The 15 Most Common Phobias That Frighten People

By:    Published: October 25, 2011

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Nearly everyone has some kind of fear, and some fears are more common than others. Sometimes these fears are rooted in actual experiences and other times they are not. Even having multiple phobias is quite common. These are just some of the most common phobias, but there are much more that have been documented.

1. Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. Many people who share this fear are typically affected by a childhood memory, or are just frightened by the appearance. Even the thought of one crawling on their skin can make them shudder in fear. In the dark ages, spiders were thought to harbor the bubonic plague and were seen as a source of food and water contamination, leading to a widespread fear of spiders.

2. Ophidiophobia

Ophidiophobia is a fear of snakes. Some experts believe that the fear of snakes may be an innate survival mechanism to protect people from poisonous reptiles, though others argue that if this was the case, this phobia wouldn't be as common as it is. This phobia can cause people to avoid places like zoos or pet stores.

3. Acrophobia

Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Unlike a lot of fears, this fear can manifest into other fears, such as a fear of flying or roller coasters. This fear can vary in severity as well. Some may avoid things like climbing ladders, while others may not be able to ride in an elevator or go to a high floor in a building.

4. Necrophobia

Necrophobia is the fear of death or dead things. This is a very common fear, especially after the loss of a loved one. This fear is a sort of defense mechanism of the mind. This can also be a very difficult phobia to overcome because of the uncertainty surrounding death and the large faith component associated with death and dying.

5. Cynophobia

Cynophobia is the fear of dogs, and is often the result of a traumatic experience. For example, someone bitten by a dog as an infant may have a fear of dogs into adulthood without knowing why. This phobia can cause people to avoid dog-owning friends or relatives.

6. Claustrophobia

Most people know that claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces. This fear can manifest after a traumatic experience, such as being stuck in an elevator, though this is not always the case. Claustrophobia can vary in severity and is known to run in families.

7. Coulrophobia

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. Many people develop this fear as children, though this isn't always the case. Clowns are often portrayed in media as bad, such as in the move "It", or in real life as was the case with serial killer John Wayne Gacy who dressed up like a clown. This can trigger a phobia in some people.

8. Pediophobia

This is the phobia of dolls. Dolls were originally created as vessels for the dead, and this seems to be the root of many fears, particularly that the dolls could cause harm to the person with the phobia. One high profile case of pediophobia is that of Zak Bagans from the television show "Ghost Adventures." Bagans' phobia is so intense that he cannon touch a doll or toy clown.

9. Hemophobia

This is the fear of blood. Some people experience feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness and occasionally faint at the sight of blood, even when it is something as small as a cut. The origins of this fear are unclear, but it may be related to a fear of death.

10. Glossaphobia

This is one phobia that many people struggle to overcome. Glossaphobia is the fear of public speaking. This phobia can manifest in childhood, and it's estimated that up to 75 percent of people have this fear to some degree.

11. Nyctophobia

This is one of the most common childhood fears, the fear of the darkness. This phobia is triggered by the brain's perception of what could happen in the dark. This is most often seen in childhood, but can be debilitating in adults as well.

12. Trypanophobia

Trypanophobia is the intense fear of needles. This is another phobia that runs in families though it is unclear as to whether it is actually inherited or if it is learned. Trypanophobia is dangerous because people with this phobia may avoid getting medical or dental treatment to avoid needles.

13. Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a fear of situations in which it may be difficult to find help. This includes crowded places or someone may fear being outside of their home alone. It is related to social phobia, and unlike many fears, this fear can be debilitating enough to require anti-anxiety medication for people to be able to live normal lives.

14. Pteromerhanophobia

Pteromerhanophobia is the fear of flying. There can be a number of causes of this fear including underlying claustrophobia, a lack of control over the plane, or a fear of crashing. This fear can interfere with career aspirations and family relationships, because traveling is restricted.

15. Mysophobia

This phobia is the fear of germs. This phobia is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and this phobia can cause similar behaviors such as repeated, obsessive hand washing. People with this phobia may cut themselves off from society for fear of being contaminated by germs.

Most phobias can be treated with a combination of therapy and something called "systemic desensitization." This is where people are repeatedly exposed to the thing that they fear in an effort to overcome that fear. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications may also be used. Phobias can be debilitating but with the right combination of therapies, recovery is possible.

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