Every person has fears. It’s a natural and emotional reaction to a threat, but people tend to experience fear and anxiety when there’s no immediate danger.
So, what is a phobia? It’s a type of anxiety disorder, and it refers to an intense, excessive, and irrational fear of certain situations, objects, or places. Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders, and they should never be taken lightly. Many people are not even aware that they have some kind of phobia.
Phobia statistics show that there are many types of phobias. Some of them are well-known and quite common, but others require more research to learn about them. Here we share some fascinating facts about phobias you should know, no matter if you’re struggling with one or you’re just curious.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Top Phobia Facts and Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- According to the DSM-5, approximately 5% of children, 16% of teenagers, and 3%–5% of adults experience phobias.
- According to the US National Comorbidity Survey, social anxiety has a 12-month prevalence rate of 6.8%, making it the third most common mental disorder in the US.
- The most common fears in adults are fear of various kinds of social situations, open or enclosed spaces, heights, flying, insects, snakes, dogs, storms, and needles.
- No one knows how many phobias exist. According to phobia statistics, there are more than 400 classified phobias.
- The main causes of phobia are child traumas, genetics, learned experiences (factors in a family environment), responses to panic or fear, and long-term stress.
- The most common phobia symptoms are increased heart rate, nausea, shaking, breathlessness, a sense of unreality, and the fear of dying.
- Too much caffeine can lead to increased anxiety or complicate an existing anxiety disorder.
The Most Important Specific Phobia Statistics
1. Approximately 9.1% of US adults have a specific phobia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, phobias are one of the most common mental disorders in the US. Around 7.1% of Americans experience social phobias, and 0.9% have agoraphobia. It’s important to note that many people don’t ask for help. Therefore, real numbers may be even higher. There are five types of specific phobia: fear of animals, natural environment phobias (for example, heights or thunder), situational phobias (fear of airplanes or elevators), blood-injection-injury phobias (like fear of seeing blood), and “other” phobias.
2. According to the DSM-5, the prevalence of phobias is approximately 5% in children, 16% in teenagers, and 3%–5% in adults.
Phobia statistics worldwide show that women are more prone to anxiety disorders than men. Phobias are also common in children and adolescents. Specific phobias can emerge during childhood between the ages of 7 and 11, but in theory, they can occur at almost any age.
3. More than 75% of people experience the first symptoms of a phobia in their childhood or teenage years.
Teenagers and adolescents are socially very active, so the most common causes of social anxiety in teenagers are the fear of not being understood or accepted, being laughed at, etc. If they develop social phobia, teenagers tend to isolate themselves, get embarrassed easily, avoid making eye contact, and be depressed. Due to increased anxiety, both teenagers and adults can turn to substance abuse and are at an increased risk of developing a major depressive disorder. Phobias in children occur due to genes or traumatic events.
4. According to phobia statistics, 37.3% of people with mental problems in the UK received treatments in 2014, and 51% of them had phobias.
The encouraging fact is that people seek help more often. For example, only 24.4% of people received treatment in 2007. We have to keep in mind that some people can’t afford it. People are also hesitant to seek help because they are afraid of what others might say, or simply because they think there’s another way. People who have a phobia might feel fine most of the time, but phobias can be debilitating for people who have to face their fears every day. Nearly 45% of people with social phobias will develop agoraphobia because social interactions mostly happen in open spaces. That’s why many of them try to avoid social events and interactions altogether.
5. According to the US National Comorbidity Survey, social anxiety is the third most common mental disorder in the US, with a 12-month prevalence rate of 6.8%.
These social phobia statistics show that 36% of people wait 10 years or more before asking for help. It’s hard to live with social phobia because social situations are present in our everyday life. They are even necessary. Avoiding parties, meetings, group work, or even one-on-one conversations can be a coping mechanism for people with this mental disorder.
6. Based on dental phobia statistics for 2018, it’s estimated that about 3–16% of adults have dental phobia.
In the US, 75% of people have a fear of visiting a dentist. However, not all of them develop dentophobia. The main cause is usually pain or negative experience associated with dental procedures. Some people have a phobia so severe that they have an anxiety attack when they see a doctor. Sometimes, other people’s experiences can be a very influential factor.
7. The best treatments for phobias are medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Based on the fear statistics, the best treatment for social anxiety disorder is cognitive behavior therapy. 80% of people who seek help find relief in this kind of treatment, and it can help them cope with their fears. There are other available treatments. For example, medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors known as SSRIs, beta blockers, anti-anxiety medications, and other antidepressants or alternative medicine. It’s of the utmost importance to stick with therapy and strictly follow the doctor’s advice. Consistency is the key to success. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy, and it’s about rationalizing fears and reacting differently in challenging situations.
