A phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an extreme, uncontrollable, and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. They are as common as being scared of heights (acrophobia) and as rare as being scared of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth (arachibutyrophobia). And some phobias are extremely modern, such as the fear of being without your mobile phone (nomophobia).
To learn more, find out where phobias originate, explore the 10 most common ones, and learn how to get help if you think you have one.
How Does One Develop a Phobia?
Phobias typically emerge in childhood, but they can also develop in adults, especially if they experience a traumatic event. There is still much to learn about how phobias originate, but experts point to three potential factors:1
- Negative past experiences: If you had a negative experience or panic attack related to a specific object or situation, you may develop a phobia about it
- Family history: If your parents had a specific phobia, you may inherit this anxiety disorder either through genetics or learned behavior
- Brain chemistry: An imbalance in brain chemicals or an overactive amygdala may contribute to the development of phobias
What Are the Most Popular Phobias?
hile you won’t find a fear of peanut butter on this list of phobias, you will others you may have heard of, like a fear of spiders, or a fear of enclosed spaces. Here are the most common phobias you should know about.
1. Agoraphobia: Fear of Public Spaces
Agoraphobia refers to a fear of public spaces or situations that may cause panic and feelings of being trapped, helpless or embarrassed. This can include something as simple as standing in line or being in a crowd. A person with agoraphobia may feel that they will not be able to escape if they want to or get help if needed. Sometimes this fear is so great, they will be unable to leave their home.
2. Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders
Arachnophobia is an irrational fear of spiders, even when they are harmless and non-poisonous. The fear may emerge when a person is near a spider, sees a picture of a spider, or even just suspects that a spider is within close proximity. The fear may also include spiderwebs. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about three to 15 percent of the population has arachnophobia and it is more common in females than males.2
3. Claustrophobia: Fear of Enclosed Spaces
A person with claustrophobia fears confined spaces like elevators, trains, MRI machines, and tunnels. It affects about 12.5 percent of the population.3 The anxiety arises from the fear that they will suffocate or be unable to escape if they need to. Being in an enclosed space can also lead to a panic attack.
4. Entomophobia: Fear of Insects
Entomophobia refers to a fear of insects or places that may be prone to having insects. This phobia can look like agoraphobia if the fear is so great that it prevents a person from leaving their home so they won’t encounter an insect. Like arachnophobia, entomophobia can be triggered by seeing an insect in person or even in a picture.
5. Pteromerhanophobia: Fear of Flying
Also known as aviophobia and aerophobia, pteromerhanophobia is a fear of flying. The anxiety may be related to different aspects of flying, such as taking off or landing, and does not necessarily have to do with a fear of the plane crashing. Along with the fear of being on a plane or helicopter, a person with pteromerhanophobia may also be troubled by the anticipation of flying or even just thinking about being in flight. Research shows that fear of flying affects about 25 million adults in the U.S.4
6. Ophidiophobia: Fear of Snakes
A person with ophidiophobia fears snakes and is related to herpetophobia, which is a fear of reptiles. In a sense, this fear is a rational one, as many snakes are venomous and pose a real threat to humans. In fact, a 2013 study found that our brain is evolutionarily conditioned to be afraid of snake-like forms.5 But if the fear of snakes is overwhelming and uncontrollable and is even triggered by an image or thought of snakes, then it is likely a phobia.
7. Astraphobia: Fear of Storms
Astraphobia refers to a fear of storms, or particularly thunder and lightning. This phobia is more common in children, though it can be carried into adulthood. It can also show up in animals. The fear can be triggered by experiencing the storm or even anticipating one, such as watching weather reports about an oncoming storm. Many people with astraphobia seek shelter beyond normal protection from a storm, such as hiding in a closet or under the bed.
8. Cynophobia: Fear of Dogs
Cynophobia is an extreme fear of dogs, which can be triggered by seeing a dog, hearing a bark, or even visiting a place where a dog might be. Like entomophobia, this phobia can resemble agoraphobia if it prevents a person from leaving home. Though researchers are unsure how many people have this phobia they have found that about 1 in every 3 people with a phobia of animals has an overwhelming fear of dogs.6
9. Nyctophobia: Fear of the Dark
Nyctophobia describes an intense fear of the dark, which is common in very young children, but can also persist in adulthood. The phobia can lead to a loss of sleep or keep a person from leaving their home after dark. Nyctophobia is often associated with PTSD if the phobia was caused by a negative or traumatic experience that took place in the dark.
10. Acrophobia: Fear of Heights
Acrophobia is an extreme fear of heights, like being in a tall building, ascending stairs, crossing a bridge, or climbing a ladder. Fear can be triggered by being positioned in a high place, by looking down from a high place, or even thinking about these things. Data show that approximately three to six percent of people have this phobia.7
What Are Signs You Have a Phobia?
If you have a fear of a situation or object that is irrational, causes extreme distress, or interferes with your daily life, you may have a phobia. No matter what your specific fear entails, psychological and physical symptoms may be similar and include:
- Feeling trapped and unable to escape
- Feeling out of control
- Avoidance of feared object or situation
- Physical symptoms like a racing pulse, sweating, shaking, dizziness, and upset stomach
Where You Can Find Help?
Therapy is one of the best ways a person can help manage phobias, especially exposure therapy. Exposure therapy entails gradually and repeatedly exposing a person to the source of their specific phobia and developing methods to cope with the anxiety that arises both physically and mentally. For example, a person with arachnophobia may be asked to first think about spiders, then look at a spider, then maybe touch a spider to confront their fear.
If you find that the phobia is interfering with your life, medication may help you manage symptoms of anxiety, and can even be used in conjunction with exposure therapy. Brillia is a non-prescription homeopathic medication consisting of antibodies to the S100B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects, Brillia takes a unique approach to reducing anxiety by preventing symptoms from occurring altogether without altering blood chemistry, causing drowsiness, or masking the personality. By regulating the activity of the S100B protein, the medication restores balance in neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine to promote more clarity and focus, and less stress and worry. Brillia can also be used situationally if you know that you will be exposed to a phobia ahead of time. This way, you can start taking the medication at least four weeks before the event, such as an airplane trip or public speaking engagement.
It’s important to remember that there is no quick fix for anxiety. Brillia is not a magic solution that will dissolve your anxiety, nor will it make your phobia go away. As a gentle and cumulative product, it takes about three to four weeks for the active ingredient to build up in the system, after which you can start assessing results. During this time, implementing the lifestyle habits outlined in our 5 Pillar holistic approach, such as proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness, can help you learn how to manage your anxiety from multiple angles so you can be more empowered to face your fears when you’re ready.
We’ll share helpful tips, the latest studies and personal experiences.