Everybody is afraid of something. However, not everyone has a phobia. Phobia is an intense and irrational fear of one specific trigger, although the American Psychiatric Association recognizes three types of phobia.
One, whose definition is synonymous with the broad definition of phobia is called ‘specific phobia’, where we slot fears such as arachnophobia, ‘social phobia’ which is a great fear of public humiliation and being singled out or judged by others in a social situation, such as public speaking and ‘agoraphobia’, which is fear of situations from which it would be difficult to escape if a person were to experience extreme panic, which is often misunderstood as a fear of open spaces, but could also apply to being confined to small spaces, such as being trapped on a public bus.
I will focus more on specific phobias, as those are the most common. They generally fall within five categories; phobias related to natural environment (e.g. heights), fears related to animals (e.g. spiders, snakes), fears related to medicine, injuries or blood (e.g. needles), fears related to specific situations (e.g. flying) and other (e.g. drowning, loud noises).
Two of the most common phobias concerning places, even though they fall into different categories are acrophobia and claustrophobia. Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Most people affected with this fear get extremely anxious and nervous when presented with any height different from the ground even if other people do not perceive it as great. This phobia is thought to have root in the thought and fear of falling and it usually begins to subside when the person is on the ground. Claustrophobia, on the other hand, is a fear of closed spaces where people mostly feel as if the walls are closing in on them. Some psychologists theorize that this phobia arises as a dormant survival mechanism.
Turning to fears related to animals, most people think of spiders and snakes as two of the most feared ones. Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and interestingly, it is more common in women than men. Scientists suppose that arachnophobia comes from an evolutionary instinct, since most spiders are venomous, though very few are actually dangerous to humans. In the same vein, as a result from this ancient instinct comes ophidiophobia, irrational fear of snakes. Interestingly enough, most animal-related phobias come from such origins, one of the exceptions being cynophobia, fear of dogs, which arises after a specific dog-related incident.
I hope you enjoyed this article on some of the most common phobias. If you want to learn more about fear and mechanics behind it, I recommend you check out Prof. Leslie-Lewis’ class Confronting Your Boggart.
Scientifics are slightly geeky additions that have been with us since the eagle has known how to fly. Okay, not that long, but it's a nifty category that separates it from the usual ramble of articles.