Rational and Irrational Fears

The rationality or irrationality of a fear depends accordingly on the intensity, the way one handles his fears, and the impact of that fear in one’s way of life. Fear in itself is rational. I believe that doubting or worrying is rational because it is normal for people to feel it. The irrationality of it depends on how man lets his fears affect his behavior and way of life. (Pawlin-Kienlen, 2006) For instance, rational and irrational fear is observed in the case of Karen and Jenny. Karen feels anxious about dating men and fears having sexual encounters with them. However, she tries to conquer her fears and continues to date other men.

Conditioning the mind to overcome one’s fears is an indication that it is a rational fear simply because it does not cause negative behavioral patterns on the person, but in contrast, it pushes the person to approach her fear constructively. Jenny’s fear of men, on the other hand, is considered irrational. This is because it affects her behavior and interferes with her way of life. There are physical manifestations such as sweating and choking because of panic attacks. This could be dangerous to Jenny’s health. Jenny also avoids dealing with other men because of her fear. In this case, fear does the conquering and not Jenny.

In some cases, irrational fears cause shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, etc. (Pawlin-Kienlen, 2006b) Cases of feeling rational fear include fear of being physically hurt, fear of losing a loved one, and fear of losing money. I categorize these fears as rational fears because these are normal worries that people feel. The irrationality of these fears manifests when one isolates himself from the world and other people because of fear from being hurt, being overly protective of a loved one because you fear for their life, and being excessively greedy that you step on other people’s toes just to gain money.

Mental health professionals are able to distinguish irrational and rational fears just be observing the behavior of their clients. Through careful analysis and diagnosis, they are able to categorize the conditions of their clients under specific disorders. Some professionals use questioning or interviews to analyze how their clients react to specific things or conditions. If the clients display unusual behavior towards them, then they would be able to identify if their clients feel rational or irrational fear.

Since doing so is a difficult job, the basic question to ask that would prove whether fear is irrational or rational, is to know whether that fear interferes with the behavior and life of the person and his relationship towards the people and things around him.


Pawlin-Kienlen, L. (2006). Common Phobias. Retrieved March 13, 2008 from Suite101. Website: http://psychology. suite101. com/article. cfm/healthy_fear_or_irrational_phobia_ Pawlin-Kienlen, L. (2006b). Signs of Panic Disorder. Retrieved March 13, 2008 from Suite101. Website: http://psychology. suite101. com/article. cfm/panic_attacks_panic_disorder

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