According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 8.7% of people, or about 19.2 million American adults, suffer from one or more specific phobias. Although researchers have not yet determined exactly what causes a phobia to develop, we know that phobias are rooted in the normal fear response.
Acrophobia is sometimes confused with vertigo. Vertigo is a physical condition that causes dizziness or disorientation when looking down from a great height. A fear of developing vertigo symptoms at height is not acrophobia.
Claustrophobia can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the sufferer may develop anxiety from simply closing a bedroom door.
Many sufferers find that their claustrophobia is specifically triggered by certain common situations such as entering an elevator or riding in an airplane. Some people discover undiagnosed claustrophobia when undergoing an MRI.
This fear is common and generally transient in children. If it persists for longer than six months and causes extreme anxiety, however, it may be diagnosed as a phobia. It is less common in adults.
Ophidiophobia refers specifically to snakes. If other reptiles are also feared, then the more general herpetophobia (fear of reptiles) is used.
This is an extremely common animal phobia. Sufferers generally fear spider webs and other signs that a spider may be in the vicinity. They also fear pictures of spiders.
Trypanophobia may result in serious physiological responses including very low blood pressure and fainting. In some cases, severe trypanophobia may lead the sufferer to avoid all medical care.
This is a common fear among children. If it is severe and continues for longer than six months, however, then a phobia may be diagnosed.
Both adults and children tend to deal with the fear by seeking “shelter,” securing themselves in windowless areas where the storm cannot be seen.
Nosophobia is the irrational fear of developing a specific disease. Hypochondriasis is a related disorder marked by the persistent fear of having an unspecified disease. Sufferers of either disorder may become frequent visitors of the doctor’s office, or may instead develop an avoidance of doctors for fear of hearing bad news.
“Medical student’s disease” and “cyberchondria” are forms of nosophobia. These conditions develop when the sufferer researches a disease and then starts to believe that he or she has the symptoms of that disease.
This is an intense fear of becoming contaminated by germs. It is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is often marked by repetitive hand-washing. However, for OCD sufferers the focus is on the act of hand-washing itself, while mysophobia sufferers wash hands to remove the contamination.
There is some controversy regarding triskaidekaphobia, as many experts see it as a superstition rather than a legitimate phobia. Nonetheless, triskaidekaphobia is so pervasive in Western culture that it has actually influenced the modern world.
For example, it is rare to see a 13th floor in a hotel or office building. Many people refuse to live in homes with a 13 in the address. Even public transportation is affected, with airplanes skipping over the 13th row.