A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder brought on by the fear of certain things or situations. The fear is usually so intense that it interferes with a person’s everyday life, to the extent that it prevents them from achieving their life goals.

There are many different types of specific phobias that people may experience, but the anxiety symptoms that occur in response to their fear are similar across them all. These include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperventilating
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Feeling sick to your stomach

It is estimated that 9.1% of people in the United States have a specific type of phobia. Many times, the intensity of the phobia will vary greatly from person to person, but all forms of phobias can be treated. Most phobias can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, which encourages different ways of thinking in response to the fear, oftentimes incorporating exposure to the fear itself.

The following are some of the most common phobias prevalent among people in the United States:

1. Arachnophobia (Fear of spiders)

Affects: 30.5% of the U.S. population

Arachnophobia is a fear of spiders that goes beyond the desire to kill one when you see it in your home. People with arachnophobia will become extremely anxious at the sight of a spider, usually jumping, screaming or freezing in place. These reactions can sometimes be evoked by a mere picture of a spider. 

People with arachnophobia will avoid places where spiders might be found at all costs. This often means not participating in outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking. They will refuse to come in close proximity to spiders, especially getting close enough to kill or remove it from their home. They will often require help from another person in order to do so.

This phobia is thought to develop from an innate fear of spiders that are venomous, which would result in negative effects, or death, if bitten.

2. Ophidiophobia (Fear of snakes)

Affects: 22% of the U.S. population

Ophidiophobia is a fear of snakes. This can sometimes be confused with herpetophobia, which is a fear of reptiles in general, but people with ophidiophobia are specifically afraid of snakes.  They will be startled at the site of a snake, oftentimes jumping, screaming or crying.

Similar to arachnophobia, people with ophidiophobia will avoid places where snakes may be found and avoid participating in outdoor activities such as camping or hiking. Unlike arachnophobia, the fear is less likely to be induced simply by looking at a picture of a snake.

Like arachnophobia, this phobia is thought to be an innate fear of being bitten by a venomous snake. It can also be derived from a traumatic experience with a snake, such as being startled by, hissed at or even bitten by one.

3. Acrophobia (Fear of heights)

Affects: 2-5% of the U.S. population

Acrophobia is a fear of heights. People with acrophobia will commonly have symptoms of spinning, also known as vertigo, in response to situations where they perceive they are high off the ground. In response to heights, they may also freeze in place and are unable to move from the spot.

In most cases, the feeling of anxiety is relieved when the person returns to ground level. People with acrophobia will often avoid situations involving heights. The severity of this phobia can vary greatly. In some people, the fear will be onset from standing at the top of a tall building, while in others it can be induced by scaling a ladder. 

This phobia stems from the person losing confidence in their ability to stay balanced or fearing that they will fall. People with acrophobia tend to overestimate vertical distances, meaning that at certain heights, they perceive themselves as being higher off the ground than they really are.

4. Aerophobia (Fear of flying)

Affects: 6.5% of the U.S. population

Aerophobia is a fear of flying. People with aerophobia become extremely anxious when flying.  For some, it is brought on by simply entering a plane or even the thought of entering a plane, whereas others experience the phobia when there is turbulence during a flight.

People with aerophobia will avoid flying if they can. If it is absolutely necessary, some may endure it with great anguish, while others will simply choose not to go anywhere that would require them to fly to get there. People with aerophobia may become anxious and dreadful in the days leading up to a trip, to the point where it could interfere with their work or social life.

This phobia tends to stem from the fear that the airplane will crash. It can also be a combination of other phobias that culminate in the environment of an airplane, such as a fear of a confined space, heights, no escape or an outbreak of illness.

5. Cynophobia (Fear of dogs)

Affects: 13% of the U.S. population

Cynophobia is a fear of dogs. People with cynophobia will commonly freeze at the site of a dog and have intense symptoms of anxiety.

People with cynophobia may avoid situations where they may encounter a dog, which can be difficult given their abundance as pets in society. They may find it difficult to interact with others who have dogs, including friends of family members. They may even avoid becoming friends with a dog owner.  

This phobia usually arises from a negative experience with dogs, many times as a child. The person may have had an interaction with an aggressive dog at some point, or they may have witnessed a family member being bitten or chased by a dog. The fear can also develop indirectly, by observing a family member that has cynophobia.

6. Astraphobia (Fear of thunder and lightning)

Affects: 10% of the U.S. population

Astraphobia is the fear of lightning and thunder. People with astraphobia will experience extreme symptoms of anxiety during storms, which many times will be amplified if the person is alone.

