Everybody is afraid of something. Sitting there right now, you can probably think of an event or object that makes you nervous, scared or terrified. Don’t feel bad, even Superman and Batman had phobias and they managed just fine. They’re not real, you say? Just part of an imaginary world? Well, some experts would say that phobias are largely imaginary, a creation of your mind which manifests itself as an irrational or disproportionate reaction to the object or event. This doesn’t necessarily mean that what you are scared of isn’t scary or dangerous. It just means that people with phobias tend to ‘overreact’ to things they are scared of.
Phobias are anxiety disorders and they do not affect all people equally. In fact, they do not even affect men and women equally. Studies have shown that women are far more likely to suffer a phobia than men. A 1996 article in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy found that 26.5% of women and 12.4% of men suffer from a severe phobia. More bad news for girls – women are far more likely to have a fear of animals and social situations than men are. Doesn’t seem fair? Well ladies, just remember that you tend to live longer than men, so you get the last laugh on that one.
Almost any situation, event, animal, insect or object you can think of has a related phobia. Many of these you can probably think of off the top of your head. Statistically, there is a good chance you or someone you know suffers from one these phobias as well. The following is a list of 15 of some of the most common phobias people experience. Keep in mind that these are just some of the more prevalent phobias and this list could easily be expanded to include dozens more.
When I was little, my sister convinced me that the pool skimmer would suck me in if I got too close. I naturally developed a short-term fear of pool skimmers (and my sister). Unlike one in fifty people, I did not develop aquaphobia, or the fear of water. This phobia is characterized by a persistent fear of water and is usually brought about by a traumatic experience near or in water. The disorder has a variety of ranges where someone can be afraid of something as big as an ocean or lake, or as small as a bathtub or hot-tub. In severe cases, even being splashed or sprayed can trigger the phobia.
This phobia is the irrational fear of having a specific disease. It is related to hypochondriasis, but differs in that someone with nosophobia fears a specific disease and becomes convinced they are afflicted. This condition is more common among people who spend a great deal of time reading and researching about diseases. It can also affect people who have known someone who died of a specific disease who then believe they have contracted the same illness.
No, this is not the fear of Triscuits, but the fear of the number thirteen. Many experts consider this to be less a phobia and more of a superstition. In large part this stems from that fact that most who are afraid of the number 13 do not have their lives significantly impaired by their ‘fear.’ That said, the ‘fear’ is widespread enough that many buildings lack a 13th floor, airlines omit a 13th row of seating and many people view the 13th day of the month (especially Friday the 13th) as an unlucky day. It appears there is no definitive answer to where this phobia / superstition belongs, so we’ll just put it down as #13 on this list.
This is the abnormal and / or persistent fear of failure. People afflicted by this are so afraid of doing something wrong that they avoid the task or situation altogether. Such a phobia can have its origins in childhood during which traumatic or embarrassing moments resulting from failure are unexpected or left unresolved. Atychiphobes will generally show signs of nervousness and anxiety if they are faced with a situation they believe they can not be 100% successful in undertaking.
Studies show that, unsurprisingly, this phobia is most prevalent in children. That’s because nyctophobia is the severe fear of the dark. As we grow up, most people tend to overcome this fear with only a small number significantly affected. However, almost everyone retains a small level of fear which explains why so many horror movies take place in the dark. A common way to combat this is a nightlight. It’s a good idea and can help you better see that clown watching you from the closet while you try to get to sleep.
This is the fear of tight or enclosed spaces with no option of escape. One in twenty people are affected by this disorder. Claustrophobia can be triggered by the confines of elevator, a room with no windows or even tight fitting clothes. Children often develop this fear after being locked or shut in a confined space or after becoming separated from their parents in a crowd. Those suffering severe forms of this phobia will avoid going to parties where there may be a lot of people packed together or amusement parks where restraints are used to hold people in.
People suffering from this fear are also commonly referred to as germophobes. These individuals have an intense fear of germs and contamination. Shaking hands, touching doorknobs, digging in a garden or having any physical contact with people can cause a great deal of anxiety in those afflicted with the disorder. Mysophobes tend to shower several times a day, use a lot of hand sanitizer and avoid sharing food and services. Naturally, such behavior can lead to social isolation and a rather substantial water bill.
Also referred to as aerophobia, aviatophobia, or aviophobia, pteromerhanophobia is the fear of flying. This extends to a fear of being in a plane, helicopter or any other airborne vehicle. Experts think for many people this phobia is actually related to other fears including confined spaces, heights, crashing and hijacking. It may do little to help the severe cases but studies show that driving is far more dangerous over any given distance when compared to flying. It is estimated that upwards of one in four people suffer some form of Pteromerhanophobia.
The fear of needles affects approximately 10% of people. For many, going to the doctor to give a blood sample or get an immunization isn’t a big deal. A little prick, a small pinch and it’s over. For others, however, the fear is so strong that they might as well be getting an amputation. Unlike other phobias, this one can cause the person’s heart rate and blood pressure to drop causing them to faint. In severe cases, a person suffering this disorder can avoid going to the doctor or dentist. Such avoidance can have long-term health effects.
This is the fear of thunder or lightning and is one of the most prevalent fears among children. Those suffering from this disorder exhibit a number of symptoms ranging from general anxiety to hiding under objects and covering their ears. In extreme cases, people become obsessed with the weather and constantly check to see if any possible storms are approaching. Astraphobia is highly treatable with exposure listed as one of the common methods of developing immunity to a storm’s effects.
Cynophobia, the fear of dogs, is one of the more prevalent fears involving animals and insects. This phobia is likely to be developed during childhood where the individual is likely to have had a negative encounter with a dog. In some instances, a negative encounter is not even needed as a parent’s warning and child’s lack of experience is often enough to create an irrational fear. If that’s not good enough, we can all blame Stephen King for creating Cujo and at least a few more cases of cynophobia.
Agoraphobia is the fear of certain environments which are perceived dangerous or uncomfortable. There is the added perception that escape from these environments would be difficult or impossible. Agoraphobes can suffer panic attacks which can be triggered by such things as wide-open spaces, large crowds or traveling between two points. In severe cases, someone suffering from this disorder refuses to leave the house. Studies have shown that people between the age of 20 and 40 are most likely to develop agoraphobia.
Perhaps you have looked over the balcony of an apartment from 20 floors up, gone up in a glass elevator or climbed way up a tree only to find yourself getting very uncomfortable and anxious. Some people can’t manage to go up a couple steps on the ladder while others get anxiety even looking at the picture of a high cliff or ledge. In severe cases, these people are classified as having acrophobia – a fear of heights. This is a disorder which affects as many as one in twenty people.
Have you ever seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark? Did you like the part where Harrison Ford was sealed in the tomb and had to find his way out through all those snakes? If you did, chances are you do not suffer from Ophidiophobia. It is natural to fear snakes which are venomous or aggressive. Indeed, one study suggests nearly a third of all people have some fear of snakes. What sets Ophidiophobes apart from the crowd is that they fear all snakes, even in pictures and on television.
Not a lot of people are going to be shocked by this one. Roughly one in twenty people are terrified by spiders (and scorpions). Arachnophobes will fear an area if they think a spider may be present. Even the presence of web can trigger sweating and high heart rates. Scientists believe the fear may be an evolutionary hangover from a time when humans learned to fear poisonous insects and animals. It could also be that some of them, especially those really big hairy ones, look like something James Cameron would use in his next sci-fi space movie.