What’s The Difference Between A Reasonable Fear And A Phobia? |
A lot of us have a problem with the word ‘phobia’, and it’s not hard to see why. Perform a Google search for the word ‘phobia’, and you will be presented with the definition: “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.”
If you suffer from an intense fear of something that doesn’t trouble most other people – such as being overtaken by a lorry on the motorway, or walking into a restaurant – describing it as an “extreme” fear may seem reasonable enough.
But what about “irrational”? Now, there’s a controversial word, if ever there was one...
Who Decides What’s An “Irrational” Fear And What Isn’t?
This is something that many of those to have previously turned to me for Anxiety Counselling In London have asked me, and it’s an interesting question. If there is a certain fear of yours that you believe to be a phobia, even if you manage to overcome that phobia, you may still practice avoidance behaviour in other situations that are not inherently dangerous.
This is where I may well offer to a client of mine a fresh perspective on what would truly put them in peril. They may say that it’s reasonable to completely avoid walking through a particular neighbourhood because a crime in the area has been reported in the local newspaper,seeming to confirm their fearthat they will become a victim of crime. I could suggest that the reason the newspaper reported on the crime was because it was actually a rare occurrence. In other words I might think differently – but can I ask my clients simply to trust my judgement? If they truly believe their fear to be reasonable, they won’t trust my judgement, and in any case, because I too am human, I won’t always be right so why should they take my word for it?
So, What’s The Answer To This Quandary?
The best way to resolve a difference of opinion as to whether something is a reasonable fear or a phobia, is to talk about it with others. You could share your view with friends – although it is important not to present your fear in such a way that they feel obliged either to confirm or dismiss it; that would leave you in much the same position as when you started.
For example, were you to ask your friends whether they get startled by lorries unexpectedly rushing past them on the motorway, they may well say that yes, sometimes they do. However if instead you asked them whether they actively fear any lorry driving past them on the motorway, or avoid the motorway altogether for fear of a lorry ever driving past them, you will likely get a different – and potentially more helpful – answer.
Alternatively you could consult a professional, such as myself, who is experienced in the Treatment Of Phobias. Together we will seek to understand how what might have started out as a reasonable fear turned into a phobia and then work out what can be done to reverse that process so that you are no longer so desperately anxious.
Because they are so strongly attuned to bad things happening, dangerous circumstances can become exaggerated in the mind of the phobic so that their fears are seemingly confirmed by events most other people consider insignificant.
There’s much else that I could say on the subject of reasonable and unreasonable fears, but alas, I’ll have to leave you for now. In the meantime, here is some food for thought in the form of another poem of mine.
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