Living with Phobias: Types and Influences

Table of Contents


A feeling of fear is a normal reaction to possible danger or threat yet it is important to differentiate natural fears from phobic and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Phobias are irrational and uncontrollable fears that lead to severe anxiety and cause discomfort in the daily life of an individual. Phobias do not just bring a temporary uneasiness but are often accompanied by physical sickness and panic attacks. The impact of persistent fears may differ according to specific conditions and the circumstances of each person. Certain kinds of phobias may have a seriously destructive effect on the lifestyle of an individual and need professional treatment. This paper aims to define what types of phobias have the most harmful effect and with which anxieties a person can coexist.


It is common for all human beings to experience fear. Usually, it is a feeling of danger or threat from a particular item or situation. Normal fears do not have a significant impact on a person’s life, and it is important to differentiate them from phobic and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Phobias are irrational fears that a person cannot explain or control. Certain kinds of phobias may have a seriously destructive effect on the lifestyle of an individual and need professional treatment.


A phobia is a strong, sudden, and obsessive fear of a particular item or a situation. Encountering the source of fear may result in extreme anxiety and even a panic attack. Individuals who are conscious of their phobias usually try to avoid potentially stressful situations. Phobias can originate within various dimensions, such as biological, psychological, social, and sociocultural (Sue, Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2013, p. 130). Marks (2013) defines two classes of all phobic states according to their source: external stimuli and internal stimuli (p. 105). Other scholars consider that phobias can be divided into three main categories: specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia (Sue et al., 2013). A social phobia is a deep fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in public. This type of phobia can develop in families where parents often shame their children and attach importance to the opinions of other people. The second type is a specific phobia. It is expressed in deep, persistent fear of particular objects, like spiders or rats, and certain situations, like being buried alive. The third type, agoraphobia, involves a fear of being outside on your own, being in crowded places, and using public transport. People with this phobia experience anxiety in places that they cannot quickly escape in case of an emergency.

Although fears are common among children, they constitute an essential part of the growing-up process and clinical phobias among them are rare (Emmelkamp, 2012, p. 2). Adults are more exposed to anxieties. Typically, individuals with phobias recognize that their fears are exaggerated and irrelevant to reality, yet this recognition does not help to cope with emotional distress and prevent panic attacks.

Phobias in Real Life

Such disorders as phobias might be very damaging to an individual and his or her quality of life. The impact of persistent fears may differ according to the specific condition and circumstances of each person. According to Buchanan and Coulson (2012), specific phobias are treated as less influential “on a day-to-day basis than social phobia and agoraphobia” because they imply “feared situations that are part of everyday life” (p. 9). The level of discomfort depends on how often a person has to encounter the stimulus. Having a specific phobia usually makes it easier to avoid the source of concern. Fear of flight would result in using trains and buses where possible. Those who are anxious about seeing blood are less likely to study medicine. An office worker with agoraphobia who lives in New York and has to use public transport to get to work would suffer much more than a farmer living in a rural area. A person with a fear of poisonous Australian spiders would lead a comfortable life if he or she resided somewhere in Europe.

If an individual that suffers from social phobia does not live in a small, remote village, he or she is likely to experience distress daily. Such fear may put significant limits on a career choice if a person wants to get a job in show business. However, if the occupation allows this person to work as a freelancer, then he or she would only face difficulties in socializing and attending cultural events. They might lead an indoor life and go out only with friends, as being alone in public places like cafes, cinemas, or clubs might attract too much attention. Those who suffer from social phobia always see public attention as a potential source of disapproval or criticism. Low social skills make it challenging to meet new friends, get involved in relationships, or start a family. As well as social phobia, agoraphobia may result in isolation and loneliness. Such people become very dependent on their family members and friends as they are not able to take certain responsibilities that come with adult life.


Fear is a normal reaction toward a possible menace and is familiar to all people. However, deep and constant fears are considered phobias and may cause serious inconveniences to a person’s everyday life. These fears might be an obstacle to self-fulfillment in professional and social spheres. Most of the people who suffer from phobias have a chance for recovery but only if they consult a professional.


Buchanan, H., & Coulson. N. (2012). Phobias. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (2012). Phobic and obsessive-compulsive disorders: theory, research, and practice. Luxemburg, Luxemburg: Springer Science & Business Media.

Marks, I. M. (2013). Fears and phobias. New York, NY: Academic Press.

Sue, D., Sue D. W., Sue, S., & Sue, D. M. (2013). Understanding abnormal behavior (10th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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