8. As entomophobia statistics show, 6% of Americans have this phobia.
It’s also known as insectophobia, and it’s an irrational fear of insects. It can be caused by a traumatic experience, such as painful stings or the lack of interaction with nature. More specific phobias are called apiphobia (fear of bees), myrmecophobia (fear of ants), and lepidopterophobia (fear of moths and butterflies). Many people are afraid of contracting a disease due to bugs, so they become obsessed with cleaning. Another reason some people are terrified of bugs is that they believe their homes or bodies can become infested with bugs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered the most effective treatment for entomophobia.
9. Approximately 2.2% of the population experience claustrophobia, according to the 2019 data.
Claustrophobia is an irrational fear of enclosed spaces, such as elevators or small rooms with no windows. According to phobia statistics in America, up to 5% of Americans may experience claustrophobia at some point. People who have claustrophobia avoid these kinds of places because they can induce a panic attack. One of the most common symptoms of claustrophobia is a feeling like the walls are closing in. People might experience mild or severe anxiety or even scream and try to get out by any means. One of the most interesting and important claustrophobia facts is that it’s usually associated with genetics, and the treatment is successful in most cases. Franklin Schneier, the co-director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic and special lecturer at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, says that this term shouldn’t be used casually, because this can be a very serious situational phobia.
10. According to acrophobia statistics, between 2% and 5% of the entire population suffers from a fear of heights.
This phobia is associated with everything that is far away from ground level. People with acrophobia may equally fear climbing a ladder and to the top floor of a building. People tend to confuse acrophobia with vertigo (the feeling of dizziness when looking down from a high place).
General Facts About Fear and Phobias
11. People often mistake a phobia for fear.
Fear is a natural instinct, and it’s completely normal that we are afraid or even terrified of particular objects or situations. However, it doesn’t mean that we have a phobia. If someone has a phobia, they will try to avoid any situation that may trigger their phobia. It can consume their life completely. They can even spend a lot of time thinking about the thing that terrifies them, and they can go into a frenzy if they get close to it. Even their thoughts can trigger some symptoms. Everyone has fears, but not everyone has a phobia.
12. The main causes of phobia are childhood traumas, genetics, learned experiences (factors in a family environment), responses to panic or fear, and long-term stress.
It’s difficult to determine what causes a phobia, but recognizing symptoms and asking for help is more important. If someone had a traumatic experience as a child, for example, like turbulence on a plane, it could cause a fear of flying. Some people are genetically more prone to developing a phobia. Stress is another possible cause. It can lead both to depression and anxiety disorders. If you are under stress for a long time, you might lose the ability to cope with certain situations.
13. The most common fears in adults are the fear of various kinds of social situations, open or enclosed spaces, heights, flying, insects, snakes, dogs, storms, and needles.
The most common among these phobias is a social phobia. Stats on phobias show that, in the US, 5.5% of the teenage population has a social phobia. The other fears are classified as specific phobias. The most common ones are claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Pteromerhanophobia is connected to the fear of flying and a potential plane crash. What is aerophobia, then? Along with aviophobia, it’s just another name for pteromerhanophobia.
No one likes insects, but people with entomophobia are completely terrified of them. The same thing happens to people who have ophidiophobia, a fear of snakes. Cynophobia, astraphobia, and trypanophobia (fears of dogs, storms, and needles) are also common. As agoraphobia statistics show, over 40% of agoraphobia cases are severe, and less than half of people with this phobia are receiving proper treatment. All in all, these are the top ten phobias that are most common and present in our society.
14. The most common symptoms of phobia are increased heart rate, nausea, shaking, breathlessness, a sense of unreality, and the fear of dying.
If a person comes in contact with the thing they fear, or even if they just think about it, these symptoms can occur. They can sometimes escalate into a full-scale panic attack. People usually describe it as a state of impending doom and a feeling of sheer terror.
Interesting and Fun Facts About Phobias
15. Some of the rarest and weirdest phobias are arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter), astraphobia (fear of otters), genuphobia (fear of knees), hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (fear of long words), and many more.
Why would someone be afraid of such things? Well, probably because they’ve had certain traumatic experiences. For example, some people were attacked by an otter or had a severe knee injury. The fear of long words probably emerged as a result of being laughed at in childhood while trying to pronounce long words. People who have a fear of peanut butter are afraid of it sticking to the roof of their mouth and choking to death. There are many more different types of phobias, such as fear of opening eyes, expressing opinions, and so on.
