Updated on 8/15/2022
For humans, and mammals generally, fear of something is inevitable, but when the irrational fear becomes debilitating and impacts your everyday life, what happens? Phobias can arise from almost anything, some that seem stranger than others and about 12.5% of people in the U.S. experience phobias. So you may just wonder: what are the 10 most common phobias and what you can do to alleviate them?
Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that provokes excessive and persistent fear. You might be wondering how to tell if the fear is rational, or if the excessive fear has morphed into a true phobia. The DSM-5 notes that the difference lies in whether “the fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the sociocultural context.” Typically, phobias include intense fears that persist for more than six months, and in extreme cases, can even cause physical symptoms like sweating and chest pains.
We asked our Talkspace therapists what the most common phobias they see in their clients, they shared with us the following list of phobias and how to help alleviate them.
Read on to discover and learn about them.
1. Social phobias: Fear of Social Interactions
Also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, social phobias are by far the most common fear or phobia our Talkspace therapists see in their clients. Social Anxiety Disorder makes everyday interactions challenging, stressful, and anxiety-provoking for its sufferers — therapy can often be a great help in working towards more confidence.
2. Trypophobia: Fear of Circle Clusters
Although this common phobia could come off silly at first, many people have a very real struggle with trypophobia. There are many theories of what causes trypophobia, most of which point toward human evolution. The image of circle clusters are reminiscent of things we as humans have feared in the past, like infectious diseases and dangerous animals like bees.
3. Atychiphobia: Fear of Failure
Atychiphobia is the intense fear of failure. In some ways, we’re all afraid of failure, however, when this common phobia becomes debilitating and one is unable to progress in life, it’s time to seek help from a professional. This fear may be part of a more general social phobia, which a licensed professional can help sort out.
4. Thanatophobia: Fear of Death
Thanatophobia, the fear of death, is not shocking, but when it takes over day-to-day activities, and causes extreme anxiety that prevents seemingly normal activities and behavior, it becomes a serious problem.
5. Nosophobia: Fear of Developing a Disease
Although similar to hypochondria, nosophobia is anxiety about minor symptoms you fear are a more serious condition. Nosophobia can often be treated with exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medication — it’s best to communicate these concerns to a professional in order to take the best course of action.
“The fear of developing a disease has been so intense over the last couple of years thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic. If you have started developing health anxiety, know that you are not alone and that therapy is highly effective!”Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD
6. Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders
Arachnophobia is the extreme fear of spiders and other arachnids, such as scorpions — most commonly this excessive fear is linked to an evolutionary response against these creatures, many of which are poisonous. Symptoms of this fear most often appear during childhood, but can also develop into adulthood. As with most phobias, anxiety from this specific fear can manifest as physical symptoms, too.
7. Vehophobia: Fear of Driving
Vehophobia is the fear of driving — often on highways or bridges. For most who suffer from vehophobia, the phobia follows involvement in a car accident or witnessing one. This specific fear is often similar to symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder or PTSD, depending on their individual experience.
8. Claustrophobia: Fear of Enclosed Spaces
Fear of enclosed spaces. Feeling claustrophobic, or fearing a tight, enclosed, or confined space, includes symptoms such as difficulty breathing or a fear of running out of oxygen. It is believed that about 5% of the population suffers from claustrophobia —often this includes experiencing extreme anxiety on airplanes, busy venues such as shopping malls, or crowded elevators — you can feel claustrophobic in any confined space or situation where you feel trapped or confined.
9. Acrophobia: Fear of Heights
Acrophobia, the fear of heights, fear is believed to be partially ingrained, whether biologically or evolutionarily, as a survival mechanism. We all need to be a little afraid of heights because of the danger of falling. The phobia, however, is a hyper-reaction — an unreasonable and perhaps debilitating feat — that could be caused by one’s parents’ overreaction, or a previous fall.
10. Aerophobia: Fear of Flying
The fear of getting on a plane is often associated with other fears, like the fear of closed spaces, or fear of heights — it can also be passed down from parents, if they are anxious flyers. Another cause involves the media coverage of plane and helicopter accidents.
Whatever phobia it may be, it’s common to experience a panic attack, especially when confronted with the source of the phobia. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Sudden intense fear
- Heart palpitation
- Chest pain
- Out of breath
- Dry mouth
- Ringing in ears
- Hot flashes
Don’t be ashamed that you have an irrational fear of something. Whatever your phobia may be — it’s completely valid. Phobias shouldn’t be ignored or brushed to the side, it’s important to talk to a professional if they’re all-consuming. Although phobias can interfere with your life and daily routine, there are ways to get help, whether it’s therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Even your phobia it’s not on this list, any kind of phobia is valid. Always remember, you deserve to live a phobia-free life!
“How amazing would it be to find that the unknown also holds the keys to your own liberation? The thing we fear the most may, in fact, lead us down the path of freedom with the proper guidance and support.”Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD
- Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration. Table 3.11, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Specific Phobia Comparison. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2016.
- Specific phobia. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Accessed December 28, 2021. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia