Fear is a scary feeling caused by the presence of a real or imagined danger.
It is a reaction that begins with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that cause, among other things, the acceleration of the heart and breathing or tension of the body. Fear typically causes behaviors typical of the stress response and a response known as a fight or flight response.
However, this is a complex phenomenon that does not always manifest itself in exactly the same way or does not have the same causes. that’s why we talk about types of fear, Different ways of expressing this emotion depending on our psychological state and the context in which the danger signals appear. Let’s see what they are, their characteristics and how they affect us.
How do types of fear occur?
The stimulus that causes fear it may or may not be a real thought, or a threatening stimulus (For example, the presence of a lion). Some authors claim that there are fears inherent in human beings and with an almost instinctive component, such as: darkness, uncertainty or death. However, the vast majority of fears are learned through associative learning or classical conditioning.
This combination of biological factors and environmental and acquired factors makes the types of fear that we develop very diverse.
- You can read more about classical conditioning in this article: “Classic conditioning and its most important experiences”
The physiological bases
The human brain is a deeply complex organ. Over 100 million nerve cells form a complex network of communications that are the starting point for everything we feel, think, and do. Some of these communications lead to conscious thought and action, while others produce autonomous responses.
The autonomous response to fear, that is, the one that we do not consciously activate, Arises long before our reason can decide anything about it. There are many areas of the brain related to fear. These are the most important:
Thalamus: decide where to send incoming sensory data (eyes, ears, mouth, skin)
- Sensory cortex: interprets sensory data.
Hippocampus: stores and retrieves conscious memories; deals with sets of stimuli to define context.
Amygdala: decodes emotions; petermina the possible threat; Stores memories of emotions and fear.
Hypothalamus: activates the “fight or flight” response.
You can read more about the physiological basis of fear in our article: “The physiological and psychological basis of fear”
Types of fear
Not everyone is afraid of the same stimuli, and the content of all fears is not the same. Below you can find a list with a classification of the different types of fears:
Depending on the existence of the stimulus
Depending on whether the stimulus causing the fear exists or not, it can be:
1. For real
Real fear refers to a type of fear it is built from real components. For example, the fear of falling from a dangerous high place when there is a real possibility of falling into the void.
It is a pattern of physiological and emotional activation that has adaptive value, as it leads us to avoid danger immediately, often regardless of our conscious intentions.
2. For unreal or irrational
The unreal fear has its origin in a imaginary, distorted and catastrophic thought. For example, fear of speaking in public or fear of flying. These are non-adaptive fears, in which there is really no real danger.
In many cases, this type of fear can turn into a phobia; it’s something that happens when this discomfort and the strategies we use to avoid these times interfere in some way with our quality of life.
According to its normality
Depending on their adaptive nature, fears can be:
3. For normal
Normal fear is that which it has an adaptive character, And is presented with a stimulus which may be harmful to the person. It is short-lived, does not interfere with the normalcy of daily life and puts the individual on alert. For example, seeing a snake.
4. Pathological fear
That kind of fear it is activated even if there is no danger and can last indefinitely. Its interference level in daily operation is high. It causes great psychological distress in the sufferer, and sometimes also affects third parties (due to its effects on social behavior), so it requires treatment.
Depending on the level of assignment
Depending on the level of fear assignment, this can be:
5. By physical
Physical fear is the fear of suffering from painful sensations derived from a real or imagined external stimulus. For example, the fear of a doctor.
Many times, physical fear is difficult to control because it can cause us to move automatically and involuntarily to dodge what scares us, “take control of the body” for a few seconds.
6. By social
This type of fear arises in response to an external stimulus integrated at the social level. It is characterized by the situations in which the person feeling ridiculed and thinking that they will be judged and ridiculed by others. So what produces fear is both praise for the foresight of this humiliation and the consequences it might have in the future.
Social phobia is at the extreme of this phobia.
7. By metaphysics
Metaphysical fear is a fear that has an internal origin and it does not feed on empirical sources. It can be associated with pathologies such as endogenous depression. You can read more about this disorder in our article: “Endogenous Depression: When Unhappiness Comes From Within”
Other types of fear
these are other types of fear which go beyond the categorizations that we have seen.
8. Fear of uncertainty
The fear of uncertainty is a fear that it happens when it is difficult for us to visualize the future we want. It is also called the fear of the unknown and is closely related to personal development. When a person is afraid of uncertainty, they stay in their comfort zone.
9. Fear of commitment
This type of fear mainly arises in relationships. It refers to the feeling or emotion of fear it is lived by seeing that life is given to another person. Sometimes it happens because the person just doesn’t want to give up their freedom, other times because they suffered in a previous love affair and doesn’t want to commit again.
10. Jonah Complex
The Jonah complex is also known as the fear of success. It is a term which derives from humanistic psychology, In which the person feels anxiety and panic about their own self-actualization or the development of their talents.
11. Fear of being discovered
A fear that is characterized by the fact that the person has done something that is considered bad or illegal and therefore does not want to be discovered. They are experienced by liars and individuals who they have something to hide.
12. Fear of failure
The fear of failure is a type of fear that causes a lot of suffering and is linked to a person’s expectations. It is also linked to the opinion of others. It is mostly experienced by perfectionists.
13. Fear of loneliness
The fear of loneliness is a fear that everyone experiences because human beings are social beings and we need others to enjoy the emotional balance necessary for us. deal with the problems that may arise in our daily life. The fear of loneliness also afflicts them those people who are in a relationship and who do not want to remain single.
14. Fear of divorce
If the fear of loneliness refers to people who are in a relationship and who do not want to be left alone, there are also individuals who feel great distress at the idea of a divorce. If the fear of loneliness is rather linked to a feeling inherent in human beings, the fear of divorce rather it relates to culture, With fear of what others will think about marriage breakdown.
15. Fear of death
The fear of death is a type of fear that everyone experiences. It’s the fear of losing your life, Because when someone dies, we understand that he disappears forever. People often experience this fear in time or when they find themselves in a situation where their life is in danger. In cases where this thought is constantly in a person’s mind, it usually requires psychological assistance.
Phobias are a pathological fear that many people experience that requires psychological treatment. There are many types of phobias and they are also often called conditioned fears.
- If you want to delve deeper into the different types of phobias, you can read this article: “Types of Phobias: Exploring Fear Disorders”
- Kim, JH; Ganella, DE (2015). A review of preclinical studies to understand fear during adolescence. Australian psychologist. 50 (1): pages 25 to 31.
- Ledoux, J. (2003). The emotional brain, fear and the amygdala. Cellular and molecular neurobiology. 23 (4-5): pages 727 to 738.
- Lewis, M. and Haviland-Jones, JM (2000). Handbook of emotions. New York: The Guilford Press.