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Phobias; What Are They?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. Irrational meaning that there is no logical explanation behind the fear of that particular object, situation, activity. The person experiencing a phobia may have developed it due to a negative past experience or genetics in play. Phobias are generally classified under Anxiety Disorders.


There have been various psychological theories to deduce why and how phobias are actually developed.

According to Psychoanalytical theory, phobias are a result of internal anxiety when there is a conflict between id and superego. When that conflict is repressed or displaced onto another object, the person develops a phobia. Psychoanalysts believe in treating phobias by exploring the root cause of the phobia.


According to the learning theory based on behaviourism, it is believed that phobias are learned behaviours. Meaning, phobias are developed as a result of reinforcement and punishment.

According to the medical model, phobias develop due to faulty regulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain hence SSRIs are considered the most effective medication to treat phobias by doctors.


Specific Phobias

According to DSM-V diagnostic criteria, specific phobias can be defined as marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation. Some of the most common responses to phobias are:

  • Worsening of anxiety

  • Intense fear or panic in the presence of the subject of the phobia

  • Feeling of powerlessness in the moment of fear/panic

  • Physiological reactions such as cramps, muscle tension, nausea

Some of the common types of specific phobias are:

  • Achluophobia: Fear of darkness

  • Acrophobia: Fear of heights

  • Algophobia: Fear of pain

  • Agoraphobia: Fear of open spaces or crowds

  • Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders

  • Arithmophobia: Fear of numbers

  • Bacteriophobia: Fear of bacteria

  • Bibliophobia: Fear of books

  • Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces

  • Chromophobia: Fear of colours

  • Chronomentrophobia: Fear of clocks

  • Coulrophobia: Fear of clowns

  • Cyberphobia: Fear of computers

  • Cynophobia: Fear of dogs

  • Dendrophobia: Fear of trees

  • Dentophobia: Fear of dentists

  • Elurophobia: Fear of cats

  • Entomophobia: Fear of insects

  • Gamophobia: Fear of marriage

  • Genuphobia: Fear of knees

  • Glossophobia: Fear of speaking in public

  • Haphephobia: Fear of touch

  • Heliophobia: Fear of the sun

  • Hemophobia: Fear of blood

  • Herpetophobia: Fear of reptiles

  • Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia: Fear of long words

  • Hydrophobia: Fear of water

  • Iatrophobia: Fear of doctors

  • Insectophobia: Fear of insects

  • Koinoniphobia: Fear of rooms

  • Koumpounophobia: Fear of buttons

  • Leukophobia: Fear of the colour white

  • Lilapsophobia: Fear of tornadoes and hurricanes

  • Lockiophobia: Fear of childbirth

  • Megalophobia: Fear of large things

  • Melanophobia: Fear of the colour black

  • Microphobia: Fear of small things

  • Mysophobia: Fear of dirt and germs

  • Necrophobia: Fear of death or dead things

  • Noctiphobia: Fear of the night

  • Nosocomephobia: Fear of hospitals

  • Nyctophobia: Fear of the dark

  • Obesophobia: Fear of gaining weight

  • Ophidiophobia: Fear of snakes

  • Ornithophobia: Fear of birds

  • Papyrophobia: Fear of paper

  • Pathophobia: Fear of disease

  • Pedophobia: Fear of children

  • Pteromerhanophobia: Fear of flying

  • Pyrophobia: Fear of fire

  • Scoptophobia: Fear of being stared at

  • Selenophobia: Fear of the moon

  • Sociophobia: Fear of social evaluation

  • Somniphobia: Fear of sleep

  • Tonitrophobia: Fear of thunder

  • Trypanophobia: Fear of needles/injections

  • Trypophobia: Fear of holes

  • Verminophobia: Fear of germs

  • Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners

  • Zoophobia: Fear of animals

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