‘Phobia’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and the suffix gets attached to many words where it isn’t literally or clinically true. We’ve all heard someone get called a ‘germa-phobe’–not the most accepted term–because they use a paper towel on a public restroom door handle. However, most psychologists define a phobia as an irrational fear that can be debilitating to daily life. The above example is not necessarily irrational, and in fact is usually just normal hygienic behavior. While it’s easy to joke about specific phobias because they seem so outlandish, they are serious mental health conditions that can have a negative impact on a person’s life and the people around them.
1. Mysophobia: this is the actual term that should be used for the alleged ‘germaphobe’ mentioned above. Mysophobia is fear of germs, dirt, and bacteria.
2. Thalassophobia: if you’ve ever felt uneasy looking at a picture of the middle of the ocean you’ve just gotten a taste of Thalassohobia, which is the fear of large bodies of water. However a true Thalassophobe might possibly have a panic attack from the same picture.
3. Coulrophobia: this is an irrational fear of clowns. This one has not been fully accepted on a clinical level, but it is in the popular culture enough for it to have begun receiving attention.
4. Arachnophobia: or an intense fear of spiders, is another phobia that pretty much everyone has heard of.
5. Agoraphobia: while people tend to associate agoraphobia with fear of leaving their home, the actual fear is of situations where escape is difficult. This fear in turn leads the afflicted person to stay inside to avoid those situations altogether.
6. Acrophobia: just as an acrobat is someone who performs from great heights, an acrophobe is one who excessively fears them. The most severe cases can be people who are afraid to look out a second story window.
7. Pteromerhanophobia: which is the specific fear of flying in a plane or other vehicle such as a helicopter or blimp. This fear can come less from a fear of heights and more from an intense fixation on the plane crashing.
8. Cynophobia: is the fear of being attacked or bitten by a dog. Can be the result of a childhood trauma but not always. This is a phobia that can be very effectively treated from exposure therapy, which is the gradual introduction of the feared object to ease anxiety and eventually conquer the fear.
9. Pyrophobia: unlike a pyromaniac, a pyrophobic person is irrationally afraid of fire. This phobia really highlights the idea that a true phobia is fear only beyond the norm, as people should have a healthy fear of fire. A true pyrophobe would have a full anxiety attack from seeing a birthday candle being lit.
10. Social Anxiety Disorder: while it doesn’t have a fancy Greek term, this one might be the most serious as it has a debilitating effect on the most people and can effect their work and personal lives the most.