What’s the difference between fear and phobia? Fear is rational when you’re trying to uphold something valid, such as cleanliness or being organized. Fear is irrational when you’re primarily concerned with avoiding problems rather than upholding something positive. For example, a desire to “be clean” will tend to lead one to wash one’s hands — as often as necessary, but no more. A desire to “avoid germs” will lead one to wash one’s hands more frequently than needed. The deeper issue here is whether life is about the pursuit of the positive or avoidance of the negative. The motivation is different and so is the practice. That’s the difference between reasonable fear and phobia.