10 Common Phobias And How They Are Treated

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated September 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Fear is a normal, healthy response to a threat. It can help us prepare for and react to potentially dangerous situations to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. However, when intense, debilitating fear occurs in reaction to a specific stimulus that may be frequently encountered in daily life, it could signify the presence of a clinical phobia. See below for more information on what a phobia is, a list of ten common phobias, and treatment options for this type of disorder.

A Phobia Doesn’t Have To Keep You From Living Your Best Life

What Is A Phobia?

According to the DSM-V, a specific phobia is a noticeable “fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation”. This fear must occur nearly every time the individual encounters the object or situation, it must be disproportionate to the danger that is actually present, and it will generally negatively impact the individual’s daily life and functioning.

Symptoms that a person may experience when faced with the object of their phobia can include the following, leading them to avoid situations involving the trigger:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint or actually fainting
  • Sweating or chills
  • Trembling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Dry mouth

Specific phobias are estimated to affect 12.5% of US adults at some point in their lives. Of these, 21.9% will experience “severe impairment” as a result of their symptoms. Effective treatment for phobias is available; we’ll discuss this in more detail below.

10 Common Phobias

The object of an individual's phobia can vary widely, but there are several that are more common than others. We’ll list and give a brief overview of these below.

1. Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of spiders. Someone who has arachnophobia may experience emotional and physical distress at the sight or even the thought of a spider. Arachnophobia can cause an individual to go to extreme measures to avoid encountering spiders, including staying away from spaces where they may be, avoiding outdoor activities, cleaning excessively, and leaving the room if one appears. Animal-based fears are the most prevalent forms of specific phobias, and arachnophobia is one of the most common within that subset. 

2. Ophidiophobia

Ophidiophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of snakes. In extreme cases, people who have this fear may have difficulty going outside at all for fear of encountering one. They might avoid going hiking, picnicking, visiting the zoo, or even walking in their backyard or a park for fear of coming across a snake. They may also become fearful when they think they hear a snake or see objects that look like snakes. 

3. Acrophobia

Acrophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of heights. Those who experience acrophobia may not need to be high in the air to feel fear; some experience intense anxiety even when they’re a few feet off the ground. Triggers could even include activities like using a ladder, climbing stairs, or being in a building on any floor above the ground. For those who experience this type of phobia, just the thought of engaging in an activity that involves heights may be enough to raise their heart rate and cause panic. 

4. Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is technically categorized as a separate anxiety disorder rather than a specific phobia. It relates to a fear of situations where leaving or getting help may be impossible, difficult, or embarrassing. An article from Johns Hopkins Medicine puts it this way: “In specific phobia, the fear centers on harm directly caused by the situation (e.g., a plane crashing); in agoraphobia, the fear centers on whether escape is possible or if help will be available in the situation”. 

This disorder is often tied to panic disorder, as those who have experienced a panic attack in the past may fear their recurrence and avoid situations that could trigger one and/or where experiencing one would be especially undesirable. Many people who have agoraphobia have difficulty leaving their homes and require help with daily activities.

5. Cynophobia

Cynophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of dogs. While some level of fear of dogs may be warranted in certain situations, people with cynophobia typically experience this fear beyond what would be expected in the circumstances. As a result, they may avoid situations where dogs are likely to be—even in the homes of friends and family or even if the dogs are small or non-threatening.


6.  Astraphobia

Astraphobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of thunder and lightning storms. It’s more common in children but may also affect adults. People with this phobia may become preoccupied with watching weather reports, may plan their day around the chances of a storm occurring, or may even move to a place where inclement weather is less likely. They may also experience symptoms when viewing footage of a storm on TV or in a movie, or when seeing a picture of lightning or storm clouds. 

7.  Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of being in an enclosed area from which escape may be difficult. These fears can be prompted by particularly tight spaces such as elevators, small rooms, or tunnels. Someone who lives with claustrophobia may frequently take stairs to avoid elevators, use ground transportation instead of flying, and otherwise arrange their lives to ensure they don’t encounter tight spaces.

8.  Mysophobia

Mysophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of germs. Those who have this phobia are typically scared of getting sick after being exposed to germs and will often go to great lengths to avoid them. Someone with mysophobia may wash their hands excessively, avoid public places, or go home to shower and clean themselves immediately if they feel that they’ve been exposed to germs.   

9.  Aerophobia

Also called aviophobia, aerophobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of flying. It’s often caused by the belief that a crash is likely, or it may arise out of claustrophobia and the fear of being trapped in the enclosed space of a plane. Aerophobia can cause an individual to use alternative transportation or avoid travel altogether. 

10. Trypophobia

Trypophobia is the intense, overwhelming fear of clusters of holes, such as those on the outside of a sponge or a honeycomb. Some research suggests that the fear of groups of holes may be an evolutionary response linked to a fear of dangerous animals with certain patterns or markings. Another theory is that trypophobia could be caused by an aversion to skin diseases that may feature clusters of bumps or circular marks.  

Treatment For Specific Phobias

Psychotherapy is typically the recommended course of treatment for a specific phobia, sometimes in combination with medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of talk therapy used for this condition, because it can help an individual recognize and challenge irrational thoughts related to the object of their fear and learn to manage symptoms of anxiety. Exposure therapy is another one of the most widely used treatment modalities for specific phobias. It allows the individual to gradually confront the object of their fear in a controlled setting with the guidance of a trained professional until it no longer causes extreme distress.

A Phobia Doesn’t Have To Keep You From Living Your Best Life

How To Seek The Support Of A Therapist

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a phobia, meeting with a mental health professional is typically a recommended next step. If you’d prefer to meet with a provider in person, you can search for one in your local area or contact your health insurance company for a list of in-network therapists. If you’d feel more comfortable meeting with someone virtually from the comfort of home, you might consider online therapy. 

Research suggests that this modality can help people living with a phobia reduce the severity of their symptoms. In one study on the efficacy of online cognitive behavioral therapy for specific phobia, researchers found significant decreases in anxiety after six weeks of treatment, with 35% of participants no longer fitting the criteria for specific phobia. The study also noted that these benefits were sustained for at least three months after treatment ended. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from anywhere you have an internet connection.


Phobias are intense, overwhelming fears of specific objects or situations that can lead to avoidance or marked distress when encountering them. Some of the most common phobias are listed above. Treatment for phobias usually consists of therapy, either online or in person, sometimes in conjunction with medication.

It is possible to overcome phobias

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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