A phobia is an irrational fear, a kind of anxiety disorder in which the sufferer has a relentless dread of a situation, living creature, place or thing.
Individuals with a phobia go to great lengths to avoid a perceived danger which is much greater in their minds than in real life. If confronted with the source of their phobia, the person will suffer enormous distress, which can interfere with their normal function; it can sometimes lead to total panic. For some people, even thinking about their phobia is immensely distressing.
A fear phobias starts when a person begins organizing their lives around avoiding the object of their fear. A phobia is much more serious than a simple fear. Sufferers have an overpowering need to steer clear of anything which triggers their anxiety.
If the phobia is of something the phobic person very rarely comes into contact with, such as snakes, their daily lives will not be affected. However, some complex phobias are impossible to avoid, such as agoraphobia (fear of leaving home or public places) or social phobia (fear of being among groups of people).
Non-psychological phobias – photophobia means sensitivity to light. For example, if you have conjunctivitis or a migraine your eyes may be particularly sensitive to light. This does not mean the person is afraid of light. One of the symptoms of rabies is hydrophobia, which is the inability to drink water.
Discrimination or prejudice – some words which include the word “phobia” do not refer to fear, but rather to prejudice or discrimination. Homophobia is not an uncontrollable fear of homosexual people; it is a dislike, a discrimination against them. Some older people may dislike youths or teenagers (ephebiphobia). Xenophobia is a dislike of strangers, foreigners or the unknown.