fear and phobia from one another since they are comprised of various qualitatively different issues. In fact, fears are nothing much to worry about but phobias should be dealt properly since they can have a huge impact on one’s life and mentality in hundred and one negative ways. The main difference between fear and phobia is that fear is a feeling felt by everyone whereas phobia is a specific medical condition. 

Difference Between Fear and Phobia - infographic

What is Fear

Fear is a very common feeling each and every one of us experiences at some point in our life. It can be defined as an emotional response to a real or perceived threat. It is not abnormal to feel little anxious when doing certain activities in our day to day life, like walking on a bridge, looking down a hill or sitting next to a chair with a spider on its arm. For most of the people, these episodes of fearful sensations are temporary, easily handled and more importantly they do not need medical help.

Main Difference - Fear vs Phobia

What is Phobia

Phobia is a form of anxiety disorder, which refers to excessive and persistent fear of objects and situations which do not carry real threats. This condition is associated with intense feelings of anxiety which is intense enough to interfere ones day to day activities and the quality of life. Unfortunately, they are permanent and very difficult to be handled until being treated.

The etiology of phobias is known to be linked with genes, gender, brain chemicals, bad childhood memories, and traumatic events in the past.

Phobias are categorized into 3 main entities namely, specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Specific phobia refers to the fear one develops related to a specific object or situation like dogs, spiders, snakes, elevators, heights, etc. Few of the well-known specific phobias are named as, Acrophobia, the fear of heights, Aviophobia, the fear of flying, and Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Some phobias are very common while some are rarely heard of, but the affected person lives his life full of fear and anxiety.

Social phobia, which comes under anxiety disorders mainly includes people who are reluctant to interact with the society. They would not avoid crowds but try their best to stay away from conversations and interactive behaviors with others.

Agoraphobia, which refers to people who fear to leave their familiar territory, find it very  uncomfortable to stay among an unfamiliar crowd since it is a nightmare for them to think of  becoming helpless in case of a panic attack or medical emergency. They rather prefer staying at home either with a trusted companion or alone.

But people with above-mentioned phobias will have most of their time and energy, consumed on worrying about the situations and objects they are scared of. For example, many people may fear snakes, but only a minority of them will meet the necessary requirements for it to be called a phobia. Individuals who are suffering from snake phobia will spend most of their time worrying about snakes and try their best to avoid situations and activities in which they might come into contact with snakes. (E.g.: they will never ever visit the snake section in the zoo). This will result in the reduction of one’s individual performance, efficiency and quality of life. Also, in cases, where these people come across the object of fear, they become highly distressed and panic. Tachycardia, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even panic attacks are some of the negative impacts, documented.

Although there is no exact treatment to overcome fear, phobias should be dealt carefully since it can result in poor quality of life. The main treatment for phobias includes cognitive behavioral therapy, where affected individuals are taught and to manage their fearful feelings during insecure situations and modify their thoughts and attitudes.

Difference Between Fear and Phobia

Claustrophobia : Irrational fear of confined spaces

Difference Between Fear and Phobia


Fear is a common feeling experienced by everyone.

Phobia is a form of anxiety disorder, which refers to excessive and persistent fear of objects and situations which do not carry real threats.


Fear can be felt by anyone when faced with an unknown or dangerous situation.

Phobia will cause irrational fear that will consume most of your time energy and time.

Signs and Symptoms 

Fear can be characterized by nervousness, anxiety, discomfort and distress.

Phobia can cause tachycardia, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even panic attacks.

Medical Intervention

Fear does not need medical intervention.

Phobia needs medical help.


Fear cannot be overcome by any treatment. 

Phobia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Image Courtesy:

“Claustrophobia IV” by Laura Lewis (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Scared Child at Nighttime” By D Sharon Pruitt (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia


About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music