List of Common and Unusual Phobias

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes an excessive, marked, irrational fear of a specific object or situation. Someone with a phobia could be afraid of certain people, animals, objects, places, situations, or activities.

Common symptoms of phobias include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Panic
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Urge to flee

When people go to extreme lengths to avoid what makes them afraid, their daily functioning in work, school, and relationships can suffer.

This article covers the three main types of phobias. It also lists some of the most common phobias as well as rare ones.

Woman using deep breathing to face a specific phobia

Anna Frank / Getty Images

How Are Phobias Classified

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), there are several different types of phobias. The three main types of phobias—specific phobia, agoraphobia, and social phobia—include several subtypes.

All three types of phobias fall under the broader category of anxiety disorders. About 30% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime.

Specific Phobias

Specific phobias refer to an intense, persistent, and marked fear of a specific object or situation (such as flying, feet, or heights). People with specific phobias may be aware that their anxiety is disproportionate or unnecessary but feel helpless to control their distress.

The following are some categories of specific phobias:

  • Animal Type: Common examples include fear of dogs, snakes, or spiders.
  • Natural Environment: This can include fear of heights, storms, or water.
  • Blood-Injection-Injury Type: These phobias include a fear of seeing blood, receiving a blood test, getting vaccinated, or even watching television shows that display medical procedures.
  • Situational Type: These phobias can be as diverse as fear of airplanes to fear of public speaking; it encompasses fear of elevators, driving, and enclosed places.
  • Other Types: This category includes all others not covered by the other four types of specific phobias. Examples include fear of sickness, loud noises, and even clowns (coulrophobia).

Between 3% and 15% of people meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you avoid certain situations because you have an intense fear of being trapped or unable to escape. You may suffer panic attacks in open spaces or other environments.

Situations that can cause anxiety include:

  • Public transportation
  • Shopping centers
  • Parking logs
  • Bridges
  • Crowds of people

Without proper treatment, agoraphobia can become debilitating over time, leading some people to fear leaving their house or a specific room. 

In the United States, about 1.3% of adults have experienced agoraphobia at least once.

Social Phobia

Also called social anxiety disorder, social phobia involves intense fear and self-consciousness in social situations. Social phobia can lead people to avoid speaking in public, attending events, meeting new people, or even seeking employment.

List of Common Phobias

Many phobias involve situations in which you sense a loss of control. Here is a list of common specific phobias for which people seek treatment:

Uncommon Phobias

While you’ve probably heard of agoraphobia, claustrophobia, or animal phobias, there are many other phobias. Some less well-known ones include:

Medical Phobias

From doctors to any medical-related situation, these can include:

  • Lockiophobia: Fear of childbirth
  • Nosocomephobia: Fear of hospitals
  • Nosophobia: Fear of getting sick
  • Trypanophobia: Fear of injections

Sexual and Bodily Phobias

These can affect your perception of yourself or your relationships with others. Some examples:

  • Erotophobia: Fear of sexual intimacy
  • Omphalophobia: Fear of belly buttons
  • Philematophobia: Fear of kissing
  • Podophobia: Fear of feet
  • Trichophobia: Fear of hair

Environmental Phobias

These are related to various places and locations:

  • Bathmophobia: Fear of stairs
  • Scolionophobia: Fear of school
  • Thalassophobia: Fear of the ocean
  • Xylophobia: Fear of the forest

Situational Phobias

These phobias can affect simple daily activities:

  • Amaxophobia: Fear of driving
  • Ataxophobia: Fear of disorder or untidiness
  • Ergophobia: Fear of work
  • Hodophobia: Fear of traveling

Fear of Certain Objects

These fears too, are related to everyday things or unusual objects such as:

No matter how strange or unexpected your phobia may seem, help is available. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider for help with your anxiety symptoms.

Additional Phobias

This list of phobias is not meant to be comprehensive. Almost anything human beings experience in their everyday lives can become a source of fear or anxiety.

Phobia Treatment

There is no single known cause of phobias. In some cases, a traumatic event can trigger a persistent, intense fear. In other cases, phobias may run in families. 

However, phobias are usually treatable. Treatment for phobias may include:

  • Exposure therapy: This is a kind of behavioral therapy that involves gradually confronting the source of your anxiety in order to break the cycle of avoidance.
  • Psychotherapy: Specific psychotherapy approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in a group or individual setting may be helpful with phobias.
  • Prescribed medications: These include antidepressants, beta-blockers, and anti-anxiety medications (such as benzodiazepines).
  • Relaxation techniques: Examples are breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises

Some people with phobias are afraid to seek help out of shame. Others don’t know that phobia treatment options are available. But with a qualified therapist, most treatment for phobias is effective.

Can You Outgrow Phobias?

Many common phobias, such as trypanophobia (fear of injections and needles), begin in childhood. Around 25% of children and adolescents experience an anxiety disorder at some point. In some cases, childhood phobias may persist into adulthood. With effective treatment, however, many children leave their phobias behind as they get older.

Summary

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes persistent, intense, and often irrational fear about a certain situation or thing.

Specific phobias are those that involve intense fear about a specific object or situation, including common fears such as claustrophobia. Other common phobias include social phobia and agoraphobia.

Treatment is effective for most people with phobias. Phobia treatment options include exposure therapy, prescribed medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and mindfulness techniques.

A Word From Verywell

Many people with phobias are ashamed to talk about their fears and anxiety. But help is available and usually effective. Don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider if your anxiety is interfering with your daily life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some rare phobias?

    Almost any object, situation, environment, person, or animal can become a source of intense fear or anxiety. Some rare phobias include plutophobia (fear of money), ablutophobia (fear of bathing), chaetophobia (fear of hair), and eisoptrophobia (fear of mirrors).

  • Is it possible to get rid of a phobia?

    Phobias can be safely and effectively treated. Common phobia treatments include psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications. Exposure therapy, which involves facing the source of your fears with the support of a qualified therapist, may also be effective.

  • Why do phobias exist?

    The exact cause of phobias is currently unknown. Some phobias are caused by traumatic events, especially during childhood. In some cases, certain phobias run in families.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Laura Dorwart
Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with particular interests in mental health, pregnancy-related conditions, and disability rights. She has published work in VICE, SELF, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Week, HuffPost, BuzzFeed Reader, Catapult, Pacific Standard, Health.com, Insider, Forbes.com, TalkPoverty, and many other outlets.