According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 12.5% of US adults live with a specific phobia at some point in their lives. Unlike generalized anxiety disorder which causes physical anxiety and spiraling thoughts in a wide variety of situations, a specific phobia causes fear that is focused on one main trigger.
We are here to talk about some of the most common types of phobias we see as mental health practitioners. Our goal is to remind you that you are not alone and that you can seek help for the distressing nature of your fear.
Read on to learn nine common types of phobias and fears and what to do about them.
Acrophobia is the intense fear of heights. Most people with a healthy level of anxiety will stay alert to the edge of a cliff while hiking. However, people with acrophobia will exercise excessive caution in high altitudes or feel higher than average anxiety when encountering heights.
A phobia of heights can be quite disruptive in everyday life. Someone with acrophobia may have panic attacks when crossing a bridge, stepping onto a rooftop, being on a rollercoaster, climbing a ladder, standing on a balcony, or looking out the window on a high floor of a building. Often times, this phobia will lead them to avoid high elevations altogether.
Though airplanes have been around for over 100 years, many people struggle with aerophobia, the fear of flying. This could be related to an overall fear of heights (acrophobia) but for some, the panic is caused specifically by planes. Some people fear the small crowded space, while others may become distressed about the turbulence. In addition, fear of losing control upon take off and landing are common triggers with aerophobia.
While most of us don’t need to fly regularly, complete avoidance of flying (or extreme distress when flying) can make life difficult. Understanding the basics of plane safety can help, but engaging in a therapeutic practice often yields the best results.
It’s natural to possess some level of fear when it comes to death and dying. After all, a healthy dose of anxiety can help us manage our instincts when it comes to navigating potentially dangerous situations.
However, an estimated 3-10% of people suffer from thanatophobia, an intense and debilitating fear of death or the dying process, which is far more disruptive to daily life. Thanatophobia is often marked by panic attacks or extreme avoidance when faced with the subject of death.
Astraphobia is the intense fear of storms, especially storms involving thunder and lightning. People with astraphobia perceive potential, incoming, or current storms as unavoidable sources of danger. Taking precautions like staying indoors during a storm does not alleviate these fears.
People who struggle with astraphobia feel an inherent loss of control due to the fact that they can’t control weather patterns or prevent storms from causing distuption. Individuals with this specific phobia may compulsively track the weather, avoid any risk of encountering inclement weather or spend time mapping out plans for safety.
Cynophobia is the fear of dogs and more specifically the fear that dogs will bite or cause harm. While it makes good sense to exercise caution around an unfamiliar dog, people with cynophobia feel terror when confronted with even calm, well-behaved, or familiar dogs.
Some people with cynophobia have been a victim or a witness of a dog bite, attack or chase. Many others cannot pinpoint a trigger. Exposure therapy can help people manage the distressing nature of this phobia.
Dementophobia is the fear of going insane or losing one’s mind. Dementophobia can accompany other mental health disorders such as OCD, PTSD or panic disorder. People with this phobia are preoccupied with the idea of losing touch with reality and they can be easily triggered by movies, stories, thoughts or images that depict compromised mental health.
Dementophobia can lead to a mistrust in one’s ability to make decisions or trust one’s instincts. People who struggle with this phobia will often seek out reassurance that they are not going crazy and may feel the need to “prove” that they are sane or that their thoughts are valid. To address dementophobia, the underlying mental health disorder must also be addressed.
Iatrophobia is the fear of doctors and medical tests. While many people don’t look forward to going to the doctor, people with iatrophobia may avoid seeking medical care, even at the expense of their health.
Some people with iatrophobia may fear getting negative or life-changing news from a doctor. Others may have a fear of needles (trypanophobia), blood pressure readers, or other medical equipment. Though not everyone with iatrophobia avoids doctor’s appointments, they still suffer from panic attacks or severe anxiety when making and completing an appointment.
People who struggle with trypophobia experience intense disgust, fear or queasiness when encountering patterns or clusters of holes or bumps. For example, the sight of certain plants and foods with empty seed pods may cause an extreme, unexplainable aversion. Sponges, barnacles, eight eyed tarantulas, and certain skin diseases are additional triggers.
Tryphobia is often successfully treated with focused sessions using cognitive behavioral methods and monitored exposure.
It is not uncommon for people to avoid getting up close and personal with spiders and other arachnids. However, arachnophobia is a specific phobia of arachnids (especially spiders) that involves intense disgust or fear of these eight-legged creatures.
Arachnophobia may not seem disruptive to your daily life most of the time given that you may not encounter spiders often. If the aversion starts to impact your overall well-being or limit what you can do or where you can go, it’s time to seek therapeutic help. Once again, a series of focused therapy sessions can make a big difference for individuals living with specific phobias like arachnophobia.
Find relief from your phobia
If you or someone you love struggles with a phobia that causes disruption in everyday life, it’s time to take the next step and get help.
Dr. Suzanne Feinstein has over 28 years of experience treating a wide variety of anxiety disorders including phobias. At ABH, we use multiple therapy models, including systematic desensitization and exposure and response prevention therapy, to help patients overcome phobias and take their lives back. Contact us to schedule your first appointment today.