Such explanations, however, are more likely to underlie the non-clinical end of the phobic spectrum than they are to underlie phobias satisfying the criteria set out above.

In particular, I am wondering what the following means and what is meant by criteria.

  • end of the phobic spectrum
  • phobias satisfying
  • criteria

link to source

UPDATED: So, is the conclusion correct? At the end of this spectrum is clinical treatment and at the other end is non-clinical

3 Answers 3


Earlier in the article, the author defines the criteria for what he calls "true insect phobia":

A true insect phobia, on the other hand, is defined by the following criteria:


  1. A persistent irrational fear of and compelling desire to avoid insects, mites, spiders, or similar phobic objects.

  2. Significant distress from the disturbance despite recognition by the individual that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.

  3. Not due to another mental disorder such as schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder (modified from DSM III).

So "criteria" here means what it would in any dicrtionary one should use to understand what it means: (emphasis mine)

a standard of judgment or criticism; a rule or principle for evaluating or testing something.

In our specific example, the criteria for having true insect phobia is satisfying conditions 1, 2, 3.

You can say that if clauses 1, 2, and 3 hold true for a person, then his condition satisfies the creteria for "true insect phobia" (more casually: He has true insect phobia).

So phobias satisfying the criteria set out above means phobias which the criteria of 1, 2, and 3 hold true about, which is "true insect phobias".

As to the word end here, we have to examine what it's preceded by to understand its specific meaning in the article:

more likely to underlie the non-clinical end of the phobic spectrum

In general , end can mean

the last part or extremity, lengthwise, of anything that is longer than it is wide or broad.

But it can also mean:

a part or place at or adjacent to an extremity:

In our example, the author is saying that the explanations are more likely to underlie the non-clinical part/side/end of the phobic spectrum, rather than the cretria/conditions he's mentioned earlier.

I hope you now understand what specturm means in this example:

The entire range over which some measurable property of a physical system or phenomenon can vary, such as the frequency of sound, the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, or the mass of specific kinds of particles.

  • First off, thanks. Although I have got what you just explained, in fact, would you please what it meant by "non-clinical"? " the non-clinical part/side/end of the phobic spectrum."
    – nima
    Apr 20, 2015 at 9:58
  • Well, Someone edited your question and "non clinical" isn't mentioned anymore. And, this kind of question requires some understanding and reading the text. Did you try a dictionary search or a Google search for "clinical vs non-clinical"? Here the author is making a distinction between phobias meeting his criteria (which by inference, we assume he defines as "clinical") and the explanations, which he says are more likely to be the basis of "non-clinical" phobia (and phobia-like) phenomena. "Non-clinical" here means that it doesn't apply (in the writer's eye) as a real (well-defined) phobia.
    – zerohedge
    Apr 20, 2015 at 10:23
  • 1
    See this somewhat related question on clinical vs. non clinical depression on neuroscience SE: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/21358/…
    – zerohedge
    Apr 20, 2015 at 10:23
  • In this kind of context, "clinical" can mean "requiring medical treatment," while "non-clinical" could mean "only displaying mild symptoms." In a spectrum, you could have non-clinical at one end, and then work in the other direction toward various stages of "clinical", starting with a formal diagnosis, then requiring medication, all the way to requiring extended hospital stays at the far end. (Mind you, I'm not saying that's what is meant here, but I'm just saying the words could be used in that way.)
    – J.R.
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:53

As for "end of the spectrum", that's a relatively common phrase. It used when there are not just few possibilities, but many. For example, consider the high and low temperatures for a day in a local region. Obviously, this varies according to location, terrain, and season, but each place has its own "spectrum" of realistic temperature ranges. So, a speaker could say:

When it comes to chilly nights, last night was on the cold end of the spectrum.


It was cold last night! It doesn't usually get that chilly around here this time of year.

The passage you quote references a spectrum of phobias. There are many ways a spectrum of phobias could be classified. You could have very rare phobias (like fear of rocking chairs) at one end, and very common phobias (such as fear of heights) at the other. Or, you could be talking about how much the phobias affect the patient's day-to-day life; for example, if we are talking about a fear of flying, at one end of the spectrum, we might have a passenger with minor nervousness, while at the other end of the spectrum, we have someone who refuses to board an airplane.

I didn't visit the article to figure out how the phobias are arranged in an imaginary "spectrum", but that's how the phrase is used in English.

This Ngram is interesting, in that it shows two things:

  • For some reason, we usually talk about things that are at one end of the spectrum, rather than in the middle of the spectrum.

  • It looks like the usage of this term has grown since the mid-1950's. I'm not sure if that's because more scientific research has been published, or if it's a matter of a phrase working its from the scientific community into the general vernacular – either or both are plausible.


would you please what it meant by "non-clinical"?

I will explain "the non-clinical end of the phobic spectrum."

Some people are afraid of spiders, insects, etc. This fear, or phobia, could be very mild, it could be extreme, and incapacitating, and it could be somewhere in between. You could draw a number line and put the very mild cases at the left end, and the incapacitated people at the right end. This number line, including all the in-between people, is called a "spectrum."

The "non-clinical end of the phobic spectrum" is the left-hand endpoint of the number line we drew.

I would be an example of a person at the non-clinical end of the phobic spectrum. I had to kill a large spider sitting in the middle of the floor in my kitchen yesterday. I was nervous that I might miss, and it might run away. I selected a shoe with care. I walked around the spider nervously, selecting the best angle of approach, to prevent it from running away from me to hide under a piece of furniture. I thought carefully about how close I should be when striking. When the operation was complete, I shouted, "Karate Chop!" and felt extremely relieved at my success. I did not have bad dreams about what happened, and the experience did not keep me awake at night. However, I would have been much happier if my husband had been at home when I found the spider, and I could have asked him to kill it for me, while I hid in the bedroom. I am an example of a person with a sub-clinical phobia. I am nervous around large spiders, but I am not incapacitated by them.

My son, on the other hand, has Tourette Syndrome, and he has a clinical phobia, meaning that he feels so much distress about his spider phobia that he has trouble functioning. If he encounters a small spider in the bathroom, he screams and has a panic attack. He cannot read a book or watch a movie that has a spider in it. Once, when I took him to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, he imagined that my face was covered with spiders, which was terrifying for him. Sometimes he jumps out of bed and runs to spit in the toilet because he vividly imagines that there are spiders in his mouth and he urgently feels a need to spit them out.

I have been seeking treatment for him for a year and a half, but we live in a small town, and the therapists we have seen have not been trained in Exposure and Response Therapy (ERP), and he is not getting better. There is a national and international shortage of therapists trained in ERP. I am currently struggling to get my health insurance to pay for Skype therapy for my son.

"Non-clinical" = "sub-clinical": One of the therapists we tried told me, after four months of weekly sessions with my son that he is somewhere between "sub-clinical" and "mildly clinical," by which she meant that she did not see a problem. Actually, she was the problem -- she was not willing to learn how to treat this type of OCD in a child.

Researchers want to understand phobias better, and sometimes they compare the sub-clinical cases, like me, to the clinical cases, like my son. "Sub-clinical" means non-pathological. It means the person gets a little nervous, but not hysterical.

I think, Nima, it would be good if you could explain your interest in this topic, so that I can write explanations for you that are truly helpful.

The article you have been struggling to understand is old, out of date, not very well written.... Is it the topic you are interested in? Or have you taken a job to translate this very article for someone who has the idea that this article will be helpful for something?

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