Phobias are an intense fear of something, like heights or certain animals, that causes significant distress. They’re typically treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

A phobia is an irrational fear of something that’s unlikely to cause harm. The word itself comes from the Greek word“phobos,” which means “fear” or “horror.”

Hydrophobia, for example, literally translates to fear of water.

When someone has a phobia, they experience intense fear of a certain object or situation. Phobias are different from regular fears because they cause significant distress, possibly interfering with life at home, work, or school.

People with phobias actively avoid the phobic object or situation, or they endure it with intense fear or anxiety.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association outlines several of the most common phobias.

Agoraphobia, a fear of places or situations that trigger fear or helplessness, is singled out as a particularly common fear with its own unique diagnosis. Social phobias, which are fears related to social situations, are also singled out with a unique diagnosis.

Phobias come in all shapes and sizes. Because there are an infinite number of objects and situations, the list of specific phobias is quite long.

According to the DSM-5, specific phobias typically fall within five general categories:

  • fears related to animals (spiders, dogs, insects)
  • fears related to the natural environment (heights, thunder, darkness)
  • fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues (injections, broken bones, falls)
  • fears related to specific situations (flying, riding an elevator, driving)
  • other (fear of choking, loud noises, drowning)

These categories encompass an infinite number of specific objects and situations.

There’s no official list of phobias beyond what’s outlined in the DSM-5, so clinicians and researchers create names for them as the need arises. This is typically done by combining a Greek (or sometimes Latin) prefix that describes the phobia with the phobia suffix.

For example, a fear of water would be named by combining “hydro” (water) and “phobia” (fear).

There’s also such a thing as a fear of fears (phobophobia). This is actually more common than you might imagine.

People with anxiety disorders sometimes experience panic attacks when they’re in certain situations. These panic attacks can be so uncomfortable that people do everything they can to avoid them in the future.

For example, if you have a panic attack while sailing, you may fear sailing in the future, but you may also fear panic attacks or fear developing hydrophobia.

Studying specific phobias is a complicated process. Most people don’t seek treatment for these conditions, so cases largely go unreported.

These phobias also vary based on cultural experiences, gender, and age.

Here’s a look at some phobias that have been identified.

achluophobiafear of darkness
acrophobiafear of heights
aerophobiafear of flying
agoraphobiafear of public spaces or crowds
aichmophobiafear of needles or pointed objects
ailurophobiafear of cats
alektorophobiafear of chickens
algophobiafear of pain
amaxophobiafear of riding in a car
androphobiafear of men
anginophobiafear of angina or choking
anthophobiafear of flowers
anthropophobiafear of people or society
aphenphosmphobiafear of being touched
arachnophobiafear of spiders
arithmophobiafear of numbers
astraphobiafear of thunder and lightning
ataxophobiafear of disorder or untidiness
atelophobiafear of imperfection
atychiphobiafear of failure
autophobiafear of being alone
bacteriophobiafear of bacteria
barophobiafear of gravity
bathmophobiafear of stairs or steep slopes
batrachophobiafear of amphibians
belonephobiafear of pins and needles
bibliophobiafear of books
botanophobiafear of plants
cacophobiafear of ugliness
catagelophobiafear of being ridiculed
catoptrophobiafear of mirrors
chionophobiafear of snow
chromophobiafear of colors
chronomentrophobiafear of clocks
cibophobiafear of food
claustrophobiafear of confined spaces
coulrophobiafear of clowns
cyberphobiafear of computers
cynophobiafear of dogs
dendrophobiafear of trees
dentophobiafear of dentists
domatophobiafear of houses
dystychiphobiafear of accidents
emetophobiafear of vomiting
entomophobiafear of insects
ephebiphobiafear of teenagers
equinophobiafear of horses
gamophobiafear of marriage or commitment
genuphobiafear of knees
glossophobiafear of speaking in public
gynophobiafear of women
heliophobiafear of the sun
hemophobiafear of blood
herpetophobiafear of reptiles
hydrophobiafear of water
hypochondriafear of illness
iatrophobiafear of doctors
insectophobiafear of insects
koinoniphobiafear of rooms full of people
leukophobiafear of the color white
lilapsophobiafear of tornadoes and hurricanes
lockiophobiafear of childbirth
mageirocophobiafear of cooking
megalophobiafear of large things
melanophobiafear of the color black
microphobiafear of small things
mysophobiafear of dirt and germs
necrophobiafear of death or dead things
noctiphobiafear of the night
nosocomephobiafear of hospitals
nyctophobiafear of the dark
obesophobiafear of gaining weight
octophobiafear of the number 8
ombrophobiafear of rain
ophidiophobiafear of snakes
ornithophobiafear of birds
papyrophobiafear of paper
paruresisfear of urinating in public places or in the presence of others
pathophobiafear of disease
pedophobiafear of children
philophobiafear of love
phobophobiafear of phobias
podophobiafear of feet
pogonophobiafear of beards
porphyrophobiafear of the color purple
pteridophobiafear of ferns
pteromerhanophobiafear of flying
pyrophobiafear of fire
samhainophobiafear of Halloween
scolionophobiafear of school
selenophobiafear of the moon
sociophobiafear of social evaluation
somniphobiafear of sleep
tachophobiafear of speed
technophobiafear of technology
thalassophobiafear of deep water
tonitrophobiafear of thunder
trypanophobiafear of needles or injections
trypophobiafear of clustered patterns of holes
venustraphobiafear of beautiful women
verminophobiafear of germs
wiccaphobiafear of witches and witchcraft
xenophobiafear of strangers or foreigners
zoophobiafear of animals

Phobias are typically treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both:

  • Exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, which is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, you work with a psychologist to learn how to desensitize yourself to the object or situation that you fear. The goal is to improve your quality of life so that you’re no longer hindered or distressed by your fear.
  • Antianxiety medication. Your doctor may recommend certain anxiety-reducing medications that can help you through exposure therapy. While these medications aren’t exactly a treatment for phobias, they can help make exposure therapy less distressing.
  • Other medications. Your clinician might also prescribe beta-blockers and benzodiazepines to manage feelings of anxiety or panic.

Phobias are persistent, intense, and unrealistic fears of a certain object or situation. Specific phobias are related to certain objects and situations. They typically involve fears related to animals, natural environments, medical issues, or specific situations.

While phobias can be extremely uncomfortable and challenging, therapy and medication can help. If you think you may have a phobia that’s causing a disruption in your life, speak with your doctor for an evaluation and treatment options.