Explanations » B1+ Vocabulary Explanations » Fears and phobias – B1+ English Vocabulary
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  • Fears and phobias

    In this B1+ Upper-intermediate Vocabulary Lesson about Fears and Phobias, you will learn common words and phrases related to fears and phobias and the emotions associated with them. Check the definitions and examples below to understand these terms better.


    An educational chart from test-english.com showing eight images labeled 1 to 8, each depicting different adjectives related to fears and phobias: Afraid, scared, Terrified, etc. with corresponding expressive images for each term.

    If you are 1 scared, afraid, or frightened of something, you feel uncomfortable when you see or think about it.

    • Lucy is scared of dogs.
    • When I was a child, I used to be afraid of the dark.
    • After hearing that there were snakes in the garden, I was frightened.

    2 Terrified and petrified are similar in meaning, only much stronger, so if you are terrified by or petrified of something, you experience extreme fear and discomfort when you see or experience it.

    • After hearing that our hotel room was haunted, I was terrified.
    • Cara is petrified of mice.

    3 Horrified also means extremely afraid, but can also mean shocked, so if you are horrified by something, you are either very scared or else surprised by something in a negative way.

    • I was horrified when I found out that my son had been stealing.

    4 Scary and frightening are adjectives that describe things rather than feelings, and if something is scary or frightening, it makes you feel scared. 5 Terrifying is similar but much stronger in meaning, and if something is terrifying, it makes you feel very, very afraid.

    • I find deep water scary because I’m not a very good swimmer.
    • Speaking in front of many people can be very frightening.
    • Looking down from the roof of the building was absolutely terrifying.

    When you are 6 scared to death, you are extremely afraid, usually as a result of a particular incident, and when you are 7 panicky, you feel anxious or afraid, and you act rashly without thinking carefully.

    • When I saw the spider moving towards me, I was scared to death.
    • Lisa became quite panicky when she realised she was all alone.

    If a fear is 8 irrational, it is unreasonable, and people with irrational fears often have extreme reactions when confronted with things that scare them.

    • My sister has an irrational fear of butterflies.


    An informative graphic from test-english.com showcasing 12 images numbered 1 to 12, each illustrating nouns related to fears and phobias such as Fear, Fright, Terror, Dread, etc. with engaging images to depict each concept.

    1 Fear is the noun form of afraid, and if you have a fear of something, you are scared of it. A 2 fright is a sudden, intense feeling of fear, so if you get a fright, you have seen or experienced something that has scared you.

    • My mother has a fear of flying and refuses to travel by plane.
    • I got a fright when the cat suddenly jumped through the window.

    3 Terror is a feeling of intense or extreme fear, and 4 dread is a feeling of fear about something that is going to happen in the future.

    • The thought of a big hairy spider fills me with terror.
    • I experience feelings of dread whenever I have to go to the dentist.

    A 5 bogey, or bogie is something that many people are scared or worried about, often without reason. The word bogeyman, which is an imaginary evil spirit oten used to scare children, comes from this term.

    • The idea of a global pandemic became the bogey that worried governments and citizens alike.
    • Be good, or the bogeyman will come and get you!

    A 6 cold sweat is a person’s body reaction associated with a state of extreme worry or fear; it is often used in the expression to break out in a cold sweat. The term 7 chill is similar; it describes a sudden feeling of fear or anxiety that may make you feel cold of shaky.

    • When I realised there was an intruder in my house, I broke out in a cold sweat.
    • That horror film gave me the chills. It send a chill down my spine.

    8 phobia is an irrational fear of a particular thing or concept; so many irrational fears have the suffix phobia at the end of their name. For example, 9 claustrophobia is an irrational fear of small or enclosed spaces, while 10 arachnophobia is an extreme fear of spiders.

    • My phobia of needles means I hate going to the doctor’s.
    • Peter avoids travelling in elevators because of his claustrophobia.
    • Susan suffers from arachnophobia and screams whenever she sees a spider.

    A 11 fear of heights is a fear of high places, and if you have a fear of heights, you probably don’t like climbing or looking down from balconies.

    • Alice’s fear of heights prevented her from going rock climbing with her friends.

    A 12 haunted house is a house that people believe has a ghost in it, so if a place is described as haunted, people might be afraid to go inside.

    • The children were too scared to go inside the haunted house.

    Verbs and Idioms

    An educational collage for a B1+ English vocabulary lesson on fears and phobias, showing eight images numbered 1 through 8, each illustrating different verbs like scare, spook, panic, freak out, etc., represented by expressive human reactions and actions.
    If something 1 scares or frightens you, it makes you feel afraid, and if something 2 spooks you, it also makes you feel scared, but in a more ghostly way.

    • The sound of thunder really scares me.
    • My brother tried to frighten me by putting a frog in my bag.
    • Gary tried to spook his sister by telling her their hotel was haunted.

    When you 3 panic, you feel so scared that you might not think clearly or know what to do. It usually happens during serious situations.

    • Sam panicked during the fire alarm, forgetting where the emergency exits were.

    When you 4 freak out, you have a very strong emotional reaction. It can be because of fear, but also anger, surprise, or even excitement.

    • Jake freaked out when he heard loud noises in the basement.
    • When dad finds out that you’ve scratched his car, he will totally freak out.

    When something 5 startles you or makes you jump, it happens unexpectedly and gives you a fright, and if something 6 gives you the creeps, it makes you feel afraid, uneasy, or disgusted whenever you see or think about it.

    • I didn’t mean to startle you; I’ll knock next time.
    • The sudden bang of the fireworks made me jump.
    • Snakes and other reptiles give me the creeps.

    If you 7 lose your nerve, you lose the courage or confidence to do something difficult or unpleasant.

    • When I got to the top of the rock, I lost my nerve and couldn’t jump into the water. 
    • I wanted to ask her out, but I lost my nerve.

    If you 8 overcome or conquer a fear, you stop being afraid of it.

    • I hope that I will be able to overcome my fear of flying.
    • My therapist helped me to conquer my fear of heights.

    After completing the exercises in this lesson on Fears and Phobias, you can use the unit’s Vocabulary Flascards to revise and help you memorize the terms.