10 Common Phobias and Their Origins

What are some common fobias? Many things in this world can make us scared. Whether spiders, heights, or public speaking, we all have some common fears that make our heart rate spike and our palms sweat.

But what about the things that genuinely terrify us? The top fears that keep us up at night? These are called phobias, and millions of people around the world are affected by the worst phobias. In this article, we will discuss 10 of the scariest phobias and what causes them.

What Is a Phobia: Is There Difference Between Phobia And Fear?

Phobia(s) is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to feel extreme fear or panic in certain situations. This can be triggered by specific objects, animals, places, or activities. People with phobia(s) often go to great lengths to avoid the things that trigger their fears.

There is a difference between phobias and fear. While everyone experiences some common fears people have at some point in their lives, a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear that interferes with normal functioning. In other words, phobia(s) have a profound impact on everyday life. For example, someone with a severe case of such phobia(s) as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) or ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) may not be able to leave their house because they are afraid of encountering a spider or snake.

On the contrary, most common fears are normal and natural emotions that help keep us safe. It is our body’s way of responding to a perceived threat. Fears that people have can help us avoid danger. When the object of our fear is not harmful, it becomes a disorder.

While there are hundreds of triggers for phobia(s), some types of phobias are more common than others. Here are ten of the most common phobias and what causes them:

woman in white t-shirt hides her face with both palms

#01 Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is one of the most common and debilitating phobia(s). Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a situation where escape might be difficult or impossible. This can include some  most common fears such as being in a crowd, being in an open space, or being on a bridge.

The exact causes of such phobia(s) are unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is also a strong link between one of the most common phobias and panic disorder. People with agoraphobia often avoid situations that trigger their anxiety.

This can lead to social isolation and a decrease in quality of life. In severe cases of phobia(s), people with agoraphobia may be unable to leave their homes. Treatment for agoraphobia typically involves exposure therapy and medication. Most people with scary phobias can manage their symptoms and live normal lives with treatment.

#02 Claustrophobia

What is the most common phobia? Claustrophobia is an irrational fear of enclosed spaces, affecting up to 5% of the population. Claustrophobic people may avoid flying, riding in elevators, or entering small rooms. However, this phobia(s) can manifest differently.

For instance, some people are so afraid of enclosed spaces that they will only wear loose-fitting clothing. The reasons behind the scariest phobias like claustrophobia are not fully known, but it is thought to be related to a fear of suffocation or being trapped.

This phobia(s) can be treated with therapy and exposure to gradually more enclosed spaces. In severe cases, medication may be necessary to cope with the common fears. If you or someone you know suffer from claustrophobia, seeking help from a qualified professional can significantly improve your quality of life.

#03 Acrophobia

Acrophobia, or the fear of heights, belongs to the top 10 phobias . People with acrophobia may avoid going to high places, such as tall buildings or bridges. They may also avoid their common fears as heights, such as rock climbing or bungee jumping.

The origins of this phobia are unclear, but researchers believe they involve both genetics and upbringing. For example, someone with a parent or close relative with phobia(s)  may be more likely to develop the condition.

Additionally, people with a traumatic experience involving heights may be more likely to develop phobia(s) like acrophobia. Symptoms of acrophobia can vary from person to person, but they typically involve a feeling of intense most common fears in situations where there is a potential for falling. In severe cases, people with acrophobia may even experience panic attacks.

#04 Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders, is one of the most common phobias. People with arachnophobia may avoid going outside because they’re afraid of encountering spiders. They may also have the most common fears of looking at pictures or videos of spiders.

The reasons behind arachnophobia are not fully understood, but it is thought to be a phobia(s) combination of evolutionary and learned factors. Evolutionarily, it is beneficial to be afraid of spiders, as some species are venomous and can pose a threat to humans.

Learned phobia(s) factors also play a role, as people who have had negative experiences with spiders (or have seen others have negative experiences) are more likely to have common fears.

Several effective treatments for arachnophobia include exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. With treatment, people with arachnophobia can learn to manage their phobia(s) and live a normal, healthy life.

#05 Ophidiophobia

Ophidiophobia, or the phobia(s) of snakes, is a relatively common phobia that can have a debilitating effect on those who suffer from it. What are the most common fears of people with ophidiophobia? Though the sight of a snake is often enough to trigger a fear response, sometimes even hearing the phobia(s) word “snake” can cause anxiety.

