Phobias are defined by an intense, sometimes irrational, fear. They are considered a form of anxiety and can come in many forms.
People can develop phobias for all types of things. Snakes, bugs, spiders, open spaces, people, you name it. They are the most common psychiatric condition, and are said to affect twice as many women as men.
There are several theories on why phobias develop. Some experts say the causes can be evolutionary. Others say that the causes are more behavioral.
Phobias are more common than you would think, and there can be any number of sources for it. As common as phobias are in general, some phobias are more common than others.
Some things just scare much more people than other things. If someone’s phobia is intense enough, it can lead to other symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and loss of breath. In extreme cases, a person’s phobia can develop into a panic attack.
Since phobias are so common, we’re going to review the top 10 phobias. Social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia are considered 2 of the Top 10, but they are also classified as their own category of anxiety disorder. But the remaining 8 phobias are focused around a specific object or situation, and for that reason they are known as “specific phobias”.
Without further ado, here are they are.
Top 10 Most Common Phobias
Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. Spiders come from the animal class Arachnid, which is where this phobia gets its name from. Someone suffering from arachnophobia experiences an intense fear response at the sight of a spider. However, in extreme cases, just seeing the image or thinking of a spider can be enough to trigger the phobia.
Some people find it puzzling how people can be so afraid of spiders. There are approximately 35,000 species of spiders and other arachnids throughout the world. Only 12 of those pose a real threat to human life. So why such an intense fear of them?
Some experts believe this is linked to our ancestry. Centuries ago, when our ancestors lacked the medical knowledge to treat spider bites, these creatures posed a significant threat to life as they knew it. Without them knowing it, evolution took over and gave them the instinct to fear these animals for their own protection.
This is the fear of snakes. This is a very common phobia and is usually attributed to cultural influences, personal experiences with snakes, and evolutionary causes. Some experts believe that our ancestors who survived living alongside venomous snakes passed that gene down to us. Others think that the phobia of snakes and other animals has to do more with a fear of contamination or disease.
Snakes can come off as disgusting to a wide range of people. This response of disgust may factor in to why people fear them. This is especially true in cases where someone fears snakes, but doesn’t fear larger dangerous animals like tigers or lions.
Acrophobia is the fear of heights, and it affects more than 6% of the population. Acrophobia can lead to panic attacks and may cause people to avoid high places.
This phobia can be caused by personal experience, but some think it’s caused by evolution. Over time humans may have adapted to an environment where falling from high places can cause significant harm or even death.
This is the fear of flying. This particular phobia affects somewhere between 10% and 40% of the U.S. population. In fact, a past survey has shown that 1 in 3 people have some level of fear or discomfort when it comes to flying.
Aerophobia can cause people to tremble, develop a rapid heartbeat, and feel disoriented. This fear can typically be treated and overcame by exposure therapy. Someone is gradually introduced to flying until they overcome their fear.
Cynophobia is the fear of dogs. This fear develops mostly from personal experience. Someone getting attacked or bitten by a dog during childhood can be a traumatic experience.
It’s important to note that this phobia isn’t just a fear of unfamiliar dogs. It’s an irrational fear of dogs in general. It can affect a person’s social/work relationships because a friendly household pet can even trigger the fear response.
This is the fear of thunder and lightning. This phobia creates overwhelming feelings of fear during storm weather. People will shake, have a rapid heart rate, and have heavy breathing until the weather subsides.
Sufferers of this phobia may run into the bathroom, duck under the covers, or hide in a closet during a storm. They may also be overly obsessed with tracking the movement of the current storm.
Trypanophobia is the fear of needles or injections. This particular phobia is a challenging one. It often remains untreated because people avoid the very object that causes the phobia. It can cause feelings of extreme dread when they have a pending injection. Sufferers can also have an elevated heart rate, and may even faint due to their fear or anxiety.
This is the fear of germs or dirt. This is the fear that a “germaphobe” would suffer from. People with this fear usually go to extremes with cleaning their home or office, and may constantly wash their hands.
The phobia may even cause someone to avoid contact with other people out of fear of contamination. They may also become obsessed with news stories about the latest virus outbreak.
This is the fear of being alone in a place, or situation, where it may be hard to leave. Crowded places and open spaces are typical situations that trigger this fear. In extreme cases, agoraphobia may cause a person to not leave their home at all. Agoraphobia is more prevalent in young adults up to people in their 30s. The phobia usually starts with an unexpected panic attack, and then develops into feelings of anxiety over another attack happening.
10. Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
As the name suggests, this is the fear of social situations. This particular phobia can be very disruptive to a person’s everyday life. It may cause them to avoid all social events, meetings, and places that may trigger an anxiety attack.
This phobia stems from a fear of being watched or embarrassed in front of others. Someone with this phobia may even fear something as simple as eating a meal in public. These fears typically develop during someone’s teen years, but can last the rest of their lives if the condition goes untreated. The most popular form of this phobia is the fear of public speaking.
If you, or a loved one find yourself in any of the scenarios mentioned above, seek counseling. Finding someone to talk to who is experienced in what you’re going through is the best way to overcome the most common phobias. They can offer resources and different kinds of therapy to help you begin your recovery and move on with your life.