Types of Phobias and What To Know About Them (2023)

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that involves intense, ongoing fear of a certain object, situation, activity, or environment.While we all experience fear, phobias are much more severe.

Someone with a phobia may take extreme lengths to avoid the source of their fear or become extremely distressed when faced with what scares them. This can negatively affect many aspects of their life, from relationships to social situations, school, and work.

There are three main types of phobias: social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and specific phobias. The former two were previously known as complex phobias and are generally considered more severe. Specific phobias are sometimes called simple phobias.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, involves an extreme fear of social situations. This phobia affects around 7% of adults in the U.S.

People with social phobia often go out of their way to avoid social gatherings or events where they might be embarrassed or uncomfortable. People with this type of phobia may often avoid dating, parties, work events, public speaking, or making small talk with strangers, depending on which situation they feel the most dread and discomfort. Some may even avoid eating at restaurants or shopping in public places.

If they do participate in social events, people with this anxiety disorder may typically feel distressed, awkward, and self-conscious.


An estimated 1% to 2.9% of adolescents and adults in the U.S. have agoraphobia—a phobia that refers to an intense fear of being in unfamiliar or open places.

People with agoraphobia are often especially afraid of situations in which they might feel trapped or find it hard to escape, such as public transit, lines, or crowded areas. In severe cases, people with this phobia may avoid leaving the house entirely—especially alone.

Specific Phobias

A specific phobia, or simple phobia, is a persistent fear of a certain thing, animal, person, or situation that causes extreme distress. About 8% to 12% of U.S. adults have a specific phobia.

There are five subtypes of specific phobias, including:

  • Animal type
  • Natural environment type
  • Blood-injection-injury type
  • Situational type
  • Other type

Animal phobias involve intense fears of animals and insects. Common animal phobias include:

  • Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders
  • Chiroptophobia: Fear of bats
  • Cynophobia: Fear of dogs
  • Ophidiophobia: Fear of snakes
  • Zoophobia: Fear of animals

People with natural environment phobias are afraid of particular aspects of nature, such as natural disasters. Examples of natural environment phobias include:

(Video) Phobias - specific phobias, agoraphobia, & social phobia

  • Acrophobia: Fear of heights
  • Aquaphobia: Fear of water
  • Astraphobia: Fear of thunderstorms
  • Thalassophobia: Fear of the ocean

Blood-injection-injury (BII) phobias refer to fears of having or witnessing medical problems or procedures. Some examples of BII phobias are:

  • Hemophobia: Fear of blood
  • Nosocomephobia: Fear of hospitals
  • Tomophobia: Fear of surgery
  • Trypanophobia: Fear of needles

Situational phobias involve being afraid of certain places, surroundings, and circumstances. Common situational type phobias include:

  • Aerophobia: Fear of flying
  • Amaxophobia: Fear of driving
  • Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces
  • Escalaphobia: Fear of escalators

Phobias that fall under "other" don’t fit into any of the above categories. Examples include:

  • Coulrophobia: Fear of clowns
  • Chorophobia: Fear of dancing
  • Erotophobia: Fear of sex
  • Phonophobia: Fear of loud noises

Keep in mind: these phobias are not an exhaustive list. There are several types of other specific phobias that you can have.


People with phobias experience symptoms of distress, anxiety, and/or panic attacks when faced with the source of their fear. These may include:

  • Feelings of dread or terror
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Desire to escape
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Muscle weakness

These symptoms often lead people to go out of their way to avoid the object or environment they’re afraid of. They may even avoid anything that reminds them of their fear, such as certain books, tv shows, and movies.

This pattern of avoidance can lead to a variety of complications in day-to-day life. For example, someone with trypanophobia might avoid necessary medical care due to their overwhelming fear of needles.

It’s not entirely clear what causes some people to develop phobias. However, researchers have identified the following as potential contributing factors:

  • Genetics: Genetic factors may increase your risk of receiving a diagnosis for a specific phobia, agoraphobia, or social anxiety disorder at some point. Twin studies suggest that some phobias are passed down in families.
  • Parenting: Certain parenting styles and learned childhood responses may contribute to the development of phobias.
  • Traumatic experiences: Past negative experiences and traumas can also lead to phobias. For example, someone with a history of severe childhood illness may eventually develop a phobia of hospitals. Someone who was once bitten by a dog could develop an intense fear of dogs.

