A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes excessive, marked, irrational fear of a specific object or situation. Someone with a phobia could be afraid of certain people, animals, objects, places, situations, activities, or interactions.
Common symptoms of phobias include shortness of breath, panic, rapid heart rate, shaking or trembling, and the urge to flee. When people go to extreme lengths to avoid what makes them afraid, their daily functioning in work, school, and relationships can suffer.
Read on to learn more about phobias, including common types, rare types, and possible treatments.
Types of Phobias
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), there are several different types of phobias. The three main types of phobias include:
- Specific phobias: Specific phobias refer to an intense, persistent, and marked fear of a specific object or situation (such as flying, dogs, or heights). People with specific phobias may be aware that their anxiety is disproportionate or unnecessary but feel helpless to control their distress.
- Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia refers to an intense fear of being in an environment where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of developing panic-like or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms.
- Social phobia: Also called social anxiety disorder, social phobia involves intense fear and self-consciousness in social situations. Social phobia can lead people to avoid speaking in public, attending events, meeting new people, or even seeking employment.
All three types of phobias fall under the broader category of anxiety disorders. About 30% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. Meanwhile, between 3% and 15% of people meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia.
List of Common Phobias
Many phobias involve situations in which we sense a loss of control. Here is a list of common specific phobias for which people seek treatment:
- Acrophobia: Fear of heights
- Aerophobia: Fear of flying
- Aquaphobia: Fear of water
- Astraphobia: Fear of storms
- Claustrophobia: Fear of confined or tight spaces
- Dentophobia: Fear of dentists
- Hemophobia: Fear of blood
- Nosocomephobia: Fear of hospitals
- Zoophobia: Fear of animals
Less Known Phobias
While you’ve probably heard of agoraphobia, claustrophobia, or animal phobias such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) at some point, there are many other specific phobias. Some less well-known specific phobias include:
- Medical phobias, such as nosophobia (fear of getting sick) and trypanophobia (fear of injections)
- Sexual and bodily phobias, such as erotophobia (fear of sexual intimacy) and trichophobia (fear of hair)
- Environmental phobias, such as thalassophobia (fear of the ocean) and xylophobia (fear of the forest)
- Situational phobias, such as ergophobia (fear of work) and amaxophobia (fear of driving)
No matter how strange or unexpected your phobia may seem, help is available. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider for help with your anxiety symptoms.
This list of phobias is not meant to be comprehensive. Almost anything human beings experience in their everyday lives can become a source of fear or anxiety.
There is no single known cause of phobias. In some cases, a traumatic event can trigger a persistent, intense fear. In other cases, phobias may run in families.
However, phobias are usually treatable. Treatment for phobias may include:
- Exposure therapy: This is a kind of behavioral therapy that involves gradually confronting the source of your anxiety in order to break the cycle of avoidance.
- Psychotherapy: Specific psychotherapy approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in a group or individual setting may be helpful with phobias.
- Prescribed medications: These include antidepressants, beta-blockers, and anti-anxiety medications (such as benzodiazepines).
- Relaxation techniques: Examples are breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises
Some people with phobias are afraid to seek help out of shame. Others don’t know that phobia treatment options are available. But with a qualified therapist, most treatment for phobias is effective.
Can You Outgrow Phobias?
Many common phobias, such as trypanophobia (fear of injections and needles), begin in childhood. Around 25% of children and adolescents experience an anxiety disorder at some point. In some cases, childhood phobias may persist into adulthood. With effective treatment, however, many children leave their phobias behind as they get older.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes persistent, intense, and often irrational fear about a certain situation or thing. Phobias can lead to avoidance behaviors, emotional distress, and difficulty functioning in relationships and other aspects of everyday life.
Some of the most common phobias include social phobia and agoraphobia. Social phobia refers to the fear of social situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. Agoraphobia refers to the fear of certain environments where escape or help might not be possible if panic or other overwhelming symptoms emerge.
Specific phobias—which involve intense fear about a specific object or situation—include claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights), hemophobia (fear of blood), and aerophobia (fear of flying).
Treatment is effective for most people with phobias. Phobia treatment options include exposure therapy, prescribed medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and mindfulness techniques.
A Word From Verywell
Many people with phobias are ashamed to talk about their fears and anxiety. But help is available and usually effective. Don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider if your anxiety is interfering with your daily life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some rare phobias?
Almost any object, situation, environment, person, or animal can become a source of intense fear or anxiety. Some rare phobias include plutophobia (fear of money), ablutophobia (fear of bathing), chaetophobia (fear of hair), and eisoptrophobia (fear of mirrors).
There are also many specific phobias that involve fear of a specific animal, such as ailurophobia (fear of cats), cynophobia (fear of dogs), equinophobia (fear of horses), and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes).
Is it possible to get rid of a phobia?
Phobias can be safely and effectively treated. Common phobia treatments include psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications. Exposure therapy, which involves facing the source of your fears with the support of a qualified therapist, may also be effective.
Why do phobias exist?
The exact cause of phobias is currently unknown. Some phobias are caused by traumatic events, especially during childhood. In some cases, certain phobias run in families.