Understanding the Five Most Common Phobias

While there are literally hundreds of phobias that one may encounter while working in the field of therapy, there are some that are more common than others. A phobia is an intense, even disabling fear of something. Some of the symptoms of phobias include shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, hot or cold flashes, sweating, nausea, trembling, and chest pain.

Fortunately, almost all people  suffering from a phobia are able to find help with cognitive-behavioral therapy. The following phobias are some of the most common that I have seen, however, the ranking is not absolute.

The first two phobias fall into the class of animal phobias. Other common phobias associated with animals include the fear of dogs, rodents, or insects.

Arachnophobia – This phobia is so common there was even a movie made with the title. It goes far beyond the typical dislike for spiders, or wanting your husband to kill one instead of having to do it yourself. I don’t have arachnophobia, but I always try to pass spider removal on to someone else.

Ophidiophobia – While many people, myself included, have a strong aversion to snakes this phobia can cause people to have a strong reaction to simply seeing a snake. Pictures in movies or magazines may elicit a response even though there is absolutely no danger of the individual coming into contact with a specimen.

The next three phobias are situational phobias. This class has many high profile phobias including the fear of flying, dentists, and bridges.

Acrophobia – I have several friends who are very afraid of heights. They dislike tall buildings, bridges, and even ladders. They are not quite to the acrophobia stage, but for some it may develop into a full blown phobia without outside intervention.

Agoraphobia – This phobia is usually considered to be the fear of open spaces. Recent evidence, however, indicates that this may instead be a complication of undiagnosed panic attacks. The thought is that the people are so afraid of something in public, or out in the open, triggering a panic attack that they begin to fear those places.

Claustrophobia – This phobia is the opposite of agoraphobia, it is the fear of closed spaces. The degrees of severity for this phobia are varied. Some people cannot stand being in spaces that are even remotely small such as a closed closet or elevator.

For each patient the cause, treatment, and resolution will be different. It is often difficult for someone without a phobia to empathize with the truly overwhelming terror associated with having to deal with the object, or situation that triggers the phobia. The closest example I have been able to come up with is the moment you know an auto or airplane accident is about to occur, but there is nothing you can do to prevent it. The terror that one feels when something horrible and life threatening is happening to them and they have no control over it, is how the person dealing with a phobia feels each and every time they are confronted with the thing they fear.

Remember when dealing with phobia patients, that even if the thing they are afraid of can’t really hurt them, the fear they feel is no less dramatic than that of a driver facing a head on collision.

How do you explain the feelings associated with phobias to patients’ friends and families?

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