Fear vs. Phobia: The Rationale Of Irrational Fears

Radhika Apte’s film ‘Phobia’ deals with irrational fears; but where do phobias come from?

3 min read

Buttons and pickles, closed spaces, open spaces, small holes, spiders, heights, being left alone - turns out everything is terrible and can scare the heebie-jeebies right out of you.

Actor Radhika Apte’s intense, psychological thriller, Phobia, hitting the big screen this weekend deals with agoraphobia - the irrational fear of open spaces. While the trailer made us scream and want to crawl to safety, the fact is that phobia is a misunderstood term.

According to studies, phobias affect nearly 10% of all adults in the world but a lot of people people use the term ‘I am afraid of’ in the same breath as ‘I’m phobic to’ - the two aren’t interchangeable. It is perfectly okay to be fearful of a thing (or four), what is not okay is to loosely use the word ‘phobia’ or confuse it with every irrational fear you have.

Also Watch: An Expert Psychiatrist Decodes ‘Fear’ From ‘Phobia’

Fear Does Not Curdle Your Blood Like Phobia

Radhika Apte’s film ‘Phobia’ deals with irrational fears; but where do phobias come from?
Phobias are not a sign of weakness or immaturity (Photo: iStock)

I get this a lot - someone in the elevator will be like, “ Argh, I’ve a phobia of small, claustrophobic spaces.” Well, I’ve news for you -if you are already on the elevator then you do not have a phobia.

Fear is a good thing. It is one of our basic, uncomfortable emotions which will stop you from drinking and driving or jumping off the cliff after a heartbreak. This is your body’s way of preparing you for a fight or flight situation.

But a phobia on the other hand is much worse, it is life-limiting or life-altering.

Phobias are irrational, debilitating. The difference between fear and phobia is that the anxiety you experience in phobia is so strong that it interferes with the quality of life and/or the ability to function. Often times phobias are linked to a traumatic events in the past, if untreated they can push you in clinical depression. Go see a psychiatrist today if you suffer from these symptoms.
Dr Zirak Marker, Medical Director, Mpower Centre

The most common phobias include, the fear of:

Clusters or beehive like patters
Social situations
Blood, injections, and other medical procedures
Certain insects or animals (snakes, spiders)
Enclosed spaces
Large things

Phobias open you up to a little bit ridicule. Imagine cancelling on your best friend’s party or other social gatherings for the fear of catching germs. People will not treat you very pleasantly for this but chiding and ridiculing cannot help treat a phobia because most people who have phobias struggle with their brains to overcome it on a daily basis.

What Happens In Your Brain In a Phobia

Radhika Apte’s film ‘Phobia’ deals with irrational fears; but where do phobias come from?
The good thing is phobias are totally treatable with professional counseling and medication (Photo: iStock)

Phobias are not a sign of weakness or immaturity or weakness or lack of will power. They are a real biological condition which involve many regions of the brain. This could happen for a number of reasons, like a traumatic event during childhood, genetics, anxiety.

Scientists have now found that a glitch in an almond-shaped portion in your brain, called amygdala, gives rise to many phobias. Scientists still have to work out the details of how this happens so they can fine-tune the treatment.

In 2015, researchers have also found the ‘fear gene’, which prompts our everyday shivers and even our all-consuming terrors. These two scientific updates also mean that we might be able to control phobias one day.

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