Terrified of the creepy-crawlies? Scared of slithering serpents? Well, you’re not alone. According to statistics, phobias affect approximately 10% of adults. There are a number of explanations for why phobias develop, including evolutionary and behavioural theories.
But don’t worry! Whatever the cause, phobias are a treatable condition that can be overcome with therapy.
“Fear” is the body’s normal response to a genuine danger. With phobias, the fear is either irrational or excessive. It is an abnormally fearful response to a danger that is imagined or is irrationally exaggerated. People can develop phobic reactions to animals (e.g., spiders), activities (e.g., flying), or social situations (e.g., eating in public or simply being in a public environment). Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the world.
Phobias are emotional and physical reactions to feared objects or situations.
Symptoms of a phobia include the following:
- Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror
- Recognition that the fear goes beyond normal boundaries and the actual threat of danger
- Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, practically taking over the person’s thoughts
- Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation—all the physical reactions associated with extreme fear
- Extreme measures taken to avoid the feared object or situation
What do people fear most? The following phobias are ten of the most common fear-objects thatlead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness. In some cases, these symptoms escalate into a full-blown panic attack. These common phobias typically involve the environment, animals, or specific situations.
- Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders (this phobia tends to affect women more than men).
- Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes (often attributed to evolutionary causes, personal experiences, or cultural influences).
- Acrophobia: The fear of heights (this fear can lead to anxiety attacks and avoidance of high places).
- Agoraphobia: The fear of situations in which escape is difficult (this may include crowded areas, open spaces, or situations that are likely to trigger a panic attack; people will begin avoiding these trigger events, sometimes to the point that they cease leaving their home). Approximately one third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia.
- Cynophobia: The fear of dogs (this phobia is often associated with specific personal experiences, such as being bitten by a dog during childhood).
- Astraphobia: The fear of thunder and lightening (also known as Brontophobia, Tonitrophobia, or Ceraunophobia).
- Trypanophobia: The fear of injections (like many phobias, this fear often goes untreated because people avoid the triggering object and situation).
- Social Phobias: The fear of social situations (in many cases, these phobias can become so severe that people avoid events, places, and people that are likely to trigger an anxiety attack – see agoraphobia above).
- Pteromerhanophobia: The fear of flying (often treated using exposure therapy, in which the client is gradually and progressively introduced to flying, however, this may be an indication of some other problem – see agoraphobia above).
- Mysophobia: The fear of germs or dirt (may be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder).