The world has thousands of confirmed and diagnosable phobias. It’s thought that for every object or concept in existence, there is someone who has a phobic response to it. From carpet to clouds, someone out there probably has a response that would be diagnosable as phobic in some way.
Some phobias are more common than others, though. The fear of long words, for instance, is probably rarer than someone who is afraid of strangers. Let’s take a closer look at 10 most common phobias across the world.
Trypophobia is a fear of holes. While off the wall at face value, this phobia actually is explained by biology: people seem to be hardwired to find small holes revolting and anxiety-inducing. This makes using some normal and everyday objects impossible for someone suffering from this phobia. They often cannot use sponges of any kind and are afraid of mundane things such as coral or honeycombs.
Aerophobia is the fear of flying. It’s common for those about to fly to worry and have paranoid emotions about their impending experience, especially after multiple traumatic events involving plane crashes and hijackings being present in popular culture. This fear becomes a phobia when they are incapable of flying because of panic attacks and other anxiety-driven symptoms when faced with flying on a plane.
Mysophobia is the fear of germs; commonly associated with OCD and other compulsive disorders. Most don’t like the idea of being around germs, but the label of phobia is applied when the idea of germs being present inhibits someone’s ability to live a normal life. Mysophobes often are compulsive cleaners, isolated and participating in specific rituals to ensure they stay safe from the germs they fear so much.
Claustrophobia is the fear of cramped spaces. This fear has two main subsets in regards to the more specific underlying fear: some are more concerned about suffocation while it triggers extreme social anxiety in others. Common trigger sites for those with claustrophobia are elevators, stairwells, cars and restrooms.
Astraphobia is the fear of both thunder and lightning, sometimes considered to be the fear of storms in general. Many children suffer from this fear, though it fades as they move into adulthood. Others retain or develop this fear later on in life.
Cynophobia is the irrational fear of dogs. Despite dogs being furry and lovable friends to most people, this is one of the most common animal fears for someone to exhibit. Unlike some fears, where specific stimuli or more rare stimuli are needed to induce panic, dogs are popular pets and depicted often in media, making them almost inescapable.
Agoraphobia is a dual fear, covering both extremely crowded and open spaces. A person suffering from agoraphobia may have a fear of heavily populated spaces (such as malls or department stores), wide open spaces (plains or deserted streets) or both. Because this phobia severely limits a person’s social function, it can be easy for people with agoraphobia to be extremely introverted.
Acrophobia is the fear of heights. While it’s not irrational to be afraid of being up high without support or with the potential of falling, the phobia’s irrational part comes in when a person is in a state of panic so severe it impairs their ability to get down from said high place. Others may even suffer this phobia from a slight elevation, such as a ladder or stairs.
Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. The fear of snakes being such a widespread phobia can be attributed to both evolution and symbolism. The visceral fear of snakes has been popularized for thousands of years because of the popular imagery of snakes as evil beings, as well as their status as venomous.
Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders; a phobia shared by millions in the United States alone. The fear of spiders is another natural evolutionary reaction due to spiders commonly being associated with venom that can kill. Many people are afraid of spiders, but arachnophobia is a more extreme response to this emotion. It often results in paranoia and extreme emotion when faced with even the thought of being around an arachnid.
There are several ways to help someone overcome a phobia, usually dependent on two things: the phobia in question and the patient experiencing the phobia. The most common forms of treatment include intensive therapy and exposure treatments. Exposure treatments are a more radical therapy method that involves exposing a phobic person to their anxiety triggers so the person can come to terms with them and finally accept that they are irrational.
The more clinical method of phobia treatment is for a mental health professional to discuss with a patient why they have their phobia. Most phobias spawn from a situation in a person’s past, such as a dog bite making someone afraid of dogs from then onward. These phobias can be relatively easy to treat with extensive therapy.