Phobias

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Most people have an irrational fear or two, for some it’s that dreaded trip to the dentist, for others it’s the old urban legend of snakes in the toilet. And for most people, these fears are minor. It’s when these fears become so severe that they cause severe anxiety and interfere with your everyday life that they are classed as phobias.


A phobia is an intense and irrational fear of an object or living creature (e.g. spiders, snakes), situation (e.g. heights) or place. In reality these fears, most often than not, present little or no actual danger. In fact, most people realise that their fear is irrational, yet they still can’t control their feelings.

We can develop a phobia of virtually anything. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adulthood. Studies have also shown a link between a person’s phobias and the phobias of their parents.

They are a common problem, but vary greatly in type and level of impairment caused. In some cases, individuals find it distressing even thinking about their fears. This can impact their normal functions and sometimes lead to panic attacks. And when the person is actually exposed to the thing they fear the terror is automatic and overwhelming.

Because of this terror, some people will go to great lengths to avoid all encounters with the feared object or situation, even if it means inconveniencing themselves or changing their lifestyle. For example, one suffering from claustrophobia might turn down a job offer if it means having to ride an elevator every day. A father may not be able to attend his daughter’s wedding if it means having to fly there. Below, are the top ten most common phobias.

Arachnophobia – The Fear Of Spiders:

The fear of spiders is one of the most common animal phobias in the world and affects 4 times more women than men. Arachnophobes tend to go to extreme lengths to ensure that their surroundings are free from spiders often causing themselves a great deal of embarrassment.

Ophidiophobia – The Fear Of Snakes

After spiders, the fear of snakes is the second most common animal phobia affecting nearly one third of the adult population. Extreme ophidiophobia might result in a person avoiding camping, hiking or other related activities.

Acrophobia – The Fear Of Heights

Acrophobia can cause a person to fear a variety of things related to being far from the ground. Depending on the phobia's severity, an acrophobic person may equally fear being on a high floor of a building or simply climbing a ladder.

Agoraphobia – The Fear Of Open Or Crowded Spaces

People with this fear often find it difficult to leave home or visit the likes of shopping centres, cinemas, parks and other crowded areas or open grounds. A person with this fear may start avoiding situations that cause them anxiety. Avoiding normal activities can lead to a person’s life becoming restricted. Hence why depression is a common symptom of this phobia.

Cynophobia – The Fear Of Dogs

This is another very common animal phobia. This fear is actually more draining than the fear of spiders or snakes due to the fact that dogs are commonly present in most public areas. Like arachnophobia this fear affects more women than men.

Astraphobia – The Fear Of Thunder And Lightning

The majority of sufferers from this phobia are children, although it can persist into adulthood as well.

Trypanophobia – The Fear Of Injections Or Needles

This phobia can result in serious physiological responses to medical treatment including very low blood pressure and fainting. Depending on the severity, this phobia may lead the sufferer to avoid all medical care.

Claustrophobia – The Fear Of Enclosed Spaces

This phobia is mainly related to the fear of suffocation or the fear of restriction. Many sufferers find that their claustrophobia is specifically triggered by certain common situations such as entering an elevator or riding in an airplane. Some people discover undiagnosed claustrophobia when undergoing an MRI.

Mysophobia – The Fear Of Germs

This fear is very closely related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Sufferers from this phobia might indulge in excessive showering or hand washing. Isolation is a common symptom of this phobia because the sufferer will go to great lengths to avoid social situations for fear of picking up germs from the people around them.

Pteromerhanophobia – The Fear Of Flying

This fear is usually associated with agoraphobia (fear of being unable to escape) and claustrophobia. A person suffering from this fear will avoid air travel altogether limiting their lifestyle.

The good news is that phobias can be managed and cured. Our Psychologists at Spectrum Therapy can help you learn to function effectively through therapeutic treatments and self-help strategies so you can start living the life you want.

The type of Phobia treatment used will depend partly on the severity of the phobia - no single treatment works for everybody. Generally however, our Counselling Psychologists will use a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy approach. This type of therapy is aimed at reducing the symptoms of fear and anxiety, and helping a person manage their reactions to the source of their fear effectively. All of our Psychologists are fully qualified and hold a current membership of the Psychological Society of Ireland.

Julie Farrar