Fear vs. Phobia

I have been fascinated by this topic for some time now.  So I thought I would get some feedback from readers.

Let’s start with the basics.  What makes a fear a phobia?  The technical difference between a fear and a phobia is that a fear has a legitimate or rational basis while a phobia is irrational.  So someone who has a fear of ax wielding madmen has just that – a fear – as it is perfectly rational to be afraid.  But someone who has a fear of ladybugs (also known as ladybirds) has a phobia – Coccinellidaephobia, as a matter of fact.  And the reason it is a phobia – or irrational fear – is that ladybugs are actually considered a very beneficial beetle, especially to gardeners and rarely cause problems for humans.  Another example I have heard is that a fear of flying (Pteromerhanophobia) is irrational but a fear of crashing is rational.

But then why are some phobias not fears?  For example, there are some phobias that I believe to be completely rational.  For example: fear of rape (Virginitiphobia), fear of sharks (Selachophobia – I’m guilty of this one), fear of pain (Agliophobia), fear of nuclear weapons (Nucleomituphobia) and the fear of disease (Pathophobia).  These all seem like legitimate reasons for fear.  Or are they considered phobias because the likelihood of experiencing or encountering these events is sufficiently rare that they are no longer rational?  And if this is the case, what system – if any – do they base it on?

Then there are the natural phenomenon that have the potential for death and destruction.  There is the fear of tornadoes and hurricanes (Lilapsophobia), fear of water (Hydrophobia – another one of mine – *sigh*), fear of floods (Antlophobia) and fear of fire (Pyrophobia).

If anyone is interested there are many sites devoted to phobias.  However, my personal favorite is List Of Phobias.  It seems to have a good list and an in depth page when you click on the phobia.

I would like to share a few more that I thought were interesting and/or unusual.  There are fears of books (Bibliophobia), ugliness (Cacophobia), knees and chins (Genuphobia and Geniophobia), step-mother/father (Novercaphobia and Vitricophobia) and beautiful women (Venuatraphobia).

Sadly, I do not have answers to any of the questions I posed.  So I would like to ask my readers to tell me their opinions.

And as a final note, I find this just plain mean (in a funny sort of way): Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – a fear of long words.

2 thoughts on “Fear vs. Phobia

  1. I don’t have an answer, I’m afraid. (Epistemophobia).

    My favorite from the list is Zemmiphobia- Fear of the great mole rat. What a nice, specific thing to be afraid of; and so unlikely to cause a problem for most people. I wonder if there is an even more specific phobia for naked mole rats?

    • From my understanding of how they name these things it would be Heterocephalophobia as the naked mole rat is the Genus Heterocephalus. But, then again, I could be totally wrong. =)

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