What 'types' of fears are there? What are you terrified of?

All types of fears can have a huge impact on how you feel and how you behave. This is particularly true if your fear has developed in a real phobia. Hence, these fears affect your relationship too - sometimes to a great extend, as for example, in OCD (see link at the bottom of this article). The latter may have come about where someone is petrified for bacteria - for example. It has a devastating effect on an intimate relationship (any relationship actually). Social anxiety too determines what you do as a couple and what you might want to avoid where it concerns social activities.

In this article, I want to create some understanding. If you or your partner suffer from fears, I want you not to think of it as stupid, irrational, a nuisance or mad. I'm aiming for you to develop some empathy and to start thinking of the problem as 'interesting'. To think about where that fear might come from, how it developed, how it is maintained and what you can do about it.

Let's start with a little reflection. Think for a moment of all the times you have been fearful in your life - what types of fear you have suffered from ...

Did you suffer from any childhood fears?

Have you ever seen a baby startle and throw out its arms in panic when it feels unsafe? As babies, we came into this world with an instinctive fear of being dropped.

There is hardly a child on the planet that doesn't have some anxieties - it is part of growing up and learning to live in a 'dangerous' world.

Some of the fears in the list below, may have 'hang around' into adulthood. Some may even have 'morphed' and grown into something much more severe:

  • the ‘bogey man’
  • the dark
  • thunder and lightening (I certainly hid under the blankets!)
  • the bullies
  • clowns (this can even turn into a phobia)
  • balloons - another potential for a phobia
  • losing a parent (did your parents separate or divorce?)
  • not being loved or being unlovable
  • a parent’s wrath
  • having done something wrong
  • a teacher...

... to name but a few!

What about your fears as a teenager?

As a teenager, perhaps in addition of some of the above fears and phobias, you may be/have been afraid of:

  • not fitting in
  • not wearing the right clothes
  • being humiliated
  • being ‘left out’
  • being ridiculed
  • your hair not being ‘quite right’
  • you looks not being good enough
  • your parents don’t love you (anymore)
  • you are going to be thrown out of the house
  • you are never going to recover from that depression
  • life will always be miserable
  • you won’t get a job
  • you’ll never find someone that is going to love you

What about your insecurities when you met someone you love(d)

When you meet a potential partner you have different types of fears again. You may be worried that...

  • you aren’t lovable enough
  • you don’t know enough about sex
  • you're not making the right impression
  • you're going to be mistreated
  • you're going to be abandoned (again)
  • his/her family or friends won't like or accept you

When you're in a long-term relationship or you're married

When you are in a long-term relationship or marriage you're not likely to escape the worries. Again you may experience different anxieties, but common for this stage in life are (for so called 'irrational' fears, see further down):

  • will you be able to pay the bills?
  • will you be able to have children?
  • will you relationship or marriage last?
  • will he/she be faithful?

If you have children (whether or not you're in a relationship), you may be worried about:

  • their health
  • that you are a good enough parent
  • that your children don't go astray, do drugs, drink too much, have the wrong friends, the 'wrong' boy/girlfriend
  • that they don't show up
  • that they don't show you up
  • that they are going to be happy, etc

You can begin to see a pattern, can’t you? They are all different types of fears.

Can you identify the patterns of fears or even phobias?

You've seen how each stage in life comes with it's own fears that are typical at that stage of development. However, they fall into several categories, but all of them can develop into a full-blown phobia...

You feel physically unsafe
you are in an unsafe environment, in an abusive relationship, you're frightened for insects, falling (this could develop into a fear of heights phobia), etc

You feel emotionally unsafe (insecure)
for example, when you feel you can't rely on people to be there for you when you're feeling vulnerable, when you're in an abusive relationship, when you're rejected by your partner, friends, family or colleagues, when you've been ridiculed, etc. This could develop into social phobia, for example.

A combination of the two
Very often one leads to another, when you're fears are thought of  'not normal'. Agoraphobia, for example, is a combination of the two.

You can also feel spiritually or morally on unsafe grounds
Perhaps your values and beliefs are under pressure.

'Types' of fear - can we classify them?

The following are all fears of one shape or another. I have tried to put them in order of intensity. However, since a word is only ever a symbol of/for a thought - you might put these fears in a different order.

  • timidity - more of a trait
  • unease - just 'not quite happy' with what is taking place
  • worry - a constant or linked to something in the near or even distant future
  • jitters
  • apprehension
  • foreboding - a sense of unease too
  • angst - fear
  • scares - frequently occurring
  • anxiety - more a 'general' feeling or linked with an unpleasant event
  • alarm - your ears 'prick up', your whole body feels on hyper-alert
  • fright - time limited
  • terror - is sheer fear
  • horror - is linked with shock and revulsion
  • panic - is short-lived, but can occur frequently
  • paranoia - could last forever, but also be time-bound
  • phobias - the main subject of this website
  • trauma - I will touch on trauma on a few pages, as it involves the same part of the brain as a phobia does

And then there are the nightly ones: nightmares and night terrors - terrifying!

It is actually really difficult to define fear in terms of strength of feeling as I have tried to do in the above list. Some of these terms express 'something' that is more likely to be an ever-present feeling with ups and downs. Others depend on whether your path happens to cross whatever your are fearful of.

Do you suffer from 'irrational' fears?