What Is A Phobia?
A phobia is an irrational and severely debilitating fear. If you have a phobia, just the mention or an image of the feared object can make you highly anxious. This can include symptoms such as dizziness, elevated heart rate, change in breathing rate, nausea, and even full-blown panic attacks in severe cases. Such phobias usually appear during childhood or adolescence and generally last well into adulthood unless professional help is sought.
How common are phobias? Well, phobias are considered to be the most common psychiatric ailment in women and the second most common in men. Safe to say, they’re pretty common and can impact day-to-day functioning for the person involved and their loved ones. People with phobias tend to live their whole lives in fear of an object, and if the phobia occurs in response to a very common thing, it can severely disrupt their life.
It is impossible to know precisely how many phobias exist, but over 400 have been recorded so far, and there may be many more that are yet to be formally studied. Broadly speaking, phobias are divided into three categories - specific phobias, social phobias, and agoraphobia. While specific phobias are irrational fears of particular objects, social phobias and agoraphobia fall under anxiety disorders.
Top 10 Common Phobias
Acrophobia is an overwhelming fear of high places. People with this fear feel dizzy and anxious when they’re at places of height and avoid any hills, tall buildings, or high bridges. A possible reason behind this phobia could be its adaptive advantage in preventing the danger of high places.
Agoraphobia is an intense fear of being alone in open, new, or crowded places. It is an anxiety disorder in its own right and can lead to panic attacks, causing a lot of difficulty in everyday functioning. Many people with Agoraphobia avoid going out of their homes at all. Thus, it is essential to seek help at the earliest.
Quite possibly one of the most well-known phobias, Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. While there’s no one answer about the reason behind the frequent occurrence of this phobia in people, you could argue that this fear exists because of how humans have evolved. After all, insect bites have been a fatal threat to the life of our ancestors as they resided in the wild, which might be why we, over the years, have developed the instinct to find certain insects repulsive (Ron Weasley would agree!).
Another common phobia is Trypanophobia, which is the fear of injections. While it is often used as a source of humour in the media, it can cause people to actively avoid medical help. Out of fear of being prescribed injections, many people with Trypanophobia avoid going to hospitals or consulting doctors altogether, which can have serious health implications. This phobia is especially concerning at an age where getting vaccinated regularly is life-affirming.
Dogs are adorable little pets, aren’t they? But not for those who have cynophobia, which is the fear of dogs. For cynophobic people, even passing by a house with a pet dog can be their worst nightmare. Cynophobia often results from a traumatic experience involving dogs, such as being bitten as a child. The good news is that it can be treated and managed through appropriate interventions and guided desensitisation.
It’s normal and even expected for everyone to have a healthy amount of fear when it comes to snakes. Still, it goes a step further for people with Ophidiophobia, who may feel anxious and stressed even by an image or mention of snakes. However, like many phobias, this also seems to have an evolutionary link, as the chances of survival may be higher for those of our ancestors who stayed far from such dangers.
Social Phobia, also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, is an intense fear of any situation that requires one to be social. It often involves a higher than normal fear of being humiliated or embarrassed in public, making any social interaction extremely stressful, be it as simple as eating in a public place to giving a speech in front of a crowd.
Mysophobia is an irrational and excessive fear of dirt or germs and is often linked to behaviours seen in individuals diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the recent pandemic brought up a new-found fear of contamination and germs in all of us, Mysophobia often leads to extreme behaviours like compulsive hand-washing to the point of harming the skin and repeatedly cleaning things, which can get in the way of other important things.
As its name suggests, hydrophobia is the fear of water, and it is most commonly found in people infected with the Rabies virus. The bodies of people experiencing extreme cases of hydrophobia brought on by rabies might reject even the idea of drinking water due to blockages in the throat caused by hydrophobia-induced spasms.
Though the word gets thrown around fairly mindlessly, claustrophobia is a genuine condition involving fear of enclosed spaces. This can include cramped rooms, elevators, or overcrowded places - essentially, any situation in which the person might feel confined and trapped. A prevalent symptom is feeling breathless, as if one is running out of air.
Finding help for common phobias in India can feel challenging, but it is not impossible. If you or a loved one seems to be struggling with a debilitating fear that is hampering their daily life, Rocket Health’s services have a number of experienced psychologists and psychiatrists providing effective phobia treatment!