Phobias are a pervasive disorder yet aren’t discussed as much as other mental health conditions. There are hundreds of phobias globally, and about 10% of the population lives with at least one phobia. Therefore, this is a topic that needs more discussion and understanding.
Some fear is normal, especially when it is evolutionarily beneficial. For example, the fears of snakes, spiders, and heights clearly have an advantage as they prevent people from encountering these things which may harm them. However, phobias are more intense than regular fear and can even hinder one’s life.
Some phobias are more widespread in society than others. In fact, you or a loved one may live with one of these phobias. Read on to learn about the most common phobias that afflict humanity today and how they can interfere with a person’s quality of life.
1.) Social Phobia
Also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, social phobias are perhaps the most common throughout society. People with social phobias have a fear of interacting with others in some way. As a result, Socializing can become distressing and many who live with these phobias avoid social interactions or meeting people.
These phobias can take many forms. For example, some people are afraid of public speaking, while others are afraid of meeting new people. In extreme cases, the person living with these phobias may avoid school or work, affecting their performance and potentially their career. Social phobias can lead to a lonely life since it creates a hindering fear of the primary thing that gives life meaning and value.
About 5% of the population lives with claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces. Though at first thought, it may not seem like this would affect everyday life, this phobia creates many problems if the person lives in a very populated city.
People with claustrophobia have a difficult time when in public spaces. Their phobia can be triggered by small spaces, such as a small elevator, or crowded areas, such as those found at the mall or shopping centers. Public restrooms, crowded highways, basements, dressing rooms, and small vehicles are lesser-known spaces that can also trigger anxiety or distress in someone with claustrophobia.
Agoraphobia is the fear of being alone or doing something embarrassing in a public place or a place they cannot easily escape. This fear commonly results in avoiding certain areas or staying home for long periods.
Extreme cases may stay locked in their homes instead of going out in public, leading to a reclusive life. With the pandemic, more work-from-home opportunities, and the increased demand for food and grocery delivery, living a reclusive life is becoming more common.
The fear of spiders is all too common. However, those with arachnophobia develop intense fear and anxiety at the sight of a spider, no matter the species. In some instances, even just an image of a spider can induce distress.
Though some fear of spiders is evolutionarily beneficial, arachnophobia can hinder parts of a person’s life. There are thousands of species of spiders worldwide, but very few pose a real danger to humans. Nevertheless, many people’s mental health is affected by their intense fear of harmless or benign spiders.
Acrophobia is another phobia that is all too common. This is the fear of heights, and it is very likely that you or someone you know has this phobia. As with some other phobias on this list, a slight fear of heights is beneficial. A small amount of fear prevents people from getting too close to cliff edges or jumping from enormous heights.
However, acrophobia is an extreme reaction that can hinder daily life. For example, a person with acrophobia may avoid going to higher floors of skyscrapers and other tall buildings, even if they are required to be there for work or other reasons. They may even avoid using ladders or balconies in their home or at a hotel.
Up to 40% of the global population fears flying, even though airplane accidents are statistically rare. Aerophobia is fueled by a loss of control, as there is little that one can do if something goes wrong during a flight. This fear may also be accompanied by claustrophobia and acrophobia, making flights an even more distressing experience.
Mysophobia is the fear of germs. Though staying clean and disinfecting your environment often is beneficial, those with mysophobia will make disinfecting their preoccupation. They will also obsess over reports of disease outbreaks and may avoid places or situations that are deemed dirty. Because of this, they often avoid places perceived to have lots of germs, such as schools, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices.
Similar to mysophobia, nosophobia is the fear of contracting a disease. Though this is an understandable fear, especially in the time of COVID, this phobia can take over a person’s life, keeping them from interacting with others or leaving their home.
As you can imagine, this phobia has increased since the outbreak. People with nosophobia may still opt to avoid social interactions or going out in public because of COVID, even if they have taken safety measures such as wearing a mask (or two) and receiving the vaccine.
Very few people are at peace with the fact that they will die someday. Having some fear of death is normal. However, if this fear interferes with daily life, then it turns into thanatophobia.
People living with thanatophobia may live with from crippling anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem from the thought that they will no longer exist someday. As a result, they may avoid situations they perceive as potentially dangerous (even if they’re not). Thanatophobia is ultimately a fear of not being in control as very few of us can control the moment we pass away.
Trypanophobia is another phobia that is having a direct effect on the current global situation. This is the phobia of needles and injections and may directly affect COVID vaccine hesitancy. About 20 to 30% of the population is afraid of needles, so this is a sizable number of people who may not be vaccinated due to their phobia. Though some may be able to overcome their fear in order to receive the vaccine, some might not be able to due to the intensity of their fear.
There are hundreds of phobias, and together, they affect much of the population. Some phobias stem from evolutionary beneficial fears (such as fears of spiders and heights), while others are more irrational and reduce the quality of a person’s life.
If you live with a phobia that is taking over your life, you can receive treatment and help. Awareness and mindfulness are crucial to understanding why you have the phobia. These tools help you rewire your brain so that you can view the object of your fear with more rationality. Furthermore, a therapist can treat the phobia and help you work through your fears so that you can regain the affected parts of your life.