What Is the Definition of Pathological Fear?

A pathological fear, also known as a phobia, is an irrational fear of an object, place, activity or situation that poses little or no danger, but nevertheless causes avoidance and anxiety in the individual. Such fears can be of anything from spiders to public speaking and often negatively affect the quality of life of the individual. Those suffering from phobias that severely affect their lives should seek treatment.

Phobias are characterized by the fact that the proportion of the fear significantly outweighs the danger or possibility of harm. Those experiencing phobias may have increased heart rates, sweat excessively and have difficulty controlling their behaviors. Individuals may also go to excessive means to avoid situations or objects that they fear pathologically. Such actions may drastically affect their personal, professional or social lives.

Phobias can be treated in various ways, including medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure and relaxation techniques. Most phobias tend to be chronic, but phobic individuals do respond to treatment, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy. Other treatments for phobias include getting sufficient exercise and sleep and avoiding stimulants. Group therapy has been shown to be effective for common phobias that may affect lives more significantly, such as fear of cars or fear of flying. Other common phobias include fear of snakes, insects, open spaces, closed spaces and certain social situations.