Fear is a normal part of life, and we encounter many things which can be dangerous, painful or frightening, such as car crashes, muggers, savage dogs, having operations. This type of anxiety is very useful in that it warns us when danger threatens. Fear releases adrenaline and other chemicals into the blood, and these speed up the heart-rate, sharpen our senses and heighten our physical powers. This prepares us for what is known as ‘fight or flight’ – either to fight for our lives, or run for them.
Someone with an ‘anxiety disorder’ however, experiences uncomfortably high levels of arousal in situations where you wouldn’t normally expect to feel this level of fear. A phobia develops when the mind has learnt to associate a certain situation or object with the fear response.
Fear could be described as ‘phobic’ when the object/situation is ‘illogically’ feared beyond it’s ability to harm, when we can’t rationalize or put it into perspective, when it involves avoidance of the fearful object/situation, when it cuts out choices, interferes with daily living and reduces the quality of life.