Everybody’s scared of something – spiders, tight spaces, public speaking, commitment. Fear can be a positive emotion, saving us from danger or causing us to reevaluate our feelings and perhaps deal with them. But it can also cause crippling anxiety.
When fears become overpowering or debilitating, they’re considered phobias, from the Greek “phóbos,” meaning fear or panic. Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder, which can be triggered not only by the object of fear but even by thinking about it. All the usual symptoms of anxiety – shortness of breath, heart palpitations or racing heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, and more – can manifest themselves. (This is why people are scared to drive their cars.)
Some phobias are relatively easy to manage. Those who are afraid of flying can drive or take the train when possible. Those afraid of deep water can stay on shore. Other phobias are trickier: People might have a fear of needles, so getting shots or a cavity filled is problematic, but often they may submit to those things sooner or later. The more complex phobias like agoraphobia – the fear of open spaces or crowded places – can ruin someone’s life.
Some phobias are rare and seem almost humorous (koumpounophobia is the fear of buttons; anatidaephobia is the fear of ducks). Others are far more common. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 12.5% of the American population suffers from claustrophobia – the fear of enclosed spaces. In all, about 10% of adults and 20% of teenagers in the U.S. suffer from one kind of phobia or another. (These are the most common ailments in America.)
Click here to see the 20 most common phobias
It is difficult to quantify the most common phobias because many people keep their dire fears to themselves, or they evolve out of them. To assemble a list of 20 of the most common phobias, however, 24/7 Tempo reviewed articles on the subject from websites including NHS, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Medical News Today, Healthline, MedicineNet, FearOf, TalkSpace, and Verywell Mind.
It should be noted that two all-too-common “phobias,” homophobia and transphobia, aren’t phobias at all, despite their names. The terms imply prejudice against, bias, or dislike of – rather than fear of – gays or transsexuals.
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