SnakeAn individual can have a phobia of virtually anything. However, some phobias are common enough to warrant their own name. You can learn more about phobia categories and specific phobias below.


There are two main types of phobias: complex and specific. Both can severely impact a person’s daily life and may be improved with the help of a therapist. However, some key distinctions set each type apart.

Complex phobias are more likely to have a significant impact on a person’s function. Agoraphobia and social phobia (social anxiety) are two common examples. Agoraphobia is typically characterized by fear of open or crowded spaces. It may also include the fear of having a panic attack in public or fear of leaving one’s home. Social phobia causes fear of many kinds of social situations. 

Adult onset is more likely with these phobias. Complex phobias may develop as a result of life experiences, brain chemistry, genetic causes, or some combination of the above. As with specific phobias, these complex phobias generally improve with treatment.

Specific phobias most often develop in childhood and may be triggered by an unpleasant or traumatic experience. For example, the experience of nearly choking to death may lead to the development of a phobia of choking. Phobias may also be learned; a child who witnesses the phobia of a family member may be more likely to develop the same phobia.

Common specific phobias include the fear of blood, storms, enclosed spaces, germs, heights, and flying. 


Certain phobias may be more common, while other phobias may be much rarer. Some research on specific phobias categorizes them into several groups, including situational phobias, animal phobias, and mutilation phobias.

Situational Phobias

  • Acrophobia is a fear of falling and heights. It is one of the most common phobias. In severe cases, a person may be reluctant to travel above the ground floor of a building or climb an open-faced staircase.
  • Claustrophobia is a fear of being trapped in enclosed spaces. An individual may be afraid of some small spaces, such as elevators, but be okay with more familiar places like their closet.
  • Aerophobia is a fear of flying in an airplane, helicopter, etc. Sometimes aerophobia occurs as a result of claustrophobia or acrophobia.
  • Aquaphobia is a fear of being in water. A person may fear going in a pool, ocean, river, or even a bathtub. It’s not to be confused with hydrophobia, which is the fear of water itself.
  • Genophobia is a fear of sex. It can be caused by past trauma, vaginismus, erectile dysfunction, or severe body image issues.

Animal Phobias

  • Ophidiophobia is a fear of snakes. Around one-third of people experience it to some degree. Many evolutionary psychologists have speculated that a fear of snakes has a genetic origin, as the fear of potentially poisonous snakes has benefited people across time. 
  • Cynophobia is a general fear of dogs. Some people exhibit more fear around certain types of dogs, such as large breeds, but will still be uneasy around all dogs. Cynophobia is often caused by an early, traumatic experience with a dog.
  • Ailurophobia is a fear of cats. It is sometimes spelled aelurophobia or elurophobia. Individuals with ailurophobia may fear getting bitten or scratched by a cat. They could also have developed a fear due to the cultural links between cats and the occult.
  • Entomophobia is a fear of insects in general. Sometimes the fear is limited to a specific type of insect, such as melissaphobia (fear of bees) or lepidopteraphobia (fear of butterflies).
  • Arachnophobia is a fear of spiders. Even though spiders are not technically insects, most people classify fear of spiders as a type of entomophobia.
  • Zoophobia is a general fear of animals.

Body/Mutilation Phobias

  • Odontophobia is a fear of receiving dental care. It is distinct from dental anxiety, which is a feeling of apprehension from someone who has never had a dental check-up before and doesn’t know what to expect.
  • Iatrophobia is a fear of going to the doctor. This phobia may keep individuals from seeking health care until an emergency arises, reinforcing the belief that hospital visits are scary or painful.
  • Erythrophobia is a fear of blushing. It often occurs alongside social anxiety.
  • Mysophobia is a fear of contamination. This could include germs (bacteria, viruses, etc.), dirt, or bodily fluids.
  • Trypanophobia is a fear of needles and injections. While few people enjoy getting stuck by needles, individuals with trypanophobia can have severe physical reactions such as fainting.
  • Hemophobia is a fear of blood. An individual may react to their own blood, another person’s blood, or depictions of blood on TV.
  • Aichmophobia is a fear of sharp objects. These could include knives, scissors, pins, and even sharpened pencils.

Some phobias may be less common, but they can still impact day-to-day life for many people. With the help of a therapist, it is possible to overcome even the rarest phobia.


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