Risk Factors

While anyone can develop a phobia, you may be at an increased risk of having a phobia if you align with any of the following risk factors:

  • Assigned female at birth: Women are over twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with a phobia.
  • Personality traits: Research suggests that some personality traits, such as neuroticism and perfectionism, may make you more prone to developing a phobia.
  • Comorbid mental health conditions: Many people with phobias also have other mental health conditions, such as depression and mood disorders.
  • Abuse history: People with phobias are significantly more likely to have experienced or witnessed abuse and other forms of trauma, including domestic violence.
  • Substance use: Studies show that excessive drug and alcohol use is associated with the development of phobias, as well as other anxiety disorders.


A therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental healthcare provider can diagnose you with a phobia using the criteria for specific phobias, agoraphobia, or social anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

During your session, you can expect your provider to ask you about your personal and family medical history, current symptoms, lifestyle habits, and triggers. According to the DSM-5, to meet the following diagnostic criteria for a phobia:

  • Experiencing intense fear for at least six months
  • Your fear must be disproportionate or irrational
  • The phobia impairs your daily functioning in at least one significant area of your life (e.g., work, social situations, romantic relationships, family, etc.)

Some types of psychotherapy are considered the gold standard of treatment for phobias. Some healthcare providers may also prescribe medication—such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or sedatives—to treat certain symptoms or to offer short-term relief during a phobia-induced panic or anxiety attack.

(Video) The Top 7 Most Common Phobias

Types of psychotherapy that have been used successfully to treat phobias include:

  • Exposure therapy: Also called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, this approach involves gradual exposure to the source of your fear and helping you learn through experience that your feared outcomes will not occur or that these outcomes will be more tolerable than you expect. In some cases, your therapist may incorporate virtual reality (VR) to simulate complex situations, such as flying or interacting with others. Research suggests that exposure therapy is effective for up to 90% of people with phobias who receive this treatment.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Your therapist can use CBT alone or alongside ERP therapy to help you develop more effective coping methods and problem-solving skills as you navigate your phobia treatment.
  • Mindfulness therapy: Mindfulness therapy, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, can help you improve your emotions and stress reactivity about your phobia.

Natural Remedies for Anxiety

How to Prevent Phobia-Related Panic Attacks

You can’t stop yourself from developing a phobia. However, you may be able to prevent some phobia-related panic or anxiety attacks with the following short-term strategies:

  • Using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Practicing mindfulness techniques, including meditation and yoga
  • Joining an online or in-person peer support group for people who also live with your specific phobia

In the long term, the best way to prevent a phobia from developing is through gradual exposure to your fear, as practiced in exposure therapy.

Up to 81% of people with phobias have co-occurring mental health conditions—meaning, you may live with both your phobia and one of the following conditions at the same time:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Studies suggest that people with phobias also have a higher risk of a number of physical health conditions, such as:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease
  • Migraine
  • Allergies
  • Respiratory diseases, such as asthma
  • Gastrointestinal diseases, such as ulcers

Living With Phobias

Some phobias resolve on their own without treatment, especially among children and teens. For example, around 2.9% of children experience social phobia, in comparison to just 0.3% of adolescents. This suggests that many childhood fears can go away over time.

If left untreated, phobias may lead to social isolation, relationship conflicts, and other kinds of dysfunction. About 30% of people with phobias say they experience moderate impairment due to their fear, while 22% say their phobia causes major dysfunction in their daily life.

Living with a phobia can feel scary and overwhelming. It may also feel hard to ask for help—and that's OK. However, it's important to note that seeking care and support from a mental health professional can help you reduce your symptoms, slowly work to overcome your phobia, and improve your quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many phobias are there?

    (Video) 9 Common Phobias You’ve Probably Don’t Know Much About

    So far, there are over 500 named phobias. However, the list of phobias is always growing. New phobias are regularly being discovered, researched, and documented.

  • What is the most common phobia?

    Estimates about the single most common phobia vary widely. However, research suggests that some of the most common phobias are natural environment phobias and animal phobias. Common animal phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), cynophobia (fear of dogs), and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). Common phobias related to the natural environment include astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning) and acrophobia (fear of heights).

  • What is the difference between fear and phobia?

    Everyone is afraid at times. Fear is an instinctual, natural human reaction to something that is potentially dangerous or threatening. Phobias are fears that become disproportionate or irrational to the actual level of danger involved.

    (Video) Probability Comparison: Phobias and Fears
  • What is the rarest phobia?

    Researchers haven't identified a single phobia as the rarest one. Instead, many rare phobias have been documented only once or twice in specific case studies. Examples of very rare phobias include alektorophobia (fear of chickens) and ambulophobia (fear of walking).

