We all experience fear from time to time – it’s completely natural and is actually important to both humans and animals because it keeps us alert to dangers.
However, many of us have seemingly unusual, irrational, extreme and intense fears which specifically relate to certain situations or particular things. It’s these which we commonly refer to as phobias.
To many of us these phobias don’t represent too much of an issue. You may feel apprehensive about flying but do it anyway, you may be worried about having to speak in public but force yourself to do it or you may be frightened about getting stung by a wasp but still go out on that summer picnic! But to others the irrational fear is so real and intense that it will result in physical symptoms such as anxiety, hyperventilation, sweating, nausea, rapid heart rate etc and cause the sufferer to avoid the things or situations (triggers) associated with their phobia … and that’s life changing or at very least life restricting.
We’ve listed many of the more common different types of specific fears and phobias on this website but, if yours isn’t listed (and there’s a good chance because there are literally thousands of them), then this feature is for you and designed to cover everything else.
These specific fears are so many that it almost seems like there’s a phobia for everything and every situation. Thinking about it … there probably is! Fortunately, we can categorize this seemingly infinite number of phobias into a limited number of main categories. Here are the main categories of phobias.
1: Natural Environmental Phobias – This includes any phobia related to some aspect of the natural environment such as wind, water, fire, storms, the dark, animals or birds in general, heights etc
2: Specific Animal Phobias – We don’t mean animals in general but fears of certain specific types such as spiders, dogs, bees, snakes, rats etc
3: Medical Or Body Based Phobias – Any phobia linked to medical issues or the human body. Typically fears of particular diseases like cancer or heart attacks along with bodily functions like bleeding, urinating, vomiting or related situations like dentists, surgery, injections, childbirth etc
4: Sexual Phobias – These range from fears relating to nudity to sexual performance or acts.
5: Situational Phobias – Any fears which result from situations rather than things. Included in this category would be the common fears of flying, public speaking, exams, enclosed spaces, driving, swimming etc.
6: Anything Else – The final category is any phobia that doesn’t fit into any of the main five! This includes some fairly common phobias like loud noises and also some unusual ones like certain numbers or long words or even the fear of fear itself!
One thing’s for sure, if you’re here because you have a particular fear of phobia it will fit into one of the categories above and, even if it’s not yet specifically listed on this site, it WILL exist! Others will be going through exactly the same issues as you and it may be more common than you may think.
Phobias start with emotional symptoms which can range from fairly mild feelings of apprehension and anxiety right up to all out panic.
These emotional symptoms include:
In turn these emotional symptoms can manifest themselves in the form of varying physical symptoms when a phobic is exposed to their fear inducing triggers. Depending on each individual case, these symptoms can be mild, extreme or even life threatening. They increase in intensity with continuous exposure to the situation or things causing the phobia. This means, left untreated, they are likely to become more severe over time.
The intensity of the symptoms too often also depends on the relative ease with which you can escape your predicament. Basically, the harder the escape then the more intense the symptoms will be. You can’t get off a plane when it’s in flight if you have a fear of flying!
Physical symptoms include: sweating, fatigue, dizziness, hot flushes, trembling, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, choking sensation, tightness in the chest, churning stomach and/or a sensation of butterflies in the stomach.
Most phobias stem from our early years – often inerited from peers or as a result of some form of traumatic event before we even reach our teenage years. When it come to the question “how many different phobias are there?” the simple answer is an unlimited number. There is no definitive number and, in fact, the list is growing as life changes. A fear of social media wasn’t a thing until recently but is actually now a genuine condition for example!
Good old reliable Wikipedia lists hundreds in their List Of Phobias but, in reality, this is only toouching the surface. Think of an object, think of an activity or think of a situation and you’ve basically thought of a phobia. Obviously some are much more common than others but, no matter how common or obscure, they present a genuine issue to the person suffering from the fear.
The National Institute of Mental Health report that more than 9% suffereed from phobia in the last year and around 12.5% suffer at some stage in their lives. Women 12.2% seem to be at much greater risk than men (5.8%). Of these numbers the NIMH goes on to report that 21.9% suffer serious impairment, 30.0% moderate and in 48.1% of cases impairment was classed as mild.
The National Institute of Health report similar numbers but sudies by The Lancet suggest numbers could be as high as 15% with fears and phobias concerning heights and animals being the most common. We’ve seen even higher numbers reported and actually believe numbers could be much greater due to the fact that as many phobias go unreported as diagnosed.
Every case is different but the ask yourself what impact your phobia has on your life? If your answer is (and be honest) it has very little impact then you may choose to do something about it but, in reality, there’s not much to be concerned about. If, however, your need to avoid the trigger (be it a situation, activity or an object) somehow inhibits your life or prevents you doing something you need or want to do or if it affects others then it’s time to take action. If you have a fear of elevators and are thinking about turning down a job because it’s in an office on the top floor … it’s a problem! Your partner really wants to go abroad on that special holiday but you won’t go because of a fear of flying … it’s a problem. You’re missing out on so many social events and experiences because of a fear of being enclosed or in crowded spaces … it’s a problem. You get the picture!
If your phobia regularly causes you fear, panic or distress, if it’s interfering with your usual routine and you recognise it as becoming a problem, if you find yourself regularly avoiding places, things or situations and are missing out (or causing someone else to miss out) as a result, then it’s perhaps time you did something about it!
The good news … phobia is treatable and most can be overcome without too much trouble.
When we look at the treatment of any form of phobia we are generally looking at some form of therapy with the following perhaps being the most common and recognised treatments of phobia:
You weren’t born with any form of phobia – instead yit has likely developed from some form of trigger in early childhood years. Put simply Hypnotherapy works by re-setting the mind to produce the rational response to the phobia … the one you had before it initially started all thos eyears ago. Find Out More >
Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP combines neurology and linguistics and creates a sort of programming that helps people change their thinking habits, help them deal with phobia and fears. In short, this means taking the particular phobia and disassociating and reframing the experience to make you view it in a completely different way and hence prevent any irrational response. Find Out More >
CBT is the big one … the one you’ll see most often associated withthe treatment of phobia. In simple terms Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a talking therapy which takes your specific phobia and focusses on your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes to it and how they affect your behaviour and emotions in respect of this issue. It takes on the notion that your thoughts (cognition) creates emotions which, in turn, controls our reactions (behaviour). Sounds complicated? Well read our simplified explanation – Find Out More >
If any form of irrational or persistent fear or phobia is affecting your life then take a look at one of our recommended, self-help treatment programs that are guaranteed, proven and effective regardless of your specific phobia.