Facing just the fear of extreme fear can be scary in and of itself, whether you’re addressing it personally or trying to help someone else. However, there’s a major difference between fear versus having a visceral and deep-rooted reaction of terror that never goes away and tangibly impacts your life. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re dealing with a phobia or a fear.

Fear vs Phobia: How Can You Tell the Difference?

Age Makes a Difference

If you’re an older person, chances are you won’t develop a phobia you’ve never experienced before. According to Medical News Today, phobias develop in early childhood or teenage years, but very rarely manifest after age 30. If you’re trying to determine whether your child has a phobia or just a fear, it can help to visit a provider for Allen family counseling and talk to a professional. Whether the person in question is you or your child, though, the bottom line is how the fear manifests and is handled. If you’ve had the same phobia your entire life and it doesn’t appear to be going away, seeking the help of a counselor for yourself can be a good idea. Phobias function similarly for adults and children, but always begin early on.

Fear vs Phobia: How Can You Tell the Difference?

The Science Behind Fears and Phobias

One of the biggest differences that define the split between fears and phobias is the science behind their origins. Newsweek describes the biology behind fears and phobias as the former being an evolutionary response that ties into survival, whereas the latter emerges as a so-called irrational emotion. However, that isn’t to say that irrational equates with invalid. For example, you may find certain things unnerving that are commonly feared, such as snakes. This fear can be attributed to an ages-old instinctual response to flee since so many poisonous snakes are lethal. On the other hand, if you’re terrified of domesticated cats to the point you can’t even be around one without having a breakdown, yet have never had a negative experience with one, that’s more likely a phobia.

Fear vs Phobia: How Can You Tell the Difference?

Symptoms of a Fear Versus a Phobia

According to Very Well, unlike fear, phobias trigger not only physical responses such as shaking and trembling, but a sense of fearing fear itself. In other words, you become so terrified of the thing you’re afraid of, that just the idea of engaging in the fear sets you off, becoming a feeling that doesn’t go away. A regular fear, on the other hand, is something that may bother you in the moment, but that once you can get past and is over, you can stop thinking about. For example, regardless of age, anyone can become frightened if they’re exposed to constant terrifying content, such as watching too much news. Becoming hung up on current events which are generally frightening is much different than having a phobia of current events.
There are psychological modalities to help treat fears and phobias. Addressing a phobia usually requires professional intervention to learn coping mechanisms and help unravel where a phobia might come from. Finding one of the Dallas-area counselors who can treat this condition is a step in the right direction, whether it’s for you or a loved one. Don’t let your fear or phobia get the best of you, especially if you’ve tried to combat it yourself and failed. Enlist the help of a professional today to understand if what you’re experiencing is a fear or phobia, and learn how to address it in a functional manner.