Fear is a completely normal emotion; however, some people experience an intense fear of something that is not dangerous, known as an irrational fear or a phobia. For most people, their irrational fear is minor, but for some, the fear is so intense that it causes extreme anxiety and interference with their life.
Symptoms of an irrational fear become so overwhelming that the person may feel as though they have a heart attack. Phobias can affect people of any age, and the fears can include places, people, activities and things. What is your deepest fear? Below you will learn more about the most common types of irrational fears and how to overcome the fear.
What is Fear?
Fear works like an instinct. From the time you are an infant, your body is naturally equipped with the necessary instincts for survival. These instincts allow you to respond with fear when you feel unsafe or sense danger.
Fear is a basic human emotion that protects you, alerts you to danger and prepares you to deal with the danger. Like all human emotions, fear can range from mild to intense, depending on the person and the situation.
What Causes Fear?
When you feel unsafe or sense danger, your brain instantly reacts and sends signals that activate your nervous system. Once the nervous system is activated, it causes a variety of physical responses, such as rapid breathing, increased heartbeat and a rise in blood pressure.
The blood pumps to various muscles that help prepare your body for physical activity, such as fighting or running. Your skin begins to sweat, which is a response that keeps your body cool. Some people experience physical sensations in their legs, stomach, hands and chest.
This physical response is called “flight or fight” because your body is preparing itself to either run away or fight off the danger. This physical response will remain until your brain receives messages that all is safe, and it will then turn off the flight or fight response. Fear is often triggered by something unexpected or startling, not dangerous, such as a loud noise. This is because the reaction of fear is instantly activated.
Irrational Fear Definition
Irrational fear is the aversion, dislike or strong abnormal fear of something, someone or someplace that is typically not dangerous. So, the definition of irrational fear means that despite reassurance and the awareness that the situation is not dangerous, your body reacts with a flight or fight response. Irrational fears are also known as phobias.
What is a Phobia?
Phobias are the intense fear of something, someone or someplace that, in reality, poses little to no danger. The list of irrational fears is extensive, some more common than others. Most phobias typically develop during childhood; however, they can also develop during adulthood. When you have a phobia, simply thinking about the situation or object you fear can cause anxiety. If you are exposed to fear, your terror becomes automatic and overwhelming.
The experience of fear is so overwhelming that you will go to great lengths to avoid the situation, which typically means a change in lifestyle and or inconveniencing yourself. For example, suppose you have a phobia known as claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces).
In that case, you may avoid going to the mall during holidays because the crowds make you feel closed in, or if you have a fear of heights, you may drive several miles out of your way to avoid going over a bridge.
Common Irrational Fears
The irrational fears list is extensive; however, some of the most common phobias include:
- Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving home. Agoraphobia can range from mild to severe. If the person experiences mild agoraphobia, they can occasionally leave their home as long as a family member or friend is with them. However, in severe cases, the person cannot leave their home because they feel their home is the only safe place for them to be.
- Social phobia is the fear of people. Those with social phobia are typically fearful of being embarrassed in front of others. Social phobias are also known as social anxiety disorders and are among the most common phobias (affecting about 15 million people) among men and women.
- Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. Arachnophobia is common among children and may be the cause of childhood nightmares. However, children typically outgrow this fear. When the fear of spiders follows you into adulthood, it typically will not go away without treatment.
- Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Someone with acrophobia becomes terrified in situations like going across high bridges and going out on a balcony in a high-rise building. Acrophobia typically begins in childhood but will continue into adulthood.
- Claustrophobia, the fear of closed spaces, often develops after a traumatic childhood event, such as being trapped in a small closet.
- Mysophobia, the fear of germs, is an extremely common anxiety disorder. Mysophobia is often related to other problems, such as hypochondria and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The symptoms of mysophobia include obsessively washing and the fear of public spaces because of the risk of being contaminated with germs.
- Paruresis, also known as shy-bladder phobia, is one of the most common irrational fears in children and adults. Paruresis is the fear of urinating in public bathrooms. In some situations, the fear is so extreme that it interferes with the person’s ability to travel, work, and school.
- Necrophobia is the fear of death. Most people have a slight fear of death because it is unknown. However, some people have an intense fear of death, dying and dead things. In some situations, people who have necrophobia also have phobias, such as claustrophobia and acrophobia.
- Most people don’t like bugs, but sometimes children and adults have an extreme fear of bugs. What is the fear of bugs called? Entomophobia is sometimes referred to as insectophobia, including bugs, insects and terrestrial animals, such as a worm.
- Do you get anxious when you have to give a speech? What is the fear of public speaking called? Glossophobia is one of the greatest fears among both children and adults. The symptoms of glossophobia are typically so severe that you become fearful of speaking while in small crowds as well as large crowds.
- Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightning. Most children fear thunder, especially if they are in bed for the night. A dog’s fear of thunder is also common and may result in the dog whimpering and shaking uncontrollably. If your dog fears thunder, it is recommended that you try to keep him near you until the storm passes, as it can often be extremely traumatic to a dog. Fear of lightning and thunder is not limited to children and dogs; adults can also have an intense fear of thunder, resulting in a severe anxiety attack.
- Zoophobia, which is the fear of animals, is common in children, adults and even dogs. A child who has zoophobia will typically outgrow the fear when they start school. However, in some situations, the fear will affect you through adulthood. There are several causes for zoophobia, but typically it is due to a traumatic event, such as being bitten at an early age.
- What is the Fear of Being Alone Called? One of the most common irrational fears among children is being alone. What is the fear of being alone called; monophobia. Monophobia is the fear of solitude and is as common in adults as in children. Someone who has monophobia is unable to stay alone anywhere.
How to Overcome Irrational Fears
Understanding the difference between “normal” fear and irrational fear is important. What is fear, and when is it irrational? Fear is irrational when the fear is caused by a threat that is nonexistent or exaggerated. For example, when you are riding a roller coaster, and you experience anxiety or “excitement” when you get to the top of the hill, just before going down, it is a normal fear.
However, if you avoid going to school or work out of fear of falling from a bridge you have to travel across, it is irrational. Irrational fears anxiety is so intense that it interferes with your daily activities and the symptoms are so overwhelming that you do whatever is necessary to prevent them. Fortunately, treatment is available to help you learn what fear is “normal” and overcome irrational fears.
Read More Phobias Related Articles:
- Understanding Xenophobia in Today’s World
- Types Of Phobias
- Weird Phobia
- Autophobia or Fear of Being Alone
- Tokophobia or Fear of Getting Pregnant
- All About Athazagoraphobia
- What is Ablutophobia?
When a phobia interferes with your ability to lead a normal life, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. One of the most common treatment types for phobias is cognitive behavioural therapy or talk therapy.
In some situations, a combination approach to treatment may be necessary, including medications and therapy. You should seek outside help if your fears cause intense panic and anxiety. You recognize that your fear is unreasonable, you avoid certain places and situations because of your fear, your fear disrupts your daily routine and if you have had the phobia for at least six months.