For the most part, no one cares for snakes, spiders, heights, or closed in areas, but does that mean that almost everyone is phobic to some degree? Although some studies say that the majority of everyone has a diagnosable disorder, disliking certain animals or situations does not mean you have a phobia. A phobia is an extreme irrational fear of something, not a minor aversion.
Doctors do not understand everything about phobias now, but physicians agree that a phobia is an irrational fear of an object or situation. A fear is determined to be irrational when the reaction to the threat is much greater than the situation requires. In addition, phobias are usually accompanied by other disorders, most commonly anxiety panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The seriousness of a phobic reaction would be treating a non-threatening thing like a life and death situation. In people who are afraid of snakes, they fear every snake as if it were a cobra, or other snake that would or could kill them. Many times people with phobias are paralyzed by their fear, or they have a panic attack.
Panic attacks are a physical response by the body that is characterized by some or all of the following symptoms: increased heart rate, shaking, shortness of breath, being light-headed, fear of dying, nausea, or a feeling of choking. Like phobias, panic attacks are an irrational disorder, and is an over reaction to a series of thoughts or an outside stimulus. Panic attacks can even happen because a person begins to worry about having a panic attack.
Anxiety panic attacks can be triggered when someone has an extreme anxiety about something, and are worse in people who have anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. In people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a minor worry or irritation can quickly progress into a full blow panic attack. The irrationality of these disorders fuels a response that is not proportionate to their thoughts or outside stimuli.
A panic attack essentially causes the body to enter into a fight or flight response without just cause. The fight or flight response is a way psychologists describe the body's reaction to extremely stressful situations, and attribute prehistoric man's survival to this natural response.
The classic example is what your body would do if you were walking down the street and were suddenly uncomfortably close to a hungry bear. The instant your brain processed the situation a large quantity of adrenaline would be dumped into your bloodstream. Adrenaline speeds your heart rate, causes your pupils to dilate, and enables your body to fight or run like never before. Adrenaline temporarily makes a person more athletic, allowing them to escape dangerous situations.
Panic attacks can be very frightening for people because they have a panic attack for no apparent reason or in response to something, which poses little or no threat. For somebody with a phobia, the sight of a flower or small spider can be as scary as a bear, and their body prepares to deal with the presence of their phobia like it is absolutely life-threatening.
In short, a phobia an extreme reaction to something that is not extreme at all. Although a spider or snake can pose some kind of threat, and they bother most people, the majority of folks do not feel so threatened by these creatures that they fear death. Phobias, as well as anxiety panic attacks, can be serious medical conditions and should be discussed with a physician if they interfere with your life.