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What are the 7 common types of phobias? ›

7 Common Phobia Types
  • Social Phobias. Fear of social situations, fear of strangers, agoraphobia, also sometimes characterized as social anxiety disorders.
  • Situational Phobias. Fear of small places, going to school or being on airplanes.
  • Miscellaneous Phobias. ...
  • Germophobia. ...
  • Blood Phobias. ...
  • Nature Phobias. ...
  • Animal Phobias.
Jan 27, 2022

What are phobias and types? ›

Specific phobias
  • Animal phobias. Such as dogs, insects, snakes or rodents.
  • Phobias of the natural environment. Such as heights, water, darkness, storms or germs.
  • Situational phobias. Such as flying, going to the dentist, tunnels, small spaces or escalators.
  • Body-based phobias. ...
  • Sexual phobias. ...
  • Other phobias.

What is the #1 phobia? ›

1. Acrophobia. Acrophobia is the fear of heights and it affects more than 6% of people. People who have acrophobia can have anxiety attacks, which causes them to avoid high places, such as bridges, towers, or tall buildings.

What is the longest phobia name? ›

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is one of the longest words in the dictionary, and ironically, it means the fear of long words. It originally was referred to as Sesquipedalophobia but was changed at some point to sound more intimidating.

How many phobias are there a to z? ›

Each list explores around 20-40 types of phobias.

What's the rarest phobia? ›

1. Arachibutyrophobia (Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth) Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. While the phenomenon has happened to everyone at one point or another, people with arachibutyrophobia are extremely afraid of it.

What is the hardest phobia to treat? ›

Unlike many other subtypes of specific phobia, emetophobia is fairly difficult to treat. In fact, there are only a few published cases in the literature.

What is Cryophobia? ›

Definitions of cryophobia. a morbid fear of freezing.

What are 4 specific phobias? ›

Common categories of specific phobias are a fear of:
  • Situations, such as airplanes, enclosed spaces or going to school.
  • Nature, such as thunderstorms or heights.
  • Animals or insects, such as dogs or spiders.
  • Blood, injection or injury, such as needles, accidents or medical procedures.
Oct 19, 2016

What is clowns fear called? ›

Introduction: Fear of clowns or coulrophobia is a little understood phenomenon despite studies indicating that it has a high prevalence in the general population.

What is the easiest phobia? ›

Simple phobias are fears about specific objects, animals, situations or activities. Some common examples include: dogs. spiders.

What is Glossophobia? ›

What are the most important facts to know about glossophobia? Glossophobia is a very common phobia characterized by a strong fear of public speaking. Individuals with glossophobia may avoid speaking in public, as they typically experience fear and anxiety when speaking in front of a group of people.

What is the phobia of 666 called? ›

666: Fear of 666 (hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia) is also widespread in Western cultures. The book of Revelation in the Bible lists 666 as the “number of the beast.” Many horror or doomsday films incorporate the number into plotlines as a mark of evil or the end of the world.

What is the forgotten phobia called? ›

Athazagoraphobia is a fear of forgetting someone or something, as well as a fear of being forgotten.

What is the phobia of being watched? ›

Social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. This fear can affect work, school, and other daily activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends. The good news is social anxiety disorder is treatable.

Is having a phobia rare? ›

Phobias are one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), approximately 12.5% of adults in the U.S. will deal with a specific phobia in their lifetime.1 Women are more likely to experience phobias than men.

Are there more than 400 phobias? ›

You can have a phobia of pretty much anything, but there are over 400 recognised phobias out there! Some, however, are much more common than others.

What is the fear of father called? ›

Androphobia: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More.

How rare is Phobophobia? ›

How common is phobophobia? It's hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like phobophobia, but it's rare. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.

How rare is traumatophobia? ›

Fear of blood (hemophobia), injections (trypanophobia), needles or other sharp objects (belonephobia), or injury (traumatophobia) occurs to some degree in at least 5% of the population.

Is there a phobia of being alone? ›

Autophobia, or monophobia, makes you feel extremely anxious when you're alone. This fear of being alone can affect your relationships, social life and career.

What is the most painful phobia? ›

What is algophobia? Algophobia is an extreme fear of physical pain. While nobody wants to experience pain, people with this phobia have intense feelings of worry, panic or depression at the thought of pain. The anxiety of algophobia can also make you more sensitive to pain.

