Fear or Phobia?

How do you know if you have a fear or a phobia?

Since the beginning of time, our brains have been programmed to keep us safe, therefore we are likely to avoid situations where we feel there is a threat to our safety or wellbeing. So how do you know if you have a fear or a phobia?


Fears are natural, however over time, as we have evolved, most of our fears have become self-created. Fear can cause us to play it safe and stop us from pursuing the things we want to do. When we feel fear, we will likely imagine negative outcomes such as failure, rejection, embarrassment, getting harmed etc. 

How to overcome fears

You can conquer your fears by replacing those negative thoughts caused by fear such as “What if it goes wrong?” with “What if it goes right?” Focus on the positive sensations you will feel from having a favourable outcome such as happiness, contentment, excitement or peace. For Example: If you want to leave a job you are unhappy in, it’s possible to fear that you may not find an alternative position and therefore visualise unemployment, facing financial hardship amongst other worries. Instead, consider feeling excited at the prospect of leaving a job where you were unhappy. Think of the new opportunities that lie ahead and visualise how happy you will be in a new role that will provide you with professional growth and personal fulfilment.

You may also fear doing something new when you are feeling apprehensive about your physical well-being. Are you scared to do that bungee jump or that trip in a hot air balloon or any other activity that is on your list of goals? Rest assured that whatever you wish to take part in, there will be safety protocols in place with trained and experienced individuals there with your safety as their main focus. Consider the elation and adrenaline rush you could experience from doing something exciting that you have always wanted to do.


A phobia is a fear response you create when you are not in danger. It is an extreme aversion to a situation, object, creature or another stimulus. It is possible to develop a phobia of anything based on the inaccurate belief you have created as a result of a traumatic event and this can be extremely debilitating. When you have a phobia, you will experience symptoms of the fight or flight response or panic attacks at any potential exposure or even thought about the thing you have a phobia of.

How to overcome a phobia

Nobody is born with a phobia, so it can be successfully overcome once you address the starting point and develop an understanding of what actually happened versus how it felt. Your thoughts about something determine the feelings you have towards it. Therefore, changing your thoughts changes your feelings and severs a link to that belief regardless of how long you have lived with it.  For Example: If you have Emetophobia (Fear of Vomit) you may have witnessed a friend become unwell when you were at school. You may have seen a concerned teacher and other worried students, then subsequently blamed the vomit for creating such a traumatic event. However, consider if someone explained to you as a child that your friend had too many treats or junk food the day before, causing their stomach to feel poorly. The fact they got sick was their body’s amazing way of protecting them and eliminating all those toxins from their system for it to return to normal, you may then feel differently.


Both fears and phobias can be successfully overcome with the right support. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

Living with a phobia can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…