The Top Ten Most Common Phobias

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Posted on January 6th, 2008

Be Afraid. Be Very… Afraid.

Niccolo Machiavelli, well-known author of the ground-breaking treatise on politics, power and leadership “The Prince (1515),” once said that fear is the best means of controlling people. According to him, not even love is as effective as fear in extracting compliance.

Fear can be seen as the natural reaction to any form of hazard. After all, a person would feel terrified at the prospect of getting hurt, or even killed. Once the whole fear factor kicks in, the body immediately preps itself up to either protect itself or run for retreat. In this way, self-preservation is the name of the game with fear and phobias.

Likewise, the objects of people’s phobias are simply the many things people consider affronts on their lives. As a result, phobias should be seen as social phenomenons as well. After all, whatever people might consider potentially hurtful to them is affected by what their society would view as hurtful.

In this manner, while reading the following list of common phobias, you would be doing yourself some good by thinking that such a list is not universal. As societies can change, so would the things people fear.

10. Entomophobia

“Fear Of Insects”

A swarm of yucky bugs
Entomophobia is the blanket fear of insects. Life in the cities and suburbs has reduced the amount of contact people have with these creatures. Part of the reason people fear insects is that these creatures are completely alien to their everyday lives, turning this ignorance easily into fear.

True, some insects can pack some serious damage to anybody who crosses their paths, but the majority of them are all pretty harmless. In fact, an insect has more reason to fear humans, than vice versa. Still, some people would burst into tears once faced with a lonely hornet, bee, or even a small tick.

9. Arachnophobia

“Fear Of Spiders”

A small brown tarantula spider
In a related note, many people have an unreasonable and incessant fear of spiders. Similar to how people fear insects, much of the cause for the trepidation with these eight-legged creatures stems from the limited contact people have with them.

After all, spiders are mostly solitary creatures that reside in places not readily seen. In between nooks and crannies, they live out their lives far from the scrutiny of human eyes. On the rare occasion that they do come out in the open, the first reaction people often take is to start whacking away.

Still, as with some insects, some spiders can be dangerous, even lethal to people. More or less, there is some basis to the fear.

8. Ophidiophobia

“Fear Of Snakes”

A big poisonous snake
Even the first book found in the bible speaks of a disgust for snakes. The story of Genesis outlines how the devil took the form of a snake to tempt Eve into eating the apple from the tree of knowledge, an act which eventually led to the expulsion of man from paradise.

True, many snakes have poisons potent enough to paralyze a full-grown man in a matter of minutes, which provides basis to the fear.

At the same time, the fear people have for them may find its roots back in the times of cavemen, where humans inhabited roughly the same places as snakes.

Yet, some would contend that these reptiles were unjustly burdened with the stigma of playing a significant part in the supposed fall of man from God’s good graces.

7. Mysophobia/Germophobia

“Fear Of Germs”

Germs viewed under a microscope
The discovery of germs and other microscopic organisms has led to many other useful discoveries in different scientific fields. Yet, this can also be seen as having a part in fostering Mysophobia or the fear of germs. It’s easy to see the connection, especially when some germs and other microorganisms were discovered as the main cause of some diseases.

Mysophobia or germophobia is often associated with people who have obsessive compulsive disorder or who consider themselves hardcore hypochondriacs.

The incessant washing of hands or the outright avoidance of “unclean” activities fall right under the desire to avoid any contact with germs.

6. Brontophobia

“Fear Of Thunder”

A powerful thunderstorm
While they were kids, many have taken to running under their beds or hiding in their closets during particularly violent thunderstorms. The surprise people experience upon hearing such quick booms is often translated into fear.

In this way, the phobia of thunder can be seen as a phobia of not knowing when a surprisingly loud sound is about to ring across the skies. After all, thunder is just a very large sound, which does not necessarily pose any ready harm to a person.

5. Aviophobia

“Fear Of Flying”

A small plane flying high in the sky
For some, the birth of aviation has opened up countless possibilities. Since freedom is associated with flight, many have grown addicted to the rigors of being a pilot.

Some, however, view flying in a totally different manner. For them, sitting down and being strapped into a chair is not the most pleasant of experiences. The possibility of the plane crashing looms over their heads, such that they’d shun from flying altogether.

Yet, aviophobia could also be about the fear of losing control. While up in the air, passengers are at the full mercy of the pilot and cabin crew. After all, it’s not as if a passenger can jump off if things get iffy.

4. Acrophobia

“The Fear Of Heights”

A man standing on the edge of a cliff
Even though planes have enabled people to touch the sky, man is still very much firmly planted on the ground. During the rare occasions that people do get up to great heights, some are exhilarated by the experience, while others are quick to back out.

The fear of heights often coincides with the fear of falling. The proverbial mountain climber’s edict “don’t look down” is only to have people refrain from reminding themselves of the possibility of plummeting to their deaths.

Much like aviophobia, however, acrophobia can also be regarded as the fear of losing control. After all, if a person free falls from such a great height, the outcome is all left in the hands of gravity.

3. Agoraphobia

“The Fear Of Open Spaces”

A man walking alone in such a huge space
Usually, agoraphobia is defined as the fear of large open spaces. Sufferers of such a phobia hate being left out in the desert or even inside an empty gym.

This phobia, however, is not limited to being terrified with large open spaces. Some experts claim agoraphobia to be the fear of public spaces and the situations associated with being in them. Sufferers are known to lock themselves in their homes, and stay there even for years at a time.

Some experts define agoraphobia, then, as the fear of being thrown into a situation where there is no escape. Here, the act of being in an open public space is viewed as being forced into an uncontrolled environment, where there is a heightened need to keep things under control.

2. Claustrophobia

“Fear Of Confined Spaces”

Too close for comfort
Most people living in cities maintain a bubble of privacy around them. Take a look around while walking, and notice how there will always be some distance between people traversing the same route. For some, this area of privacy is sacred. Anybody who crosses the threshold is already considered a threat.

Some guard this bubble so tightly that they fear any situation where they’re forced to share their space with others. Those afflicted with claustrophobia fear closed elevators, mosh pits, and any other tight circumstance. In this manner, claustrophobia is very similar to agoraphobia.

1. Thanatophobia/Necrophobia: Fear of Dead Things

A creepy graveyard with tombstones
Some profess a fascination with the macabre. Most view it with some hesitation. Others, however, are completely afraid of death and everything that is associated with it. Much like the phobias previously mentioned, there is some logic to having a fear of the dead. Corpses and carcasses are effective breeding grounds for harmful bacteria, which, if left untended, could actually result in more death.

Necrophobia and thanatophobia are often used interchangeably. However, thanatophobia is often used to refer to the fear of one’s own death. Though not many people think about their own deaths, most would easily point out that they fear dying. In this manner, every person would in fact have a tinge of thanatophobia in them as they go about living their lives.

Fear Is a Normal Part of Life

There are countless other phobias. Some even border on the absurd, but all simply point out that despite all the abilities of people, they are still essentially vulnerable. After all, nobody is completely free of fear.

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