Phobias And Their Meanings

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It can cause someone to experience debilitating fear of a situation or thing that usually does not pose any real danger. People who have phobias are typically aware that their fear is irrational, but they will experience severe anxiety upon exposure to their phobia. In severe cases, people may rearrange their lives to avoid a situation or thing that is causing them anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the United States alone has around 12.5% of adults experiencing a phobia of a specific situation or object at some point in their lives. We will outline some common and uncommon and different categories of phobias. There are also some ways a person can treat a phobia as well.

There are three broad phobia categories: specific phobias, social phobias, and agoraphobia.

Specific phobias
Specific or “simple” phobias are those that relate to particular objects or situations. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies specific phobias as:

  • Animal type: Includes dogs, snakes, and spiders
  • Natural environment type: Includes storms, water, and heights
  • Blood, injection, and injury (BII) type: Includes needles, invasive medical procedures, and blood
  • Situational type: Includes fear of flying and fear of enclosed spaces
  • Other type: Characterized by any phobia that does not fit into the above categories.

Specific phobias are usually developed when people are younger. They may find that the phobias become less severe with age, but is not always the case.

Social phobias
Social phobias is the extreme fear of being in social situations that may cause embarrassment or humiliation. For example, fears of public speaking.

Agoraphobia is a fear of being in public spaces or crowded areas without an easy escape. In severe cases, people with this phobia become housebound because they are too afraid to leave their safe spaces.

Social phobias and agoraphobia are more likely to cause life impairments because the situations or things that cause the phobias are a lot more challenging to avoid.

Common phobias

  • Acrophobia is the fear of heights. According to the DSM-5 6.4 % of adults will experience acrophobia at some point in their lives.
  • Aerophobia is the fear of flying. This is the most common phobia. This can include odd sounds, turbulence, and terror attacks as some causes.
  • Agoraphobia is the fear of public spaces and/or crowds. This phobia can cause avoidance behaviors that significantly impact a person’s life. People with agoraphobia may avoid a variety of social situations.
  • Arachnophobia is a fear of spiders. Studies have found that spiders are amount the most common sources of phobias around the world.
  • Bll phobias includes Aichmophobia and hemophobia. Aichmophobia is the fear of needles or sharp-pointed objects. Hemophobia is the fear of blood. People with this kind of phobia may try to avoid certain medical appointments and procedures that can significantly affect their health.
  • Claustrophobia is the fear of tight or crowded spaces and between 7.7-12.5% of people will experience claustrophobia at some point in their lives. Some situations may cause anxiety for people with claustrophobia. For example, elevators and MRI machines pose a problem for people who are fearful of tight spaces.
  • Dentophobia is the fear of dentists and believe it or not can affect a lot of people. People with this fear will avoid the dentists for a variety of reasons and can include previous traumatic experineces at the dentist and learned fear through others. This can also cause poor oral health and can have direct impact on a person’s overrall health and quality of life.
  • Driving phobia is the fear of driving a car and can exists on a spectrum. Some people will be reluctant to drive, while others will avoid driving altogether. Studies have found that 6% of adults aged 55-70 years experience moderate-to-severe driving anxiety and can cause a lower quality of life.
  • Entomophobia is the fear of insects. Studies have shown that the increase of knowledge of insects helped reduce entomophobia.
  • Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. This phobia falls under the social phobias category. People with glossophobia tend to avoid public speaking for fear of judgement, embarrassment, or humiliation.
  • Hypochondria is the fear of illness. It involves excessive worrying about medical conditions. Other names for this phobia can be “somatic symptom disorder” and/or “health anxiety.”
  • Mysophobia is the fear of dirt and germs. This phobia tends to be called germaphobia and is the fear of microorganisms like bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Usually this type of phobia often occurs alongside obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Sociophobia is the fear of social judgment and is a common type of anxiety disorder. It will affect more than 1 in 8 people at some point in their lives. Social fears vary from fear of speaking in public to fear of using a public restroom.
  • Zoophobia is the fear of animals. People who experience fear of animals will fear a specific type of animal like dogs, reptiles, or birds and start at an early age.

Other phobias
People may develop a phobia over any type of situation or thing and because of this, there are hundreds of different types of phobias that are experienced. Here is a list of other less common phobias.

  • Achluophobia or nyctophobia is the fear of darkness.
  • Androphobia is the fear of men.
  • Anginophobia is the fear of choking.
  • Arithmophobia refers to the fear of numbers.
  • Autophobia is the fear of being alone.
  • Bacteriophobia is the fear of bacteria.
  • Bathmophobia is the fear of steep slopes or stairs.
  • Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.
  • Cyberphobia is the fear of computers.
  • Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting.
  • Escalophobia is the fear of escalators.
  • Gynophobia is the fear of women.
  • Hydrophobia or “aquaphobia” is the fear of water.
  • Latrophobia is the fear of doctors.
  • Lockiophobia is the fear of childbirth
  • Necrophobia is the fear of death or dead things.
  • Nosocomephobia is the fear of hospitals.
  • Obesophobia is the fear of gaining weight.
  • Pogonophobia is the fear of beards.
  • Pyrophobia is the fear of fire.
  • Somniphobia is the fear of sleep.

Most phobias are treatable, and many are curable. In some cases, avoiding the source of the phobia is relatively easy, but treatment may be necessary for those who cannot easily avoid the sources of the phobia.

Self-help techniques

  • Relaxation Techniques include breathing exercises that help a person relax during times of stress or anxiety.
  • Visualization Techniques are exercises that allow a person to mentally visualize how they will successfully cope with a situation that can trigger anxiety.
  • Slef-Help Groups that you meet with others that also have phobias and share coping strategies for dealing with phobias and anxiety that can help.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is a talking therapy that has shown to be successful in treating phobias. It aims to help people identify irrational thinking patterns and behaviors that maintain or exacerbate their phobia and typically involves exposure therapy. The therapist will then teach a person some strategies for dealing with their phobia more rationally.

Exposure Therapy
Also known as “desensitization therapy,” involves gradually exposing a person to their fear until they learn to become less fearful of it. For instance, if someone has a phobia of spiders, the therapist may suggest reading a book about spiders, once comfortable with this, they may suggest holding a picture of a spider. Their therapist may arrange the person to view some spiders at a zoo. The ultimate goal of the exposure therapy may involve holding a spider.

Since talking therapies are usually effective in treating phobias, medications are rarely necessary. A healthcare provider may prescribe tranquilizers, beta-blockers, or antidepressants to help control the anxiety that comes with phobias. If you notice that the phobia has taken over everyday activities, it may be a good idea to seek treatment. Sometimes, a phobia may limit their ability to seek treatment like someone who is afraid to leave the house (agoraphobia) or is scared of healthcare providers and medical procedures. Talking over the phone is a great way to make them feel more comfortable reaching out for help. Affiliated Family Counselors does provide telehealth sessions depending on your insurance. If you feel you need talk therapy, please feel free to call us at 316-636-2888,check our website at, or your insurance website to find a provider close to you.

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