October 20, 2019
Find help. Find hope. Find solutions.
Editor's Note:  "Borderlines," BAMHS' periodic column, provides ideas and suggestions for healthy living, better family life and successful strategies for coping with life's challenges. Our newsletter is updated frequently! Check back often.
The ten most common phobias
Posted: November 2, 2010
Last Updated: November 2, 2010


What makes us most afraid? Everyone has common fears, situations or things they dislike having to confront. The place in peopleís minds where a fear gives way to terror is where phobias are created. Phobias are things or situations that trigger extreme aversion, fright and in extreme cases, panic attacks, times when the heart races, the skin becomes clammy and the body rebels.


Many phobias arise from cultural influences and experiences during childhood, though some evolutionists and psychologist attribute many common phobias to genetics or survival mechanisms that kept our ancestors alive in hostile environments. Terror over snakes helped early humans avoid their venomous bites and live longer. A dislike of rats or mice could have helped people in the Middle Ages avoid the plague. Such evolutionary phobias arenít as common today as decades ago. More modern phobias focus on social pressures and an understanding of science our ancestors lacked. 


Though the number of people suffering from specific phobias isnít tallied up, these ten are the most common phobias reported in our culture:

Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders. Spiders appear almost alien, and for centuries have captured human imagination. Depicted in horror movies as huge or numerous infestations, its easy to understand why the creatures terrify some people. This phobia is reported more often in women than men. Places with the largest spiders, like South America, have a lower incident of arachnophobia. Could daily contact with spiders lower the incidents of this phobia? Experts are studying this fact.

Acrophobia: The fear of heights. Do you experience vertigo or nausea when you think of skyscrapers?  For people with this phobia even peeking down the window of their third floor apartment or a winding staircase can trigger terror. This phobia can severely affect a personís daily life and curtail their activities.

Agoraphobia: The fear of being unable to escape from a place. This is one of the most misunderstood phobias, because most people equate it with the fear of being outside or in open spaces. Instead, agoraphobia is the cause of people avoiding crowded places and leaves affected individuals effectively trapped in their homes or only leaving when accompanied by a friend or family members. Psychologists consider this phobia to be the result of complications from panic attacks. 

Social Phobia: The fear of social situations. Everyone gets a little anxious speaking to an audience, but someone with this phobia avoids all public situations. The anxiety in people suffering from social phobia stems from their belief that they are being put under the scanner and evaluated continuously by the people surrounding them.

Aerophobia: The fear of air travel. Definitely one of the more modern phobias, which didnít exist until the Wright Brothers took their first flight. This is one of the more common phobias in the world, and it can hinder peopleís ability to travel long distances since they avoid airplanes.

Claustrophobia: The fear of restricted places. Claustrophobia also curbs the ability of many individuals to access all places because it triggers in them a fear of enclosed spaces. Usually, its not a closet that triggers an attack, but places the individual canít easily leave, like an elevator, cave or even a train. Many people experience slight discomfort in closed spaces, this phobia leaves people gasping for breath and shaking in fear.  

Brontophobia: The fear of thunderstorms. Some sources also associate this phobia with lightning, as lightning and thunder occur almost always together. Individuals with this phobia hide as soon as thunder and lightening strikes occur. This phobia is just as common in adults as it is in children. Individuals with this phobia keep a close eye on the weather,

Mysophobia: The irrational fear of germs. Also known as germophobia, people who suffer from this condition are often seen washing their hands to keep them free of germs. They may also wear gloves all the time for protection from germs around.

Carcinophobia: The fear of cancer. This fear sometimes impairs the understanding of the fact in carcinophobic people that cancer is not contagious. Their fear may compel them to avoid contact or interaction with people suffering from cancer. But, also they may live their lives obsessed with avoiding anything that could cause cancer in later life.

Necrophobia: The fear of death or anything related to it. Necrophobic people feel anxious if they have to attend funerals or see a coffin. Anything related to death can trigger panic in such individuals.

Although the cause of phobias needs greater understanding, certain options have been found to be effective in dealing with certain phobias. Sometimes slowly exposing the individual to the situation or object of fear provides them opportunities to overcome their phobia with active effort. Another treatment is to increase the period of time of encounters rather than the frequency. In counter-conditioning a patient is taught alternate way of responding to the phobic situation than with panic.


If you suffer from a fear that is affecting your daily life or quality of life call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

You also may be interested in these articles:
Schizophrenia: The most misunderstood mental illness
The benefits of friends
Take a moment for you
Focus better
Ways to raise your self-esteem
Build a stronger relationship
This season give time, not money
Family and the Holidays
Ward off the Holiday Blues
Teaching Self-control to kids
Co-occurring depression
Copdependency: What does it mean?
How to cope with traumatic events
Verbal barbs
Stress solutions
Ease kidsí school anxieties
Get a handle on your vacation
Negative behavior in children
How important are friends?
Sit down to a family dinner
Depression & sleep
Anorexia and Bulimia
Warning signs in children
Finding friends
Tips for a happy healthy family
Feathering the empty nest
Positive resolutions work best
Handle the Holidays
Coping with Relatives during the Holiday Season
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Help children face their fears
Fixes for fatigue
Illness and Depression
Schoolyard Abuse
Ways to calm school anxiety
A different kind of stress
Communicate with your child
Build your coping skills
Tips for improving your familyís mental health
Border lines
5 ways to deal with stress
Supporting someone with depression
Understanding autism
Help children cope with loss
Coping with traumatic events
Marriage therapy grows up
More than teen angst
Ease the strain of traveling with kids
Mental illness: the stigma that shouldnít be
When words hurt
Road Rage: Getting it under control
Panic Attacks
Building a strong family
Controlling Anger
Tips for a stress free morning
Communicate better in relationships
Closeness in relationships
The 5 keys to stronger relationships
Severe illness can cause depression
Balancing family and work

Outpatient Services
Family Programs
Substance Abuse Services
CCSS/Case Management
Community Corrections
Community & Special Projects

Contact Us
More about our community

En EspaŮol

Try our games!

© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.