In the course of everyday life, the words "phobia" and "fear" are often used interchangeably. Dig a little deeper, though, and you will find a difference.
Ali Mattu, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, joined Wednesday's roundtable discussion on HuffPost Live to discuss phobias, which was part of a week-long series concerning mental health in America today.
According to Mattu, the difference between a common fear and an actual phobia boils down to two things: impairment and distress.
"Are these phobias -- are these fears -- getting in the way of the person's life? Is it making it hard for them to participate in all their daily activities? Does it make it hard for them to get to school to participate in a job?" Mattu told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. "You can have a fear of sharks, but if you live in Kansas and you're not really going near water, it really doesn't affect you too much. That's a different story if you're living in Hawaii."