Do phobias get worse with age? ›

As we age, we produce much less adrenaline, which can cause racing hearts and dizziness. This means the intense fears we may have experienced in youth no longer trouble us as much. However, older people often experience a greater sense of vulnerability, so things like heights or big crowds become more of an issue.

Do I have Traumatophobia? ›

When fears and stress trigger from injury situations, you may have traumatophobia. The fears are deep-rooted in worries of another injury. As you suffer from traumatophobia, you may relive your injury as anxiety builds of going through the same pain and trauma.

How rare is Deipnophobia? ›

Deipnophobia is a type of social anxiety disorder wherein the individual feels anxious while dining in public or engaging in dinner conversations. Social anxiety disorder is common in the general population, with a lifetime prevalence of around 12%. However, the exact prevalence of deipnophobia is unknown.

How rare is Trypophobia? ›

How common is trypophobia? Some studies suggest that as many as 17% of children and adults (about one in six people) have some degree of trypophobia. It's a fairly new disorder first named in 2005.

How rare is allodoxaphobia? ›

Allodoxaphobia falls under the category rare and unusual social phobias.

What is Spectrophobia? ›

specio, an appearance, form, image of a thing; an apparition, spectre) or catoptrophobia (from Greek κάτοπτρον kátoptron, "mirror") is a kind of specific phobia involving an abnormal and persistent fear of mirrors, and an anxiety about seeing one's own face reflected in them.

What causes Frigophobia? ›

Chinese traditional beliefs also states that working women are particularly susceptible to frigophobia, triggered by a combination of stress, menopause, pregnancy and other disorders such as anemia. During winter, these women are likely to experience coldness in extremities and back pains caused by the disorder.

What causes Spectrophobia? ›

An individual who has experienced a traumatic event involving a mirror may develop spectrophobia. For example, a child who was frightened by someone in the mirror one or multiple times may eventually develop spectrophobia.

What are fours biggest fears? ›

Many kinds of fears affect our well-being or ability to perform well under pressure. We can put most of these fears into four categories and in this “How to Master Fear” series we'll refer to as the “big four fears”: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection and fear of selling.

What is the newest phobia? ›

Neophobia challenges the human need for novelty with a fear of the unfamiliar. In its mildest forms, it may not even be recognizable as a fear.

What are the 5 core fears? ›

(Note: There are five core fears, or “universal themes of loss,” that capture the basic interpretations of danger that we all make. They are 1) fear of abandonment, 2) loss of identity, 3) loss of meaning, 4) loss of purpose and 5) fear of death, including the fear of sickness and pain.)

What are people's worst fears? ›

8 Biggest Fears You Face in Life (& How to Overcome Them)
  • #1 Fear of Failure.
  • #2 Fear of Rejection.
  • #3 Fear of Change.
  • #4 Fear of Public Speaking.
  • #5 Fear of Imperfection (or not being good enough)
  • #6 Fear of Vulnerability.
  • #7 Fear of Time.
  • #8 Fear of Loneliness.

What is Cacophobia? ›

Cacophobia is an intense fear of ugliness. People with this anxiety disorder may fear becoming ugly. Or they might have symptoms of panic and anxiety when they think about or see something ugly.

What is Melissophobia? ›

An estimated 12.5% of American adults experience specific phobia at some point in their lives, and the official name for the fear or phobia of bees is Melissophobia, or apiphobia.

What is the rarest phobia? ›

1. Arachibutyrophobia (Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth) Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. While the phenomenon has happened to everyone at one point or another, people with arachibutyrophobia are extremely afraid of it.

What is the 2nd most common phobia? ›

The most common phobias include claustrophobia, social phobia, and arachnophobia.

What are the 5 fears? ›

(Note: There are five core fears, or “universal themes of loss,” that capture the basic interpretations of danger that we all make. They are 1) fear of abandonment, 2) loss of identity, 3) loss of meaning, 4) loss of purpose and 5) fear of death, including the fear of sickness and pain.)

What is Xanthophobia? ›

Xanthophobia, fear of the color yellow.

What is the phobia of the dark? ›

The name comes from the Greek word for night. Children and adults with nyctophobia may fear being alone in the dark. They may have anxiety in dark places, and they may have trouble sleeping in a darkened room. Providers sometimes call fear of the dark scotophobia (fear of darkness) or lygophobia.

What are the 3 primal fears? ›

Fear of the unknown is universal, but it seems to take form most commonly in three basic human fundamental fears: Fear of Death, Fear of Abandonment or Fear of Failure.


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