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The Fear Factor: Phobias

From aviophobia, the fear of flying, to zelophobia, the fear of jealousy, the list of phobias that harrow the human mind runs long.
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Fear Itself

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he was describing phobophobia -- the fear of being afraid.

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.

"Fear of flying, in recent times, has become more common," says Hoganbruen. "Since 9/11, it has come up much more than it did in the past."

Then there are social phobias, which include the fear of public speaking, the fear of test taking, or the fear of people, in general.

According to Phobialist.com, which catalogues hundreds of tormenting phobias, people suffer from the fear of the number 8, or octophobia, and the fear of 13, triskaidekaphobia; the fear of noise, or acousticophobia; the fear of ventriloquists dummies or wax statues, or automatonophobia; the fear of sitting down, or kathisophobia; and the fear of beautiful women, or venustraphobia.

How can a person possibly be treated for the fear of all that is the number 8 -- eight french fries on a plate, eight words in a sentence, eight on the jersey of a football player?

Fear No More

"People are generally not treated for phobias," says Wilson. "A very small percentage -- 6% of people with a phobia -- go in for treatment, in part because they are not totally disabled by it, so they find their way around."

Not before a person's phobia is extremely severe do they seek help, Wilson explains to WebMD.

"The treatment that was most common in the past was called systematic desensitization," says Wilson. "It was a pretty standard treatment -- people were taught to relax and in that relaxed state, in a hierarchical way, they would have increased degrees of exposure to their fear."

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