Phobia vs. fear—there is a difference. Sometimes only a mental health professional can tell us what we are experiencing.
Trigger warning: The images may trigger those with specific phobia.
Sometimes, we tend to casually talk about things that we are afraid of as phobias. However, in psychology, a phobia is something that produces an excessive and irrational fear or compulsive reaction in us. If someone has a phobia, they could experience a deep sense of dread or panic when confronted by it. The phobia can be about a place, situation, or object, according to Healthline.
People can have a range of responses to phobia. From annoyed to feeling disabled, some can even have symptoms like panic when coming face-to-face with something that triggers their phobia. People have reported reactions like pounding or racing heart, shortness of breath, rapid speech, inability to speak, nausea, tightness in the chest, and more.
There are many common phobias that afflict people and if you are affected by any of the images below, you could have a possible phobia. Talking to a psychologist or local social worker can help you find a solution or management techniques.
If you are scared of large crowds, open spaces, or being trapped outside the home, you could have agoraphobia. Those who have it tend to avoid social situations and prefer staying home. If you're one of them, you could be afraid of having a panic attack in a place you can't leave from. It also manifests in other ways. For example, people with chronic health problems could be afraid that they will need urgent medical care in a public area and that they won't be able to find help amidst a crowd. It can affect normal life if you find it hard to carry on regular tasks, like avoiding train stations or subways. The symptoms can be reduced with therapeutic techniques, medications, or a combination of both.
If you are scared of flying to your next destination, you could have aviophobia. There could be many reasons for your fear of flying, including a bad experience or a traumatic episode that someone close to you experienced. It could also be that you feel out of control, which is a common anxiety trigger. If your fear is irrational and combined with fear of enclosed places, it could also be claustrophobia, according to Healthline.
Are you triggered when you look at lizards or snakes? Perhaps, the creepy reptiles tick you off with their scaly skin or how they slither around. If that is so, you could have herpetophobia—fear of reptiles. It is a common phobia and the severity can differ, which is why a mental health professional will be better able to diagnose if you are just fearful or phobic. The symptoms can vary from person to person, and it can express itself in many ways like an inability to enter a pet store with reptiles or refusing to continue walking in a park after spotting a garden lizard. People with this phobia might find it hard to go camping, hiking trips, or engage in other outdoor activities. You could scream, cry, or hyperventilate if you see it unexpectedly, according to Very Well Mind.
Does the idea of touching something touched by others make you sweat? Do you shy away from grabbing doorknobs and handles or stay away from public washrooms? If you are afraid of catching germs from others, you could have germophobia or mysophobia. It is commonly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but can affect others, too. Those who have it might feel compelled to wash their hands excessively and use other precautions against contamination, reports Psycom.net. Those who have this phobia are likely to have anxiety and depression in the family. Some people could develop it after trauma or as a result of their anxiety.
People who have a fear or disgust of closely-packed holes could have trypophobia. They are likely to feel queasy when they see surfaces that have tiny holes close together. For example, the head of a lotus seed pod or the body of a strawberry or honeycomb. This is not officially recognized as a phobia, and there aren't many studies on it. However, it is likely to affect those who struggle with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), as per a 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. The study found that this phobia is connected with "significant psychological distress and impairment." Most of the participants were "more likely to meet DSM-5 criteria for specific phobia than for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptom severity and duration were associated with functional impairment."