Top 10 Common Specific Phobias

Having a Significant and Persistent Fear of Either a Thing or Event

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 8.7 percent of people suffer from one or more specific phobias. Although researchers have not yet determined exactly what causes a phobia to develop, we know that phobias are rooted in the normal fear response.

The full list of phobias is almost limitless, consisting of anything that someone could fear. However, some phobias are much more common than others.

Here are ten of the most common specific phobias.

Acrophobia - Fear of Heights

Guy walking on a rope over a town.
Daniel Milchev/Getty Images

Acrophobia is a generalized fear of all heights. This distinguishes it from aerophobia (fear of flying) and other more specified phobias.

Acrophobia is sometimes confused with vertigo. Vertigo is a physical condition that causes dizziness or disorientation when looking down from a great height. A fear of developing vertigo symptoms at height is not acrophobia.

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Claustrophobia - Fear of Enclosed Spaces

Claustrophobia can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the sufferer may develop anxiety from simply closing a bedroom door.

Many sufferers find that their claustrophobia is specifically triggered by certain common situations such as entering an elevator or riding in an airplane. Some people discover undiagnosed claustrophobia when undergoing an MRI.

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Nyctophobia - Fear of the Dark

This fear is common and generally transient in children. If it persists for longer than six months and causes extreme anxiety, however, it may be diagnosed as a phobia. It is less common in adults.

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Ophidiophobia - Fear of Snakes

Ophidiophobia refers specifically to snakes. If other reptiles are also feared, then the more general herpetophobia (fear of reptiles) is used.

People who suffer from this phobia are not only afraid of touching snakes. They also show fear when viewing pictures of snakes or even talking about them.

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Arachnophobia - Fear of Spiders

This is an extremely common animal phobia. Sufferers generally fear spider webs and other signs that a spider may be in the vicinity. They also fear pictures of spiders.

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Trypanophobia - Fear of Injection or Medical Needles

Trypanophobia is a medical phobia. A more general fear of non-medical needles is known as aichmophobia.

Trypanophobia may result in serious physiological responses including very low blood pressure and fainting. In some cases, severe trypanophobia may lead the sufferer to avoid all medical care.

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Astraphobia - Fear of Thunder and Lightning

This is a common fear among children. If it is severe and continues for longer than six months, however, then a phobia may be diagnosed.

Both adults and children tend to deal with the fear by seeking “shelter,” securing themselves in windowless areas where the storm cannot be seen.

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Nosophobia - Fear of Having a Disease

Nosophobia is the irrational fear of developing a specific disease. Hypochondriasis is a related disorder marked by the persistent fear of having an unspecified disease. Sufferers of either disorder may become frequent visitors of the doctor’s office, or may instead develop an avoidance of doctors for fear of hearing bad news.

“Medical student’s disease” and “cyberchondria” are forms of nosophobia. These conditions develop when the sufferer researches a disease and then starts to believe that he or she has the symptoms of that disease.

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Mysophobia AKA Germophobia - Fear of Germs

This is an intense fear of becoming contaminated by germs. It is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is often marked by repetitive hand-washing. However, for OCD sufferers the focus is on the act of hand-washing itself, while mysophobia sufferers wash hands to remove the contamination.

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Triskaidekaphobia - Fear of the Number 13

There is some controversy regarding triskaidekaphobia, as many experts see it as a superstition rather than a legitimate phobia. Nonetheless, triskaidekaphobia is so pervasive in Western culture that it has actually influenced the modern world.

For example, it is rare to see ​a 13th floor in a hotel or office building. Many people refuse to live in homes with a 13 in the address. Even public transportation is affected, with airplanes skipping over the 13th row.

Triskaidekaphobia may be related to hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, or fear of the number 666.

These phobias are just the tip of the iceberg. For a complete phobia list, visit Specific Phobia List


National Institute of Mental Health. Specific phobia among adults

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