Ophidiophobia can be traced back to evolutionary survival instincts, as snakes are often venomous and dangerous, so phobia(s) can be rationally explained. However, the risk of being harmed by a snake is relatively low today.

For many people with ophidiophobia, the phobia(s) is irrational and disproportionate to the actual danger posed. Symptoms of ophidiophobia can include dread, panic attacks, sweating, heart palpitations, and difficulty breathing.

In severe cases, people with the most common phobias like ophidiophobia may avoid outdoor activities or places where snakes might be present. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help people to overcome their phobia(s) of snakes by teaching them new ways of thinking and coping with anxiety-provoking situations.

#06 Thanatophobia

Thanatophobia, or phobia(s) of death, is a relatively common disorder with a wide range of severity. People with thanatophobia may fear their death, the death of a loved one, or even just the process of dying. What are the reasons behind common phobiasof death?  There are many potential causes of thanatophobia, including witnessing a traumatic event, experiencing a close call, or losing a loved one.

Phobia(s) symptoms typically include panic attacks, heart palpitations, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, people with thanatophobia may avoid activities from the list of weird phobias that they see as dangerous, such as driving or flying.

Treatment for thanatophobia typically focuses on exposure therapy and relaxation techniques. Both of these methods of phobia(s) treatment can help people gradually confront their fears and learn to manage their anxiety.

#07 Mysophobia

What are other types of phobias? Mysophobia, known as Verminophobia, Germaphobia, or Bacteriophobia, is an intense, irrational fear of contamination and germs. People who suffer from this phobia(s) go to great lengths to avoid contact with bacteria and other microorganisms. In severe cases, Mysophobia can interfere with a person’s daily activities and lead to social isolation that reinforces the phobia(s).

There are several reasons why someone might develop Mysophobia. Sometimes, it may result from a traumatic event, such as becoming ill after contacting contaminants.

Alternatively, phobia(s) may be a learned response – for example, if a person grows up in a household where cleanliness is highly emphasized. It is also worth noting that the most common phobias often co-occur with other anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

#08 Social Phobia

Social phobia(s) is an intense fear of social situations involving interaction with others. It can be very debilitating and make it hard to function in day-to-day life. The exact cause of the social phobia(s) is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and experience factors.

For example, someone with a family member with social phobia(s) may be more likely to develop the condition. Additionally, stressful or traumatic life events, such as being bullied or ridiculed, can also contribute to developing a social phobia(s).

People with social phobia often avoid social situations altogether, or they may experience intense anxiety and fear if they do attend. Common symptoms of phobia(s) include sweating, racing heart, trembling, and difficulty talking. Social phobia can be treated with medication and/or therapy. If phobia(s) left untreated, it can lead to severe depression and isolation.

#09 Vehophobia

Vehophobia, or the fear of driving, is a surprisingly one of the most common phobias  that can profoundly impact a person’s life. For sufferers, the very thought of getting behind the wheel can trigger intense phobia(s) anxiety and panic.

The exact causes of vehophobia are not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to a fear of losing control. For many phobia(s) sufferers, the fear is triggered by a previous trauma, such as a car accident.

However, even people who have never been in an accident can develop the most common phobias like vehophobia. Symptoms of vehophobia include sweating, shaking, and difficulty breathing. If you think you may be suffering from phobia(s), it is important to seek professional help.

#10 Cynophobia

Cynophobia, simply put, is the phobia(s) of dogs. It is important to note that it is not just a fear of big dogs or aggressive dogs, but any and all dogs. Actually, it’s one of the scariest phobias. While the exact reasons behind cynophobia are not always known, there are some possible explanations.

For some people, common phobias likecynophobia may result from a traumatic experience involving a dog, such as being bitten. For others, a more general phobia(s) of animals may be exacerbated by negative experiences or stories involving dogs.

Regardless of the cause, this phobia(s)  can lead to a significant avoidance of dogs and severe distress when exposed to them. People with cynophobia may go to great lengths to avoid contact with dogs to lower the phobia(s) symptoms; even seeing a dog can trigger a panic attack.


Whether it’s a phobia(s) of heights, enclosed spaces, or even dogs, anxiety can significantly impact our lives. If you think you might be suffering from most common phobias , it’s important to seek professional help. Most people with phobias can manage their symptoms and live normal, productive lives with treatment of their phobias list.

I'm Alana Wade, a psychologist with over five years of experience working with relationships. I've dedicated my career to helping couples and families create lasting, meaningful connections.