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 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.

Specific phobias are a broad category of unique phobias related to specific objects and situations. Specific phobias affect an estimated 12.5 percent of 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 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.

A 1998 survey of more than 8,000 respondents published in the 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

Specific phobias 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

A
AchluophobiaFear of darkness
AcrophobiaFear of heights
AerophobiaFear of flying
AlgophobiaFear of pain
AlektorophobiaFear of chickens
AgoraphobiaFear of public spaces or crowds
AichmophobiaFear of needles or pointed objects
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
B
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
C
CacophobiaFear of ugliness
CatagelophobiaFear of being ridiculed
CatoptrophobiaFear of mirrors
ChionophobiaFear of snow
ChromophobiaFear of colors
ChronomentrophobiaFear of clocks
ClaustrophobiaFear of confined spaces
CoulrophobiaFear of clowns
CyberphobiaFear of computers
CynophobiaFear of dogs
D
DendrophobiaFear of trees
DentophobiaFear of dentists
DomatophobiaFear of houses
DystychiphobiaFear of accidents
E
EcophobiaFear of the home
ElurophobiaFear of cats
EntomophobiaFear of insects
EphebiphobiaFear of teenagers
EquinophobiaFear of horses
F, G
GamophobiaFear of marriage
GenuphobiaFear of knees
GlossophobiaFear of speaking in public
GynophobiaFear of women
H
HeliophobiaFear of the sun
HemophobiaFear of blood
HerpetophobiaFear of reptiles
HydrophobiaFear of water
HypochondriaFear of illness
I-K
IatrophobiaFear of doctors
InsectophobiaFear of insects
KoinoniphobiaFear of rooms full of people
L
LeukophobiaFear of the color white
LilapsophobiaFear of tornadoes and hurricanes
LockiophobiaFear of childbirth
M
MageirocophobiaFear of cooking
MegalophobiaFear of large things
MelanophobiaFear of the color black
MicrophobiaFear of small things
MysophobiaFear of dirt and germs
N
NecrophobiaFear of death or dead things
NoctiphobiaFear of the night
NosocomephobiaFear of hospitals
NyctophobiaFear of the dark
O
ObesophobiaFear of gaining weight
OctophobiaFear of the figure 8
OmbrophobiaFear of rain
OphidiophobiaFear of snakes
OrnithophobiaFear of birds
P
PapyrophobiaFear of paper
PathophobiaFear of disease
PedophobiaFear of children
PhilophobiaFear of love
PhobophobiaFear of phobias
PodophobiaFear of feet
Pogonophobia Fear of beards
PorphyrophobiaFear of the color purple
PteridophobiaFear of ferns
PteromerhanophobiaFear of flying
PyrophobiaFear of fire
Q-S
SamhainophobiaFear of Halloween
ScolionophobiaFear of school
SelenophobiaFear of the moon
SociophobiaFear of social evaluation
SomniphobiaFear of sleep
T
TachophobiaFear of speed
TechnophobiaFear of technology
TonitrophobiaFear of thunder
TrypanophobiaFear of needles or injections
U-Z
VenustraphobiaFear of beautiful women
VerminophobiaFear of germs
WiccaphobiaFear of witches and witchcraft
XenophobiaFear of strangers or foreigners
ZoophobiaFear 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.

Phobias are a persistent, intense, and unrealistic fear 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.