16. No one knows how many phobias actually exist.
According to statistics on phobia, there are more than 400 classified phobias. This is because people can be terrified of any object or situation. The list of existing phobias is constantly extending. The phobia is named after a Greek word for a specific object or situation, adding a suffix -phobia. The word phobia comes from a Greek word phobos, which means fear or horror. Many phobias have several different names.
17. Women are more prone to a fear of authority and workplace situations, and men have a greater fear of dating.
One of the most interesting social phobia facts is that women are more prone to having fears. The lifetime prevalence of social anxiety disorder is 4.20% for men and 5.67% for women. However, it’s normal that social situations have different impacts on men and women, simply because of gender roles. Women with social anxiety report lower psychosocial functioning levels than men.
18. In the survey conducted in 2019, 11% of respondents stated that they were terrified of death.
In the survey published by the Statista Research Department, among 1221 respondents, 31% stated they were somewhat afraid, 27% said they were not very afraid, and 25% were not afraid at all. Only 7% didn’t know how to answer. The fear of death is called thanatophobia. It can also refer to the fear of the dying process. Phobia statistics show that this phobia peaks in a person’s 20s, and it fades away as they get older. Also, fear of death is not considered as dangerous as other phobias. One of the interesting phobia facts is that less humble people are prone to worrying about their death.
19. Smoking seems to reduce anxiety, but it actually makes it worse.
A lot of people smoke so they can calm down faster in stressful situations. Apparently, the feeling of relief is only temporary. The only reason why smokers feel better in such situations is that smoking relieves nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
20. Too much caffeine can lead to increased anxiety or complicate an existing anxiety disorder.
85% of Americans are caffeine consumers. According to anxiety disorder statistics, children and adolescents are the most sensitive to the effects of caffeine. While caffeine’s effects are mostly positive for people who aren’t prone to anxiety, that’s not the case with people with increased anxiety. Caffeine increases alertness by blocking a brain chemical (adenosine) and increasing the level of adrenaline. There are certain effects of caffeine that are very similar to the symptoms of anxiety, like trouble sleeping, nervousness, increased heart rate, gastrointestinal problems, and restlessness. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s not advisable to consume more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, but people who have anxiety disorders should completely avoid caffeine.
These statistics on fears emphasize how common phobias are. Fear is natural, but it can get out of hand. Phobia is different from fear because people with phobias are completely terrified of specific objects or situations. They can experience severe panic attacks, along with many other symptoms.
Social anxiety disorder statistics show how common social phobia is. It can affect people of all ages.
Many people try to avoid situations that cause fear, but that’s not always possible. Phobias can ruin people’s lives, and that’s why it’s crucial to ask for help. Many people wait for too long before receiving proper treatment, such as psychotherapy. Medications and alternative medicine are other helpful options.
Some phobias are quite common, like social phobia, claustrophobia, or entomophobia, but no one knows how many phobias exist. Some of them seem too odd to exist, like, for example, arachibutyrophobia, a fear of peanut butter.
Phobia statistics also show that women are much more prone to developing a phobia and that the first symptoms of this disorder can occur in teenage years, or even childhood. People with an anxiety disorder might consider drinking less coffee and even quit smoking.
The most important thing is that phobias can be cured. If someone experiences any symptoms, or even worse, if they occur frequently, they should seek medical help as soon as possible.
What is the weirdest phobia?
We can say that the weirdest phobia is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (fear of long words).
What percentage of the population has a phobia?
The prevalence of phobias is approximately 5% in children, 16% in teenagers, and 3%–5% in adults.
How many phobias are there?
No one knows how many phobias actually exist, but there are more than 400 classified phobias.
What is the most common phobia?
Social phobia is the most common phobia.
What are the 10 most common phobias?
Social phobia (fear of social situations), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights), pteromerhanophobia (fear of flying), entomophobia (fear of insects), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), cynophobia (fear of dogs), astraphobia (fear of thunderstorms), and trypanophobia (fear of needles).
How common is phobia?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, phobias are one of the most common mental disorders in the US.
Does everyone have a phobia?
Everyone has fears, but not everyone has a phobia. People who have phobias are not just afraid, but completely terrified of the object or situation in question, and it can vastly influence their lives.
What are the top 10 phobias?
Trypophobia (fear of patterns or clusters), atychiphobia (fear of failure), thanatophobia (fear of death), nosophobia (fear of developing a disease), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), vehophobia (fear of driving), mysophobia (fear of germs), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), cynophobia (fear of dogs), and astraphobia (fear of thunderstorms).
What percentage of Americans have a phobia?
Approximately 10% of US citizens experience phobias, and 9.1% of US adults have a specific phobia. Many people have more than one phobia.