Presented by BetterHelp.
Do you have an intense, uncontrollable fear that keeps you from doing the things you’d like to do? If the answer is yes, then you may be living with a phobia.
Everyone has things that they are afraid of. I, for example, am terrified of airplanes and dream of the day when we can just grab onto an old boot, ala Harry Potter, and magically appear somewhere else. The difference between my fear of flying and a phobia, though, is that I’m still able to get on a plane and get through the flight even if the experience feels unpleasant.
On the other hand, a person with a phobia of flying, which by the way, it’s called aerophobia, will go to great lengths to avoid getting on a plane and might experience severe symptoms, such as heart palpitations or even full-blown panic attacks just by thinking about flying.
Phobias are one of the most common mental illnesses
A phobia is a persistent, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, or activity that disrupts a person’s ability to function normally during specific situations. It is a type of anxiety disorder that affects nearly 10% of adults in the United States.
Experts have identified three types of phobias: specific phobias (which are the most common type), social phobia, and agoraphobia (fear of open or crowded spaces). When people talk about having a phobia of a particular being or object, such as spiders, clowns, or blood, they’re referring to a specific phobia.
Phobias can feel different for everybody, but most people will experience one or more of the following symptoms, which are common across most phobias:
- A sensation of uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of fear
- An intense need to avoid the source of fear at all costs
- Not being able to function properly when exposed to the fear
- Acknowledgment that the fear is unreasonable, combined with an inability to control the feelings
Most phobias begin during early childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, and it is unusual for a person to develop one after the age of 30. In many cases, phobias are caused by a stressful or traumatic experience or a frightening event. Children of parents with severe anxiety disorders are also at risk of developing a phobia.
Read more about phobias here https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/phobias/.
Top 5 most common phobias
Most spiders are harmless to humans, but that doesn’t stop 3 to 15% of the population from being absolutely terrified of them. Scientists who have studied arachnophobia — the fear of spiders — think this phobia stems from evolutionary selection. They hypothesize that thousands of years ago, the human brain became wired to feel aversion or disgust to venomous animals, like spiders, as a response to dangerous threats.
Ophidiophobia, the intense fear of snakes, is the second most common phobia in the world and the most common subcategory of herpetophobia — the fear of reptiles. This phobia is also attributed to evolutionary causes: experts believe that early humans learned to fear and avoid snakes because of the danger of being bitten. People with severe ophidiophobia can experience extreme anxiety and even full-blown panic attacks from the mere mention, thought, or image of a snake.
At least 5% of the general population suffers from acrophobia, the intense and irrational fear of heights. Studies show that acrophobia seems to be at least partially ingrained in the human psyche. In a 1960s experiment where babies were encouraged to crawl across a thick glass panel with an apparent drop below, most infants refused to cross the clear walkway even when their mothers called them.
This common phobia, which has been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, refers to the excessive and often irrational fear of germs, dirt, or contamination. Mysophobia is usually related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but people can have mysophobia without OCD and vice versa.
Trypophobia involves a strong fear or disgust of clusters of small holes. People with this phobia have symptoms of varying intensity that range from a mild aversion to an immediate, severe panic that’s often accompanied by skin-related reactions, like goosebumps, itchiness, or the sensation of something crawling on your skin. Many everyday items can trigger trypophobia:
- Swiss cheese
- Lotus seed pods