People with astraphobia will likely be constantly up-to-date on the weather and will avoid leaving home if a storm is expected. During a storm, they will often find a safe place to hide, where the noise will be diminished. This fear can also be experienced by animals, such as dogs and cats.

The fear of thunder and lightning is thought to come from a traumatic experience related to a storm involving thunder or lightning.

7. Trypanophobia (Fear of injections)

Affects: 10% of the U.S. population

Trypanophobia is a fear of injections. It is also known as a fear of needles. People with trypanophobia will experience extreme anxiety in response to procedures requiring a needlestick, such as getting a shot or getting their blood drawn. The response can often occur at the site of a needle, before the procedure is performed. They will often become very dizzy or even faint in response to the needlestick. 

People with trypanophobia may avoid medical care due to their fear. In some cases, the symptoms of trypanophobia can also be induced by observing others undergoing injections.

The anxiety may also be linked to a fear of hospitals, doctors and/or medical procedures in general, which tend to involve needles. It can also be the result of a traumatic experience with a prior procedure involving an injection.

8. Social Phobia (Social anxiety disorder)

Affects: 7.1% of the U.S. population

Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, is a fear of social situations, usually involving people the person doesn’t know very well. Most people associate social phobia with being shy or introverted, but it is much more than that. 

People with social anxiety are extremely afraid of social interactions, to the point that It is frequently debilitating and interferes with their life. People with social phobia will avoid social situations, sometimes refusing to leave their house.

It is usually brought on by a fear of judgment by others or feeling exceedingly self-conscious when out in public. They are afraid of being embarrassed or humiliating themselves in front of others.

9. Agoraphobia (Fear of a situation where escape may be difficult)

Affects: 0.9% of the U.S. population

Agoraphobia is defined in many different ways, but in general is known as a fear of a situation where escape may be difficult or where help will not be able to reach them in the case of an emergency. Other definitions include a fear of leaving home alone, fear of crowds or fear of having a panic attack in public. People with agoraphobia tend to think of places outside of their home as unsafe.

People with agoraphobia usually experience flashes of severe fear, resembling a panic attack. They may avoid situations such as traveling on public transportation, visiting the mall, standing in crowded rooms, where exits may be limited, or even being in spaces that are wide open, where they may be too exposed. Their symptoms can sometimes be relieved if accompanied by another person.

This phobia may stem from a traumatic experience, such as a loved one being severely injured or dying in a traumatic situation. It can also be a fear of being a victim of a crime or an act of terrorism, exposure to illness or being in an accident.

10. Mysophobia (Fear of germs)

Affects: 13.2% of the U.S. population

Mysophobia is a fear of germs. A person with mysophobia might also be called a “germaphobe”. They may also be afraid of dirt or getting dirty, where germs might be present.

People with mysophobia may obsessively wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. They may avoid public spaces where high levels of germs may be present, such as public restrooms. They tend to be extremely clean and disinfect everything in their homes. They typically avoid touching other people. In extreme cases, they may also avoid leaving their home altogether. 

This phobia can arise from the fear of contracting an illness upon exposure to germs. It may be related to hypochondria, which is a condition wherein a person is overly anxious about their health. While it is also thought to be related to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), people with OCD tend to be more obsessed with the act of washing their hands rather than the exposure to germs.

11. Claustrophobia (Fear of small spaces)

Affects: 5% of the U.S. population

Claustrophobia is a fear of small spaces. The space can vary from a confined area, like a closet or elevator, to being trapped in a crowded room, where others are invading one’s personal space. 

When feeling trapped, they will experience extreme sensations of anxiety, similar to a panic attack, which will likely subside when they remove themselves from the space or situation. People with claustrophobia will avoid putting themselves in these situations whenever possible.

This phobia may stem from a traumatic event as a child, such as being trapped in a small space for some period of time. People with claustrophobia also tend to consider their personal space as farther from their body than people without claustrophobia. In other words, their personal space is more easily interfered with compared to other people’s.

12. Glossophobia (Fear of public speaking)

Affects: 26.2% of the U.S. population

Glossophobia is a fear of public speaking. This can be seen as a variant of social anxiety disorder but is more specific in that people with glossophobia are afraid of talking in front of groups of people. This fear can vary widely, from becoming very nervous when standing in front of a crowd to being unable to speak at all. 

People with glossophobia will evade public speaking whenever possible, usually avoiding occupations that require public speaking. As with social phobia, this may stem from the fear of being embarrassed in front of others.

Some individuals may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with their phobias. If you are affected by a phobia and are using substances in order to cope, contact The Recovery Village today. We have comprehensive treatment plans and online services like teletherapy that can help you gain control of your thoughts and actions.