Fear is an emotion that everyone is familiar with but tries to avoid. Fear arises when danger is perceived and triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response. Fear is included in a group of common basic emotions that all animals experience, along with joy, anxiety, sadness, and anger.
- Accelerated heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Goose bumps
Some fears are considered rational because they serve a purpose that is often based in evolution. We fear things that can potentially harm us, such as dangerous animals, bad weather, natural disasters, and even the unknown. There are also fears of psychological trauma like rejection or even fear of intimacy.
An irrational fear is considered inappropriate because the fear trigger is not necessarily dangerous, or the fear is disproportionate to the danger level. These are called phobias:
- Social phobia: fear of other people and social situations
- Specific phobias: fear of a particular thing (spiders, heights, etc.)
- Agoraphobia: fear of public or unfamiliar spaces
Exposure therapy is beneficial for phobias as it allows a therapist to sensitively bring a client into contact with a fear trigger and comfort them, gradually reducing the fear response. Social phobias and interpersonal fears, such as fear of rejection and intimacy, have severely negative effects on a sufferer’s life, so therapy is appropriate in these cases. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most likely method of treatment for these conditions.