Most Common Phobias: 8 Unreasonable Fears

The most common phobias1 could be anything involving the environment, animals, or certain situations. You are on a roller coaster ride, and when it reaches the peak of its steep track, you hesitate for a second. You don’t know what is going to happen next, and there is no way to avoid this. Your hands cling to the side rail, your heart starts beating fast, your palms start sweating, and you brace yourself for the scary ride down.

This feeling of fear in a dangerous situation is quite normal. Most often, people tend to be afraid or have phobias in certain situations and realize it only when they are in such a situation. Phobias are unreasonable. The source of most common phobias or fears does not pose any threat or danger, but still, a person is overwhelmed by them nonetheless!

1. What is a Phobia?

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The word Phobia comes from the Greek word “Phobos,” which means fear or horror. A phobia is an irrational fear associated with a particular stimulus that causes no harm. The most common phobias could be of anything like elevators, animals, heights, needles, empty spaces, and many more.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there is no specific cause for these anxiety disorders. People having a specific phobia feel a sense of fear that could be totally out of proportion to the actual danger.

For instance, going on a boat ride can be dangerous only in rare instances like if the boat gets toppled or turn over. Most people accept that such a situation is unlikely to happen and that going on a boat ride is fun. But those having a specific phobia of water would view this ride as a life-threatening danger.

2. Types of Reactions During Most Common Phobias

Irrespective of the phobia you have, it is likely that you will come up with some of these types of reactions during the most common phobias:

  • When exposed or even thinking of the source of fear, an immediate feeling of intense fear, panic attack, and anxiety will come up.
  • Consciousness about your fears being irrational or exaggerated but still being powerless to control them.
  • Increase in anxiety level.
  • Doing anything and everything possible to avoid the situation or object.
  • Difficulty in going about your daily activities because of your fear.
  • Physical reactions like profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, difficulty in breathing, etc.
  • Nausea, dizziness, or fainting when you see blood or an injury.
  • Children may throw tantrums, cry, clinging on to their parents, and refuse to leave their side when they encounter fear.

3. Most Common Phobias

Everyone has a phobia or fear of something. For some of them, their phobias or fears are mild and do not affect their daily activities. But for those who have diagnosable phobias, their level of fear and discomfort could be exceptional and may significantly impact the quality of their life.

According to peer-reviewed studies conducted by the Psychiatric Association, phobias are one of the most common psychiatric problems that both men and women face. It is said to affect nearly 10% of the population each year. These most common phobias could emerge during childhood or adolescence and continue till adulthood, affecting social life.

There are a lot of explanations given for the development of different phobias. Whatever the cause, phobias are treatable or could at least be minimized or, in some cases, eliminated too through numerous behavioral therapies or medication. Most common phobias involve that of the environment, animals, or a particular object around. But what exactly are these common phobias? Let us read on and try to understand them without creating any fear.

3.1. Arachnophobia

There are an estimated 35,000 different types of spider species found worldwide, and just a few of them pose a threat to humans. The fear of spiders and other arachnids like mites, ticks, etc., is known as Arachnophobia2. The fear of spiders could be triggered off by just seeing a spider, and in some cases, the thought or an image of an arachnid could lead to overwhelming fear and panic.

Most Common Phobias
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The effects of arachnophobia 3could impact your daily activities. This is because you tend to experience panic attacks and feel uncomfortable in your own home if you feel that there is a spider in there. You may try to avoid outdoor activities like going for a picnic, having a walk in the park, or going for a hike where spiders may be present. Researchers believe common symptoms of arachnophobia could develop genetically if either of your parents has this phobia.

Treatment of arachnophobia is possible through cognitive behavioral therapy, where you are taught how to relax during your fear situation, and the negative thoughts associated with this fear or situation will be replaced by more rational thoughts.

3.2. Acrophobia

The fear of heights or Acrophobia is another phobia that affects more than 7% of the population. People who have this phobia are said to have severe panic attacks when they start thinking of a tall building or if they visit a significant place with a great height.

People having this phobia will go to great lengths to avoid such situations or places like towers, tall buildings, or bridges. In some cases, one of these most common phobias is said to affect mental health as a result of some traumatic experience. It could have evolved out of the fear of a fall from heights that could have posed a significant danger.

It is pretty common for most of you to have a certain amount of fear of heights. You may feel uneasy or shaky when looking down from a tall height. But those who have acrophobia will experience irrational fear when they are faced with heights like climbing stairs, standing on a balcony, climbing a ladder, or parking their car in a multi-floor parking lot.

