How Fear Turns Into Full-Blown Phobia
The following is the typical process by which a simple fear is transformed into full-blown phobia:
- A real (or even imagined) initial event makes you experience the first fear.
- You begin to act in a specific way to prevent, reduce or control the fear.
- At times you manage to reduce fear by avoidance or asking someone to keep you company. After momentary initial relief, the symptoms worsen.
- As you struggle with your fear by avoiding the situation, asking for help or trying to control your physiological reactions (breathing, muscle tension, etc.) the symptoms become more severe in intensity.
- You persist in your coping strategies. The repetition becomes second nature and you build a rigid automatic response to any situation, place or object that could trigger anxiety and fear in you. The more the problem persists, the more you insist in repeating your efforts, creating a vicious cycle that feeds the anxiety and fear.
In this way, a fear that originally may have been just a trivial difficulty is transmuted into a phobia, and becomes a major problem.
The primary culprits are: avoidance and asking for help. Both of these strategies may make you feel better for a while, but in the long run, they will consolidate a natural and temporary fear into a chronic and persistent phobia.