ABOUT 19.2 million Americans suffer from one or more phobias, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This works out to just over 8% of the population. To me, that seems like a small number when I think about how many friends and relatives and total strangers I have witnessed having minor meltdowns over things like snakes, spiders, and heights.
Phobias are considered a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined by a persistent fear of an object or situation. With a true phobia, a person goes to great length to avoid the object or situation because of that intense, oftentimes-paralyzing fear. When forced to face phobias people will present with marked distress, even if it seems irrational to the rest of us.
There are plenty of weird phobias like Xanthophobia (fear of the color yellow), Pogonophobia (fear of beards), and Turophobia (fear of cheese… sorry, what!?), but here are ten of the most common, of which I have two. How many do you rack up?
Claustrophobia – Fear of Enclosed Spaces
There are different levels of claustrophobia — someone terrified of being locked in a walk-in cooler with no way out because their co-worker is a jerk (I’m looking at you, dude I worked with at the ice cream shop when I was seventeen!) versus someone who experiences severe anxiety from closing their own bedroom door. Most sufferers find triggers like entering an elevator or having an MRI particularly panic-inducing.
Arachnophobia – Fear of Spiders
All Millennials who watched the 1990 film Arachnophobia at a young enough age are entitled to this one. Sufferers of arachnophobia fear spiders, spider webs, and any sign that spiders might be nearby. They also fear photos of spiders and their terrifyingly excessive amount of legs. Too many legs. And they know how to use them. Ugh.
Acrophobia – Fear of Heights
Acrophobia is a generalized fear of all heights (different from aviophobia, a fear of flying, which I will get to later). Most of us experience some discomfort or physical feelings of vertigo when we’re particularly high up, but sufferers of acrophobia might avoid elevators, a trip up the Eiffel Tower, or even pass on their dream job because it’s on the tenth floor of a building.
Ophidiophobia – Fear of Snakes
People with ophidiophobia aren’t just afraid of touching or seeing snakes, they show fear when looking at photographs or talking about snakes. Anyone else hearing a particular Samuel L. Jackson quote involving some snakes and a plane?
Astraphobia – Fear of Thunder and Lightning
Although most people think of this as a child’s fear, if it lasts longer than six months in childhood it can often lead to a phobia. A common reaction? Seeking “shelter” in a windowless area or under the bed where they can’t see the storm. These people might get along with dogs pretty well. Unless:
Cynophobia – Fear of dogs
One of many animal phobias, fear of dogs is one of the most common. Understandable when you think about things like the Cat saves boy from dog video.
Trypanophobia – Fear of Injection or Medical Needles
“You’ll just feel a small prick,” says the doctor right before any one with typanophobia, not to be confused with aichmophobia (general fear of non-medical needles), faints. Typanophobics are susceptible to low blood pressure and possible fainting during injections or drawing of blood, and they don’t enjoy watching True Blood.
Thanatophobia – Fear of death
A type of death anxiety, thanatophobia seems like something that affects all of us at one time or another. But, people with true thanatophobia are so fearful of death that it impacts their daily life.
Coulrophobia – Fear of clowns
This one is so common that in 2006 a three-day English music festival called Bestival had to take back its request for concert goers to come dressed as clowns because it could potentially frighten large amounts of the audience.
Aviophobia – Fear of flying
I’ve known more than a few people who have never taken a flight because of this intense fear of flying. Some of us handle it by popping a Xanax, others of us refuse to leave the continent. Even though statistics show that you’re more likely to die driving in a car, try telling that to someone with aviophobia. Or worse, someone with claustrophobia, acrophobia, and aviophobia.
So, how did you do? Phobia-free or currently checking the room for clowns?