The key to distinguishing a fear from a phobia is that that while most people get the jitters if a spider crawls on their arm, people suffering from arachnophobia – the fear of spiders – are physically and/or psychologically impaired by it.
A phobia is an abnormal, irrational and extreme fear or relentless dread of a situation, living creature, place, or thing. Individuals with a phobia go to great lengths to avoid a perceived danger, which is much greater in their minds than in reality. Certain individuals will have an adverse reaction if confronted with the source of their phobia, despite being aware of the fact that it is not dangerous or harmful.
“There are nature and nurture components to phobias,” says Kathy Hoganbruen, PhD, National Mental Health Association spokesperson. “While we don’t know exactly why or how phobias originate, they are a type of mental illness, with genetics playing a role, as well as environment. Meaning maybe someone had a negative or traumatic experience related to the core of their phobia.”
Many people dislike certain situations or objects, but for it to be a true phobia, the fear must interfere with daily life. Here are a few more of the most common ones:
- Glossophobia: This is known as performance anxiety, or the fear of speaking in front of an audience.
- Acrophobia: This is the fear of heights. People with this phobia avoid mountains, bridges, or the higher floors of buildings.
- Aviophobia: This is also known as the fear of flying.
- Claustrophobia: This is a fear of enclosed or tight spaces. Severe claustrophobia can be especially disabling if it prevents you from riding in cars or elevators.
- Dentophobia is a fear of the dentist or dental procedures. This phobia generally develops after an unpleasant experience at a dentist’s office.
- Hemophobia: This is a phobia of blood or injury. A person with hemophobia may faint when they come in contact with their own blood or another person’s blood.
- Ophidiophobia: People with this phobia fear snakes.
- Nyctophobia: This phobia is a fear of the night-time or darkness. It almost always begins as a typical childhood fear. When it progresses past adolescence, it’s considered a phobia.
The above-mentioned list can seem harmless at first, but can interfere with an individual’s daily life to such an extent where one can develop agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a fear of places or situations that you can’t escape from. People with agoraphobia fear being in large crowds or being trapped outside the home. They often avoid social situations altogether and stay inside their homes. Many people with agoraphobia fear they may have a panic attack in a place where they can’t escape.
People with a genetic predisposition to anxiety may be at a high risk of developing a phobia. Age, socioeconomic status, and gender seem to be risk factors only for certain phobias. For example, women are more likely to have animal phobias. Children or people with a low socioeconomic status are more likely to have social phobias (as in talking to people over the phone or ordering in a restaurant). Men make up the majority of those with dentist and doctor phobias.
Although some phobias can stem from a traumatic experience or warrant a reason for a form of caution, some phobias can only be explained as bizarre:
Omphalophobia – Fear of navels
Individual can’t touch their own or another’s belly button (simply seeing one will also cause panic).
Trypophobia – Fear of holes
A fear of irregular patterns, small holes, clusters or bumps as it is associated with danger. For example, a bath sponge or holes in lotus seeds.
Papaphobia – Fear of the pope
The fear may be related to the fear of saints or holy men.
Nomophobia – Fear of being without mobile phone coverage
We all had that little panic attack when we couldn’t find our phone, but an induvial with nomophobia takes it up a notch. They have a fear of losing mobile network, battery or even losing sight of your phone.
Turophobia – Fear of cheese
Whilst some will only fear a certain type of cheese, others may fear cheese altogether.
Geniophobia – Fear of chins
People can have this fear because some people have prominent chins, like having double chins. Most people with this phobia feel obsessed with other people’s chins, especially those with imperfect chins.
Pentheraphobia – Fear of your mother-in-law
Any mother-in-law that has a dominating personality can instill a sense of intimidation in their new son-in-law or daughter-in-law, but this can ultimately morph into a phobia.
Arachibutyrophobia – Fear of peanut butter sticking to one’s palate
It is not the fear of peanut butter itself, but the situation of having it stick to the roof of your mouth. It is often rooted in a more generalized phobia of choking (pseudodysphagia) or of sticky textures, but it may also occur alone.
Spasmenagaliaphobia – Fear of broken glass
Individuals with this phobia will avoid using glasses altogether (a branch of Nelophobia, the fear of glass).
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – Fear of long words
Ironic or cruel? The actual fear of long words is simply called sesquipedalophobia (a little better). Extra words were added for irony. The extremely long word, Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, is recognized in the dictionary as the fear of long words.
Anatidaephobia – Fear of being watched by a duck
People with this phobia fear that no matter where they are or what they are doing that there is constantly a duck watching them.
It is difficult to fathom why certain phobias should arise, but one thing is predominantly clear, as human beings, everyone is unique and structured in a way that we will never be able to fully understand. All we can do is love and support these individuals as well as ourselves. After all, you never know if a duck might be watching.