While fear is usually triggered by something specific – a man following you in a dark alley, for example – the word anxiety usually describes an overwhelming feeling of fear, uneasiness or dread without an obvious cause.
Anxiety can manifest itself by a lingering feeling of approaching doom or in recurring panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden outbursts of fear.
A common form of anxiety disorders are phobias. A phobia is an irrational and persistent fear that is triggered by a specific object, animal, or situation. People suffering from phobias go to extreme lengths to avoid coming in contact with the triggers of their phobia, in many cases becoming prisoners of their own, irrational, fear.
Specific phobias (often called ‘simple phobias’) are triggered by specific objects, animals, situations or people. Examples of specific phobias would be:
- fear of spiders, snakes, birds, cats, etc.
- fear of objects such as buttons, teabags, etc.
- fear of people such as clowns, dentists, etc.
- fear of situations such as flying or enclosed spaces.
Complex phobias can be more disabling for sufferers because they extend to many different situations and environments. The two most common complex phobias are :
- agoraphobia – fear of open spaces
- social phobia – fear of other people and social situations