Fear. We’ve all felt it. That quickening of your heartbeat and feeling of all your muscles tensing at once. But what differentiates fear from phobia? In short, fear is a normal human emotional response to danger while a phobia is tied to anxiety about a specific thing, situation or idea. Phobias are often classified as irrational fears, though most are based in an entirely rational fear of some sort.
Fear and phobia often work hand-in-hand to create that nervous feeling you get when you look out at a crowd before giving a speech or gaze down from an extreme height. Here are seven of the most common phobias that make us feel like a kid who is scared of the dark.
Public speaking; flying; storms; dark; heights; tights spaces; spiders
Lauren Leising is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.
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The fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears in the world. Many of us can understand the sweaty palms, fast heart rate and pre-presentation jitters that often accompany an sort of speech. It is also common to get tongue-tied while addressing a group and this can make the fear all the more intense. When fear of public speaking is a phobia, symptoms are often much more difficult to manage and usually stems from a deeper social anxiety. Whether it's just a fear or a phobia, getting up in front of an audience is never easy.
Wayne Large, CC BY-ND 2.0
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For nearly 25 million people in the United States, getting through TSA in time to catch your flight is not the scariest part of air travel. The fear of flying can range from simple pre-takeoff jitters to aviophobia which often hinders someone from ever stepping onto a plane. People who are afraid of flying are often afraid for one of two reasons: the potential for a plane crash and being stuck in a tight cabin that could trigger claustrophobia. As is the case with phobias, reason is not effective in calming someone, even if they know the statistics about their slim chance of ever being in a plane crash. For many, the thought of zipping through the air in an aerodynamic metal tube is terrifying.
SuperJet International, CC BY-SA 2.0
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The fear of heights is also one of the most common fears in the world. Looking down from a towering height can be panic inducing and for those with acrophobia, that fear can be crippling. Around 10 percent of people in America endure acrophobia and are often afraid to participate in activities like hiking, flying and climbing. In serious cases, the fear can be so intense once someone his gone up that they feel incapable of coming back down.
daveynin, CC BY 2.0
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Somewhere between 5 and 7 percent of the world's population suffers from claustrophobia. Being packed into small, tight spaces is nerve-racking and can cause panic, especially in those with a history of spatial distortion and who are prone to panic attacks. Often confused with cleithrophobia, a fear of being trapped, claustrophobia makes riding in crowded elevators and buses uncomfortable to say the least.
Laura Lewis, CC BY 2.0
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The fear of spiders is one of the most common animal phobias in the world. Creepy crawlies are an understandable thing to fear and that aversion could protect you from the poisonous bite of some spiders. However, arachnophobes tend to go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from the eight-legged creatures and often suffer from worry that a spider is nearby, even when you can't see one.
Scott Parker, CC BY-ND 2.0
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Most of us remember the days when we were young and insisted on sleeping with a night light so that the boogey man and the monsters under our beds couldn't get us. Fear of the dark is one of the most common fears among children and stems from a fear of the unknown. It is difficult to know exactly what lies in the dark and so our imaginations tend to run wild with ideas. If left unchecked, this common fear could develop into nyctophobia in adults and cause continued paranoia about what you cannot see.
Craig Sunter, CC BY-ND 2.0
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Booming thunder and flashing lightning can induce panic and worry for people with a fear of severe weather. Though incredibly common, few people report their phobia or tell those closest to them about it for fear of being embarrassed. Some level of concern is healthy when it comes to storms because it triggers a self preservation response and encourages us to seek shelter from powerful storms. However, it is important to find a balance between concern and debilitating fear.
Jussi Ollila, CC BY 2.0