Phobias come in many different
forms. Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Aviophobia is the fear of flying.
Felinophobia is the fear of cats. Myxophobia is the fear of slime. Xyrophobia
is the fear of razors. While some are well-recognized, others are unheard of,
but whatever the phobia, the person suffering from it is living with fear and
"Phobias are the most common mental disorder," says R.
Reid Wilson, PhD, spokesman for the American Psychological Association.
"Over their lifetimes, 11% of people will have a phobia."
What are phobias, and how can someone get treatment for a fear that prevents
them from shaving? WebMD looks at the different phobias that harrow the human
mind, and experts explain what treatment options stand a chance against
When Dorothea Lack was a little girl, she hid under a doctor's desk to avoid
a vaccination. Undaunted, the doctor crawled under the desk and vaccinated her
then and there. Lack said the incident provoked a fear of doctors that followed
her into adulthood. "I didn't feel I could trust them," says Lack, PhD,
now a psychologist who performs research on doctor-patient relations.
It's a rare soul who truly enjoys visiting the doctor. But for a significant
minority of the population, fear and anxiety...
"Phobias involve the experience of persistent fear that is
excessive and unreasonable," says Wilson, who is author of the book
Don't Panic. "Phobias are cued when a person approaches a particular
situation or object, or even anticipates the approach of it, and they
understand the fear they will experience as a result of that situation will be
unreasonable and excessive."
The key to distinguishing a fear from a phobia is that that
while most people get the jitters if a spider crawls on their arm, people
suffering from arachnophobia -- the fear of spiders -- are physically and/or
psychologically impaired by it.
"To be defined as a phobia, the fear must cause some level
of impairment," says Wilson. "I had a woman come in who was afraid of
spiders, and it got to the point where she wouldn't go out at night because she
couldn't see where they were."
How does someone get to the point where she is so afraid of
spiders she can't go outside?
"There are nature and nurture components to phobias,"
says Kathy Hoganbruen, PhD, National Mental Health Association
spokesperson. "While we don't know exactly why or where phobias originate,
they are a type of mental illness, with genetics playing a role, as well as
environment, meaning maybe someone had a negative or traumatic experience
related to the core of their phobia."
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we
have to fear is fear itself," he was describing phobophobia -- the fear of
Though FDR had a different message in mind, he unknowingly
hit on something else: Phobias run the gamut of life and include everything
from spiders to outer space.
"The most common phobias involve natural disasters or
elements, like water and lightning; animals or insects, like spiders; and
blood, injuries, or injections, such as people who faint at the sight of blood
or a needle," says Hoganbruen.
Fear of flying is another a well-recognized phobia, and since
9/11, has only gotten worse.