A phobia can be described as an irrational fear of something. It stems from the subconscious mind and, as such, cannot be controlled by willpower. It is no good asking the sufferer to think logically about the thing that is the focus of the phobia. For instance, if seeing a rat causes a severe negative reaction, being confronted with a pet rat and being told its tame will not ‘cure’ the phobic reaction to other rats. The sufferer is not using the logical brain when they react to whatever it is that triggers them.
Is this the same thing that we call fear? They are definitely related, but fear of something does not impact on our lives in the same way that a phobia does. I could be fearful of bugs but push myself to pick one up and let it fly out the open window. A fear usually responds quite easily to interventions from a therapist.
Phobias are a little more complicated and require the use of uncovering techniques. At some point an event, or series of events happened which triggered the subconscious mind into action. The subconscious mind is there to protect us but must decide what is dangerous and what is not. Let’s go back to the bug scenario. If I’d picked up a wasp to release outside and it had stung me, then my subconscious may well produce a strong phobic reaction any time I see a wasp. I may or may not even remember the initial event where I was stung, but it is logged by the subconscious as a dangerous situation to be in and so a lifelong over reaction to wasps may occur. Uncovering techniques can get to the bottom of a phobia and reprogramming of the subconscious can begin.
So does it matter if what we have is a fear or a phobia? It’s all a matter of degree I suppose, but once it impacts on your life in a severe way then getting to the bottom of it may be a great relief.