What is a Phobia and Its Types

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Phobia is the fear of something that causes us to feel physical and/or psychological distress. It can be a person or thing that we’ve seen before like snakes, spiders, heights, insects. It also includes fears that are less common like claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces), agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights), or social phobias (social phobias). A phobia is an anxiety disorder that has anxiety as one of its primary symptoms. The severity of phobias may range from mild to severe, but all phobias produce some level of fear.

A phobia may come about due to the association of a past traumatic experience with an object or situation. phobias can come from genetic factors, learned behavior, or even a very specific phobia that is the result of a prior bad experience.

What Phobias are the most common?

The following phobias are the top in the United States:


Fear of spiders or other arachnids, such as scorpions and ticks. While it is normal to be afraid of insects that can hurt you, a phobia is diagnosed when someone has an irrational fear that interferes with their daily life. There are more than 30,000 species of spiders worldwide, including approximately 3,400 in the United States and Canada. Spiders have eight legs and two body parts that are joined by a slim waist called an “abdomen.” Their leg span may be nearly 2 feet (50 cm), and they weigh only a few ounces (60-100 grams).


Fear of snakes. There are approximately 3,000 snake species in the world, and about 250 of these are found in North America. Snakes have no eyelids, so they cannot blink. They rely on their sense of smell to find prey. Snakes also “hear” with their tongues by picking up vibrations from the ground. Some snakes can spit venom a distance of up to 6 feet (2 meters).


Fear of heights. A person with acrophobia usually has a panic attack when they are at a high elevation, such as on a bridge or in an airplane.


Fear of electricity. Electrophobia is often associated with the fear of shock, which may be caused by an unwanted or uncontrolled current passing through the human body.


Fear of drafts, air swallowing, or airborne noxious substances. People who have aerophobia are very sensitive to cold and windy conditions. They tend to dress warmly even in mild weather and avoid drinking anything cold.


The irrational fear of being in small spaces like small rooms or elevators where escape might be difficult or that someone could trap you (agoraphobia). This phobia commonly develops during childhood or early adolescence, around the same time most phobias begin.


Fear of pain. People with agliophobia tend to avoid getting medical care, even if their condition requires it. Symptoms related to this phobia may include a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and shaking hands. This phobia typically starts in adolescence or early childhood.


Fear of death or dead things (e.g., corpses) is also called thanatophobia. Some people who fear death experience phobia only when faced with a particular situation, such as being present at an autopsy or viewing a body that has been poorly preserved by extreme cold or other means. This phobia is estimated to affect 1% of adults, usually starting between 15 and 19 years of age.


Fear of germs or contamination, such as by dirt or bacteria. This phobia is estimated to affect between 2% and 3% of the adult population and usually begins in adolescence.

Are Phobias treatable?

Phobias can be treated with counseling, medications, and various therapies. Some phobias can disappear with time, but others may require treatment before they will go away. Talk with your doctor if you need help determining which type of treatment is best for you.

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