Like most common phobias, acrophobia could affect anyone at any age. It could develop from early childhood and become visible during adolescence or young adulthood.

Treatment of fear of heights is normally done through psychotherapy methods like virtual reality exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure treatment. In some cases, medications provide temporary relief to cope with the symptoms of fear and anxiety while they are undergoing therapy.

3.3. Claustrophobia

Fear of enclosed spaces is known as Claustrophobia4, and it is believed to affect about 5% of the population. It is a situational phobia that can be triggered by fear of flying, crowded elevators, shopping malls, driving on a congested highway, or any confined space or situation where you feel trapped or confined.

Most Common Phobias
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The symptoms of one of these most common phobias include difficulty in breathing or a fear of losing out on oxygen. Not much is known about the causes leading to Claustrophobia. It could be developed during childhood or teenage years. The phobia could affect mental health due to a traumatic event like:

  • Experiencing turbulence during a flight.
  • Being stuck in crowded rooms for an extended time.
  • Getting punished and locked in a limited space like a washroom.
  • Being left by accident in confined spaces like a closet.
  • Being stuck in a crowded public transport service.

You could also develop Claustrophobia if you have grown up watching a loved one having an intense fear of small or open spaces. Treatment for Claustrophobia could be cognitive behavioral therapy, virtual reality exposure therapy, exposure treatment, or medication. Different types of counseling will also help manage your triggers and overcome your fear.

3.4. Ophidiophobia

Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. The exact reason for this common fear has still not been detected by healthcare professionals. One of the most common phobias is often accredited to personal experiences, cultural influences, or evolutionary causes. Another reason could be that as some of the snakes are poisonous, your ancestors could have passed this fear down to their genes as a survival tactic.

Studies show that animals tend to provoke a response of disgust, and hence the phobia of snakes could be common among people.

A person suffering from Ophidiophobia5 could experience an anxiety attack whenever they encounter a snake or see anything similar to it too. Even a sound similar to the hiss of a snake or a cartoon of a snake could trigger off their fear. Physical symptoms could include dizziness, nausea, extreme shaking or shivering, profusely sweating, dryness of mouth, difficulty breathing, urge to run and hide, etc.

If minor symptoms are present, then treatment for Ophidiophobia is not needed. But if the symptoms cause physical disturbances or mental disorders, then seek treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure treatment, hypnotherapy, or medications is required for specific phobias.

3.5. Cynophobia 

The fear of dogs or Cynophobia affects about 7-9% of the population. The exact reason for this specific phobia is not known. It could have started in childhood, and for some, it develops when they are adults. It is often related to personal experiences like being bitten by a dog during childhood.

Such incidents could lead to a panic attack that will last well into adulthood. Sometimes genetics or environment could also play a role in developing this phobia. It is found that some people develop phobias because of a neurological disorder. One of the most common phobias, Cynophobia,6 is an unreasonable, persistent, and excessive fear that impacts a person’s life and functioning.

A person who has this phobia will find it difficult to walk down a street; they will have a normal apprehension that there is a dog in that neighborhood. Avoiding such a situation will lead to problems in going about their daily life by making it difficult to go to work, school, or any other place outside the comforts of their home.

Several therapies are available to help people cure Cynophobia. A combination of treatments like exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medications along with the consultation of your doctor, will provide the required relief from this phobia.

3.6. Social Phobia

The fear of social situations is known as Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder. This is quite different from shyness. Shyness is generally short-term and does not affect one’s life. Social Phobia is persistent and devastating. People with this phobia avoid social situations like school and work, meeting new people, social interactions, and even staying away from family gatherings.

People get triggered by anxiety attacks as they fear being watched or humiliated in front of others. Even simple chores like eating a meal could be anxiety-provoking.

Most Common Phobias
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One of the most common phobias of this social anxiety disorder is the fear of public speaking. Social phobias usually develop during the teenage. at around the age of 13 and could last a lifetime unless it is treated on time. There are some psychological symptoms:

  • Worrying about social situations
  • Worrying for days before any event
  • Avoiding social gatherings or hiding behind someone in case you are forced to attend one.
  • Worrying that people will notice that you are worried or nervous
  • Taking the help of alcohol to face people or a social situation
  • Worrying about getting embarrassed in a social situation
  • Skipping social events because of the anxiety

Healthcare professionals say that it could be caused because of natural environmental factors and genetics. Sometimes a negative experience like bullying, family conflict, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse could also be a reason for the development of Social Phobias.

Treatment options for this kind of specific phobia will differ from person to person. Some of them require only one type of treatment, while some may need more than one. The most common treatments are cognitive-behavioral treatment, exposure therapy, group therapy, relaxation techniques, and medications.

