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 than 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 endure it within intense fear or anxiety.

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are very common. They’re estimated to affect more than 30 percent of U.S. adults at some time in their lives.

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

Agoraphobia, a fear of public places where escape is difficult, 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.

Specific phobias are a broad category of unique phobias related to specific objects and situations. Specific phobias affect an estimated 19.2 million American adults.

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, 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 (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, so clinicians and researchers make up 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 by hydro (water) and phobia (fear).

There’s also such a thing as a fear or 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 and terrifying 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 endeavor. 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.

A 1998 survey of more than 8,000 respondents published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that some of the most common phobias include:

  • acrophobia, fear of heights
  • aerophobia, fear of flying
  • arachnophobia, fear of spiders
  • astraphobia, fear of thunder and lightning
  • autophobia, fear of being alone
  • claustrophobia, fear of confined or crowded spaces
  • hemophobia, fear of blood
  • hydrophobia, fear of water
  • ophidiophobia, fear of snakes
  • zoophobia, fear of animals

The thing about specific phobias is that they tend to be incredibly specific. Some so much so that they may only affect a handful of people at a time.

These are difficult to identify because most people don’t report unusual fears to their doctors.

Examples of some of the more unusual phobias include:

  • alektorophobia, fear of chickens
  • onomatophobia, fear of names
  • pogonophobia, fear of beards
  • nephophobia, fear of clouds
  • cryophobia, fear of ice or cold
  • teratophobia, fear of giving birth to monsters

A
Achluophobia Fear of darkness
Acrophobia Fear of heights
Aerophobia Fear of flying
Algophobia Fear of pain
Alektorophobia Fear of chickens
Agoraphobia Fear of public spaces or crowds
Aichmophobia Fear of needles or pointed objects
Amaxophobia Fear of riding in a car
Androphobia Fear of men
Anginophobia Fear of angina or choking
Anthophobia Fear of flowers
Anthropophobia Fear of people or society
Aphenphosmphobia Fear of being touched
Arachnophobia Fear of spiders
Arithmophobia Fear of numbers
Astraphobia Fear of thunder and lightning
Ataxophobia Fear of disorder or untidiness
Atelophobia Fear of imperfection
Atychiphobia Fear of failure
Autophobia Fear of being alone
B
Bacteriophobia Fear of bacteria
Barophobia Fear of gravity
Bathmophobia Fear of stairs or steep slopes
Batrachophobia Fear of amphibians
Belonephobia Fear of pins and needles
Bibliophobia Fear of books
Botanophobia Fear of plants
C
Cacophobia Fear of ugliness
Catagelophobia Fear of being ridiculed
Catoptrophobia Fear of mirrors
Chionophobia Fear of snow
Chromophobia Fear of colors
Chronomentrophobia Fear of clocks
Claustrophobia Fear of confined spaces
Coulrophobia Fear of clowns
Cyberphobia Fear of computers
Cynophobia Fear of dogs
D
Dendrophobia Fear of trees
Dentophobia Fear of dentists
Domatophobia Fear of houses
Dystychiphobia Fear of accidents
E
Ecophobia Fear of the home
Elurophobia Fear of cats
Entomophobia Fear of insects
Ephebiphobia Fear of teenagers
Equinophobia Fear of horses
F, G
Gamophobia Fear of marriage
Genuphobia Fear of knees
Glossophobia Fear of speaking in public
Gynophobia Fear of women
H
Heliophobia Fear of the sun
Hemophobia Fear of blood
Herpetophobia Fear of reptiles
Hydrophobia Fear of water
Hypochondria Fear of illness
I-K
Iatrophobia Fear of doctors
Insectophobia Fear of insects
Koinoniphobia Fear of rooms full of people
L
Leukophobia Fear of the color white
Lilapsophobia Fear of tornadoes and hurricanes
Lockiophobia Fear of childbirth
M
Mageirocophobia Fear of cooking
Megalophobia Fear of large things
Melanophobia Fear of the color black
Microphobia Fear of small things
Mysophobia Fear of dirt and germs
N
Necrophobia Fear of death or dead things
Noctiphobia Fear of the night
Nosocomephobia Fear of hospitals
Nyctophobia Fear of the dark
O
Obesophobia Fear of gaining weight
Octophobia Fear of the figure 8
Ombrophobia Fear of rain
Ophidiophobia Fear of snakes
Ornithophobia Fear of birds
P
Papyrophobia Fear of paper
Pathophobia Fear of disease
Pedophobia Fear of children
Philophobia Fear of love
Phobophobia Fear of phobias
Podophobia Fear of feet
Pogonophobia Fear of beards
Porphyrophobia Fear of the color purple
Pteridophobia Fear of ferns
Pteromerhanophobia Fear of flying
Pyrophobia Fear of fire
Q-S
Samhainophobia Fear of Halloween
Scolionophobia Fear of school
Selenophobia Fear of the moon
Sociophobia Fear of social evaluation
Somniphobia Fear of sleep
T
Tachophobia Fear of speed
Technophobia Fear of technology
Tonitrophobia Fear of thunder
Trypanophobia Fear of needles or injections
U-Z
Venustraphobia Fear of beautiful women
Verminophobia Fear of germs
Wiccaphobia Fear of witches and witchcraft
Xenophobia Fear of strangers or foreigners
Zoophobia Fear of animals

Phobias are treated with a combination of therapy and medications.

If you’re interested in finding treatment for your phobia, you should make an appointment with a psychologist or qualified mental health professional.

The most effective treatment for specific phobias is a type of psychotherapy called exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, you work with a psychologist to learn how to desensitize yourself to the object or situation that you fear.

This treatment helps you change your thoughts and feelings about the object or situation, so that you can learn to control your reactions.

The goal is to improve your quality of life so that you’re no longer hindered or distressed by your fear.

Exposure therapy isn’t as scary as it may sound at first. This process is done with the help of a qualified mental health professional, who knows how to guide you slowly through increasing levels of exposure coupled with relaxation exercises.

If you fear spiders, you will begin by simply thinking of spiders or situations where you may encounter one. Then you may progress to pictures or videos. Then perhaps go to a place where spiders may be, such as a basement or wooded area.

It will take some time before you’ll actually be asked to look at or touch a spider.

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.

Medications that may help reduce uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, fear, and panic, include beta-blockers and benzodiazepines.