Phobia: What are you afraid of?


As human beings, we have the tendency to scare when we meet something unusual or when a friend intentionally frightens us. However, for some people, it comes naturally and sometimes the fear is not even rational. The fear can be overwhelming such that people might do unreasonable things just to avoid it. For instance, a person can decide not to attend a close friend’s wedding which is being held in a storey-building or a hill simply because that person is afraid of height. Ultimately, people with phobias go through life differently because such fears affect their lives and decisions. Join us to explore this field.


A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. Phobia is an exaggerated fear of something or a situation. Usually, the threat or that thing which you are afraid of will not cause harm or danger like you have imagined. Phobia is different from generally being afraid of something. People with a particular phobia suffer greatly from it, they go into distress when that particular object or incident happens. Most of them avoid these phobias or go through them with intense anxiety.

How do you know if you have a phobia- Symptoms

· Heart suddenly pounding

· Experience shortness of breath

· May become nauseous

· Begin to shake

· The chest will feel tight

· Feel dizzy

· Mouth will become dry

· Feel as if something bad is about to happen

· May be unable to speak

These are just some of the things that can happen when your phobia is triggered.

Phobia is a Greek word and means horror or fear. For example, hydrophobia means fear of water. As already mentioned, these fears are usually harmless. Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder (there are so many of them).

Phobias can be grouped into two main types:

1. Specific phobias

2. Complex phobias

Specific phobias usually happen during childhood or infancy. As the name implies, these phobias relate to a particular object, situation or person. Sometimes, these phobias become less intense as the person grows. For example, fear of animals. Some main examples of phobias are listed below:

· Animal phobia- insects, snakes, dogs, etc.

· Phobias about the natural environment- height, thunder and lightning, water, darkness, disasters such as earthquakes and storms.

· Situational phobias- flying, going to see the doctor, small spaces.

· Phobias about the body-fear of blood, vomit, injections, fear of childbirth and delivery.

· Phobias about food- local foods due to fear of vomiting or sickness

· Sexual phobias- fear of indulging in sexual acts or fear of nudity

Note that it is normal to experience fear from the above but people who have this particular fear react irrationally when they come into contact with the above. They just become distressed and try to avoid it if possible.

Some of these incidents and objects which people are afraid of occurring daily in our lives are just inevitable. This will have a major impact on people who fear them because they have to face them almost every day. For others, it happens occasionally so the fear is shortened although others will still become anxious just by imagining it in their minds.

Complex phobias

Complex phobias as the name suggests, have a more serious impact than specific phobias. Unlike specific phobias, these usually develop when you are an adult. Below are the sub-types:

· Social phobia and

· Agoraphobia

Social phobia

They have an intense fear of performing in public. This is different from shyness because these people assume others will scrutinize and judge them as they perform those tasks in public or social gatherings. They feel as if everyone is looking at them differently even though that is not what happens. They fear being humiliated. Hence, they try to avoid them. For instance, they do not wish to have a big birthday and be the center of attention or meet new people to avoid making a conversation or offending anyone. They go through the possible scenarios that could happen before, during and even after the event. Some of the activities which may be difficult for such individuals include:

Effects of social phobia

Social interaction is necessary as we live in a society. Having such a phobia can ruin and interfere with your ability to work in a team or perform normal tasks such as shopping. It can make you feel alone and isolated. You will also find it difficult to develop your relationships and even maintain them. Ultimately, it will affect your self-confidence and self-esteem.


Agoraphobia is usually thought of as a fear of wide and open spaces. This is not wrong but there is more. It refers to the fear of being unable to escape to safety, get out of an embarrassing situation or run away from danger when you have a phobic reaction. For example, some people do not use the elevators because they fear being stuck in them if something bad should happen.

People who experience this often think about an everyday situation and make decisions based on their fears. For instance, they avoid doing the following:

· Open spaces such as a park, farm, stadium

· Being outside alone

· Travelling by certain means such as ship, bus or plane

· Being in an enclosed area such as an elevator, shop, etc.

Generally, agoraphobics tend to stay at one place where they are comfortable.


One may ask, what causes these fears? Why are some people brave in particular situations and others can’t stand it? The truth is, scientists cannot pinpoint why. Nevertheless, some patterns run among individuals with phobias. Below are a few:

1. Genetic factors-it has been noted that individuals who have close relatives with anxiety disorders are more likely to get phobias than those without such relatives.

2. Environmental factors-people who have gone through distressing conditions or experienced unusual things such as drowning, rape, food poisoning usually tend to have phobias than the ordinary person.

3. Medical conditions-people who are undergoing or have certain medical conditions especially with the brain often have phobias.

4. Substance abuse

5. Depressed individuals

Luckily, if you approach a doctor about these phobias. You will be directed to a specialist who will take care of you and help you to live normally. The specialist may use therapy or medications to help you.


  1. Phobias-Healthline. Retrieved from
  2. Phobias. Retrieved from


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