3.7. Trypanophobia

The fear of injections, Trypanophobia,7 is one of the most common phobias affecting nearly 20-30% of adults. Even though it is noticed among children, for some it tends to decrease as they become adults. People having this phobia try and avoid medical treatments, medical professionals, and doctors even if they have an ailment that needs medical attention.

They experience extreme dread at just the thought of meeting a doctor or taking an injection. Some of them even pass out during the injection. Like most other phobias, this severe fear also often goes unnoticed or untreated because people avoid the object or situations that trigger off their fear. Some common physical symptoms seen of this phobia are:

  • Elevated heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Intense Anxiety
  • Panic attack
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or shivering

Although the precise causes of Trypanophobia or needle phobia are not known, some factors could be an inherited family history of this specific phobia. Adverse experiences that involve needles or medical procedures could also lead to this fear of specific phobias. In some cases, people respond with a Vasovagal reflex at the sight of needles triggering a sudden drop in blood pressure and heartbeat.

Treatment for Trypanophobia usually involves medications or psychotherapy to help cope with this extreme anxiety. Nowadays, as there are new ways for medical procedures, people can receive treatment without being exposed to needles as well.

3.8. Mysophobia

Excessive fear of germs and dirt is one of the most common phobias seen that is known as Mysophobia. This phobia leads people to get involved in extreme cleaning of their surroundings, compulsive hand washing, and avoiding situations or things that they perceive to be dirty.

People living with this fear will try to avoid physical contact with others, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, schools, and airplanes out of the intense fear of getting contaminated. The steps taken by these people worsen over time, and they will be found to be stuck in a cycle of repetitive behavior. All of these affect the quality of their life, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


The causes for the development of Mysophobia 8could be genetics or emotional trauma related to dirtiness or germs related to a contaminated environment. The standard treatment for Mysophobia is exposure therapy, where the person is slowly exposed and made to feel comfortable in dirty situations or open places. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medications, or stress reductions are also part of the treatment for this phobia.

4. A Message to Take Away

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it is entirely valid and normal to experience phobias or nervousness. If you have a weird phobia, fear you don’t have to live in fear of getting exposed. The objects and situations that cause the most common phobias are always present, and they are not going to harm you in any way.

With the help of professional medical advice, learn to cope in healthy ways. A licensed mental health professional will also help you to explore your feelings and learn to overcome these most common phobias. Remember, you can and should live a phobia-free life!

5. FAQs

Q. Can I treat my phobias with medications?

In some circumstances, especially for temporary respite or for those who have extreme anxiety, doctors may prescribe medications such as anti-anxiety pills to control the symptoms of phobias. They aren’t viewed as a long-term fix though.

Q. Can my phobias go away on their own?

Some phobias may go away on their own with time, especially if the person completely avoids their dreaded trigger. Professional treatment can considerably hasten the recovery process, although it is not guaranteed.

Q. How can I assist a person who has a phobia?

Be understanding and helpful if you know someone who is experiencing phobias. Encourage them to look for expert assistance from a mental health professional who can assist them with the healing process.

  1. Fenichel, Otto. “Remarks on the common phobias.” The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 13.3 (1944): 313-326. ↩︎
  2. Wiederhold, Brenda K., et al. “Arachnophobia and fear of other insects: efficacy and lessons learned from treatment process.” Advances in Virtual Reality and Anxiety Disorders (2014): 91-117. ↩︎
  3. Landová, Eva, et al. “Toward a reliable detection of arachnophobia: subjective, behavioral, and neurophysiological measures of fear response.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 14 (2023): 1196785. ↩︎
  4. Lewin, Bertram D. “Claustrophobia.” The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 4.2 (1935): 227-233. ↩︎
  5. Klieger, Douglas M. “A new approach to the measurement of ophidiophobia.” Personality and individual differences 16.3 (1994): 505-508. ↩︎
  6. Rentz, Timothy O., et al. “Active-imaginal exposure: Examination of a new behavioral treatment for cynophobia (dog phobia).” Behaviour research and therapy 41.11 (2003): 1337-1353. ↩︎
  7. Jha, Abhavya, et al. “Trypanophobia among medical students-An overlooked concern.” Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health 20 (2023): 101257. ↩︎
  8. Jinno, Shigeharu, Masahiro Umino, and Nagaaki Suzuki. “A case of psychogenic oro-facial pain with mysophobia and compulsive behaviors related to dental treatment.” Journal of Psychosomatic Oral Medicine 15.2 (2000): 191-195. ↩︎

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Suchitra Rajan

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