Phobia is a derivative of the Greek word “phobos”, meaning fear. It does seem however, to have two different definitions. Here are a couple of examples: a) an extremely intense and overwhelming sense of fear with regard to a specific stimulus or b) an intense dislike or hatred of something.
Here are a couple of examples: Arachnophobia is an intense fear of spiders. I know a few people that have this particular phobia and I find it quite disturbing to watch just how they react upon sighting one. This reaction can even present itself when they view a picture of one or see one on TV. It’s obvious that spiders cause them a great deal of discomfort.
Homophobia is a fear of homosexuals. Here we see a different interpretation of the word phobia. In this case it means an intense dislike or hatred toward homosexuals rather than an intense and overwhelming fear that would invoke terror in the heart of the homophobic.
So, what is the difference between a phobia and a fear? Most people have fears of one kind or another. Fears of: examinations, speaking in public, etc. etc. In fact, I have a fear of public speaking. A couple of times in my life, I’ve been asked to stand up in front of a crowded room and give a talk on a specific subject. As I recall, just prior to walking out onto the stage, my hands started to sweat, I felt anxious and my legs turned almost to jelly. These feelings are normal and, once I got out there and into my stride, I started to feel good and, as I did, the anxiety along with my sweaty hands and jelly legs disappeared. Now, if I had a phobia about speaking in public, then, wild horses wouldn’t have got me onto that stage in front of all those people.
How do I know this? Well, I was agoraphobic for twenty odd years and I have first-hand experience of what it feels like to have a phobia. To give a very brief definition, agoraphobia is a fear of panic attacks. Having experienced several panic episodes whilst travelling, I eventually gave up going outside altogether and became housebound.
Until quite recently, phobias were incurable. The only relief that could be offered was in the form of medication but, under normal circumstances, this would only be administered if the phobia were such that it restricted the sufferer’s life. However, nowadays there is a system that will allow a person to overcome their phobias and take back control of their life once more. I used this system to say goodbye to my panic attacks and agoraphobia for good.