A Simple Test Will Reveal Your Deepest Fear

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How to Tell if Your Fear Is a Phobia

Two Parts:

It’s normal to experience fear, and most people have at least one or two irrational fears. However, sometimes fears can turn into phobias and begin to interfere with your normal living. A phobia is an intense fear of something that actually poses little or no immediate threat.If your fears are greatly impacting your life and daily decisions, you may want to look into the possibility that you have a phobia. The good news is that phobias can be effectively treated through therapy.


Recognizing the Impact of Your Fears

  1. Ask how the fear affects your daily life.It is normal to have fears, but a fear may be abnormal if it disrupts your daily activities. Depending on severity, you may organize your life around your phobia. For example, if you are afraid of driving in the snow, you may miss work or school regularly if you live in a snowy city. Your day-to-day life may become restricted.
    • For example, if you have a fear of insects, you may avoid social situations that take place outside and begin avoiding the outdoors altogether.
  2. Identify whether your fear is excessive.It’s normal to experience fear. Many people are scared of snakes or spiders or heights. Your fear may be excessive if it’s an unreasonable response, meaning that others do not respond to the same severity as you.You may recognize that your fear is over the top, yet feel no power to change it.
    • For example, you may have an intense fear of wolves, even though wolves do not live near you. Seeing a wolf at a zoo might make you want to run, or seeing a picture of a wolf may fill you with fear.
  3. Consider your impairment from your fears.You might be scared of flying but still fly when you need to go somewhere. Perhaps you get nervous during take-off or when there’s turbulence. If you have a phobia, you may experience impairment such as worrying about your flight for weeks beforehand, losing concentration, or canceling your flight altogether.You may not attend your best friend’s wedding across the country because of your fear of flying.
    • Your fear may cause you to miss out on enjoyable or meaningful moments. For example, if you fear leaving your house, you likely isolate yourself and cut yourself off from people.
  4. See how you react just thinking about the fear.For some people, the mere thought of something can cause fear, anxiety, and physical responses.If you have a fear of dogs, you might be okay thinking about a dog or reading a book about a dog. If you have a dog phobia, you may fear dogs on a leash at a distance, flinch at pictures of dogs, or avoid going places thatmighthave dogs, like the park or on a hike.
    • What is it like to think about your fear? Does it make you nervous just to think of it? How does your body respond to these thoughts? Does your heart rate increase?

Identifying Signs of a Phobia

  1. Recognize common phobias.While you may develop a fear in response to almost anything, some phobias tend to be more common than others. Animal phobias are common, and might include feeling fearful of dogs, snakes, spiders, or bears. Other common phobias involve environmental fears such as heights, water, storms, or the dark. Some phobias involve specific situations such as flying, driving, going over a bridge, or being enclosed in a small space. People sometimes develop body or medical phobias such as fear related to needles, blood, illness, or injury.
    • Some phobias are not easily categorized. For example, many people are fearful of clowns or of getting cancer.
  2. Know the physical signs of a phobia.Having a phobia is mostly categorized by experiencing physical and/or psychological reactions that can affect your ability to function effectively.However, there are some physical symptoms that can occur as a result of triggering your phobia. You might experience difficulty breathing, feeling light-headed or dizzy, sweating, shaking, racing heart, or hot or cold flashes.
    • Your body may respond to the perceived fear in a hyper-aroused manner.
    • Generally, the closer you are to the thing you’re afraid of, the more intense your symptoms may be.
  3. Identify the emotional symptoms of a phobia.Phobias are considered to be an anxiety disorder, so many of the symptoms will be experienced as anxiety, even if you do not experience anxiety outside of the situation.Your fear may cause an intense emotional reaction. For example, you may feel detached from yourself, strongly desire to leave the situation, feel like you’re about to die, or know that you’re overreacting yet feel powerless to control your response.
    • If you are scared of heights, you may feel like you will die or that you need to move immediately if you come near a ledge.
  4. Ask yourself if your fear causes panic attacks.Some phobias are so severe that they can cause panic attack symptoms.Some people believe they are having a heart attack or dying when they experience panic symptoms. You might experience heart palpitations, tingling fingers, ringing in your ears, nausea, dizziness, sweating, trembling, and feeling like you’re choking or cannot breathe,
  5. Visit a mental health professional.If you’re unsure of whether you have normal fears versus a phobia, talk to a professional. If your fear causes you distress and interferes with your life, a therapist can help you find ways to cope with your feelings and approach your fears more effectively, often permanently.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    I'm twelve and I think I have emetophobia, the fear of vomiting. Whenever someone in my house gets a stomach bug, I sweat, cry, feel like I'm going to be sick, want to die. Should I see a doctor?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If you feel that something may be wrong, then yes, you definitely should.
  • Question
    Every time I think of or see a maggot I start violently shaking and sweating. Sometimes I break down and start crying. Do I have a phobia?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If you feel emotions that strong, then it is possible you have a phobia. I would recommend talking to an expert on phobias to confirm.
  • Question
    I have a phobia of movie theaters, what can I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Go to therapy sessions if you want a cure. Try to find out why you're scared of them, so you can face your fears.
  • Question
    I am an eleven year old girl with emethophobia, I am trying to over come it but it's extremely hard. Whenever someone in the house throws up I panic. Should I tell my doctor?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    This is something that many people suffer from. However, you should still discuss it with your doctor.
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