Top 10 Fears: A List Of Phobias

Updated December 6, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Fear is a normal, healthy reaction that has helped ourselves in various scenarios throughout history. It can lead us to prepare for potential threats, defend one another, and avoid dangerous situations. But fear can be experienced in excess at times, to the extent that it may affect our ability to function and negatively impact our mental and physical health. Irrational fears of specific entities or scenarios are characteristic of an anxiety disorder called specific phobia. Below, we’re going to discuss ten of the most common specific phobias and how to manage them.

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

Symptoms And Criteria Of Specific Phobia

According to the DSM-V, a specific phobia refers to a noticeable “fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation”. This fear must occur nearly every time the individual encounters the entity or scenario and it must be disproportionate to the danger that is actually present. 

Symptoms of specific phobia include:

  • A heightened level of fear, worry, or anxiety when the entity is present, or the situation is occurring

  • Disruptions in regular functioning due to the fear

  • The knowledge that the fear is irrational but an inability to control it

  • Going out of the way to avoid contact with the object of the fear

  • Increasingly intense feelings as the perceived danger becomes more immediate

10 Common Specific Phobias 

Below are 10 of the most prevalent specific phobias and the symptoms and effects they entail. 

Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia is the irrational 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 live, cleaning excessively, or leaving the room if one appears. Animal-based fears are the most prevalent forms of specific phobia, and arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias in that subset. 

Ophidiophobia

Ophidiophobia is the irrational fear of snakes. Many people who have this fear have difficulty going outside for fear of encountering a snake. They may avoid going hiking, visiting the zoo, or even walking around their own backyard. They may become fearful when they think they hear a snake or see things that look like a snake. 

Acrophobia

Acrophobia is an intense fear of heights. Those who experience acrophobia may not need to be high in the air to feel fear—some experience anxiety when they’re a few feet off 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.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a situation in which escape is difficult. This phobia is often tied to panic disorder, as many people who have experienced panic attacks fear their recurrence and avoid situations that could evoke panic again. Panic attacks are not always the source of fear in agoraphobia, however. The person with agoraphobia may simply be scared to be in a place they can’t easily get out of, such as crowded areas, enclosed rooms, or open spaces. Many people who have agoraphobia have difficulty leaving their homes and require help with daily activities.

Cynophobia

Cynophobia is the irrational fear of dogs. While a fear of dogs may be warranted in some situations, people with cynophobia typically experience this fear beyond what would be expected in the circumstances. Due to this, they may avoid situations or locations where dogs are likely to be, even if these locations are the homes of friends and family.

Astraphobia

Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightning storms. Because of their unpredictable and uncontrollable nature, these events can be difficult to deal with for the individual. 

People with this phobia may become preoccupied with watching weather reports, plan their day around the chances of a storm occurring, or even move to a place where inclement weather is less likely. 

Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is the 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 have experienced an incident as a child that caused their fear or might have a parent who lived with claustrophobia. They 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.

Mysophobia

Mysophobia is an irrational fear of germs. Those who have this phobia typically are 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 if they feel that they’ve been exposed to germs.   

Aerophobia

Also called aviophobia, aerophobia is an irrational fear of flying. This fear of flying is often caused by the belief that a crash is likely. Additionally, aerophobia may arise out of claustrophobia and the fear of being trapped in the enclosed plane. Aerophobia can cause an individual to use alternative transportation or avoid taking trips altogether. 

Trypophobia

Trypophobia is the irrational fear of clusters of holes, such as those on the outside of a strawberry or a honeycomb. Some studies have found that the fear of groups of holes may be linked to the patterns that often exist on dangerous animals. Trypophobia is also thought to be caused by an aversion to skin diseases that may feature clusters of bumps or circular marks.  

Treatment For Specific Phobias

Psychotherapy and medication are the most common forms of treatment for specific phobias. These treatment methods can help individuals recognize intrusive thoughts and harmful beliefs about their fears while also treating symptoms of anxiety. 

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is one of the most widely utilized treatment modalities for specific phobias. Exposure therapy allows the individual to confront their fear by gradually exposing them to the object or situation that provokes it. This can happen through in-person exposure to the stimulus, a virtual reality platform, or mentally picturing the situation or object. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Another form of psychotherapy for phobias is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on identifying and replacing intrusive thought patterns that may be underlying avoidance behaviors and fear. For example, a therapist can help you realize that the odds of being bitten by a poisonous spider are low, which may help alleviate anxiety. 

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

Hypnotherapy

Through hypnosis, you can retrain your brain to respond in a different way to stimuli that once evoked fear. Hypnotherapy often focuses on creating an alternative association in the individual’s mind, which is meant to carry over into real-world situations. Research has shown that even one session of hypnotherapy can reduce symptoms of specific phobia

Medication

Certain medications may be prescribed on a limited basis to help alleviate the panic and anxiety that an individual may feel in response to the fear. Anti-anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines, or antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly used to treat symptoms of anxiety. 

Facing Your Fears With Online Therapy

Research shows that online therapy can help people living with a phobia reduce the severity of their symptoms. In a 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.

If you’re living with a specific phobia or a related mental health challenge, consider getting matched with a licensed BetterHelp therapist online. With online therapy, you can participate in mental health care remotely, which can be helpful if you’re not ready to discuss your fears in person or are nervous about leaving home. You’ll also be able to reach out to your therapist outside of sessions. If you’d like to ask a question about a specific phobia symptom or want to clarify a point made during therapy, you can send your therapist a message, and they’ll respond when they’re able. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have received support for similar concerns. 

Therapist Reviews

"Joseph Sherry has been a wonderful counselor. In the last few months, I've been better than ever. He always encourages me to look at things in a new way, and the tools he has taught me are irreplaceable! I no longer live with chronic fear and anxiety. For me, this is a huge improvement! Without Joseph Sherry, this would not be possible!"

"It's amazing how beneficial therapy is. The EMDR sessions with Keith have enabled me to reclaim my power and control over my own life. As a result of my work with Keith I went from too scared and anxious to leave the house with crippling panic, to being able to enjoy walks with my husband in the park, garden and we have even traveled by plane, and train. I've been able to leave some toxic relationships that weren't serving me, and now feel equipped to not only face life but to enjoy the richness and fullness of it. I highly recommend Keith as a counselor and the EMDR sessions."

Takeaway

Fear can be a natural and healthy part of life, but it can also have serious negative effects if it isn’t managed. If you’d like help working through a specific phobia, consider taking advantage of the support and resources available through online therapy. With the right help, you can control your fears, improve symptoms of anxiety, and continue on your mental health journey.

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