How Do Phobias Differ From Fears

Post your response to the following questions: How do phobias differ from fears? What types of phobias affect a person’s ability to function normally in society? How is his or her ability to function in society affected? What can cause a person to develop a phobia?

The differences between phobias and normal fears center on dramatic interference with a person’s life and a greater desire to avoid the feared object (Nevid, & Rathus, 2005). Specific phobias can interfere with a person’s ability to function normally if avoidance of the object, situation, etc… restricts normal activities. Furthermore, social phobias are characterized as a fear of perceived embarrassment as a result of social activity. Obviously social phobias can severely restrict normal social interaction. This type of phobia can impede social interaction entirely if the persistent fears are not addressed properly. Moreover, if someone has a fear of eating around others, that might impact their job performance if they are required to have business lunches. One way that a phobia develops is through association, which is covered in the behaviorist model of classical conditioning. According to this approach a person might associate a neutral stimulus with an unconditional stimulus thereby transferring the response usually associated with the unconditional stimulus to the neutral stimulus. There is also evidence that modeling plays a role in phobias. If we observe our role models or parents fearfulness of an object, situation, etc…, then we might seek to mimic that behavior in our own lives. I was very fascinated with the classical conditioning explanation of phobias. It is weird how we can associate random objects with other things and it actually impacts our behavior.


Nevid, J.S., & Rathus, S.A. (2005). Psychology and the challenges of life: Adjustment in the new millennium (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.


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