Weird Phobias That Are Surprisingly Common

A phobia is a kind of anxiety disorder that causes people to become irrationally afraid of objects, people, creatures, or situations. Most phobias are very treatable with proper counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy. Having a phobia is more common than you might think. In the United States alone, around 19 million people have admitted to having some kind of phobia.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the weird, wacky, and surprisingly common fears that people have. What are you afraid of?

Iatrophobia — A Fear Of Doctors

GettyImages-1154960504 In this studio shot illustration a NHS uniform close up, with stethoscope man in uniform and scrubs folding arms
Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Iatrophobia, or the fear of doctors, is a pretty understandable fear. A trip to the doctor’s office usually involves some kind of invasion of privacy, physical discomfort, or sometimes pain, and specific social interaction.

Even though doctors are trained to help and to heal, they sometimes have to perform painful or even harmful procedures to achieve a beneficial outcome. Sometimes people with this disorder avoid going to the doctor altogether, which can lead to serious health problems down the road.

Cynophobia — A Fear Of Dogs

GettyImages-1160005175 A young Service Dog took part in the ceremonies with military personnel for Armed Forces Night at Kauffman Stadium
Photo by Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images
Photo by Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images

Look at that little face. How could anybody be afraid of a face that adorable? Cynophobia, or the fear of dogs, is actually very common among people of all ages. Sometimes a negative experience with a dog can lead a person to develop cynophobia, and sometimes children mimic their parents’ fear of dogs even though they themselves have never had a negative dog-related experience.

Most dogs aren’t dangerous or scary at all, but people with cynophobia have to go through a lot of therapy to fully grasp that concept.

Pyrophobia — A Fear Of Fire

GettyImages-1153780092 Fire fighters try to put out rages on at Ijegun, Lagos, Nigeria
Photo by Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo by Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pyrophobia is the fear of fire. I think it’s safe to say that people with pyrophobia would never choose to become firefighters. Fires like the one in this photo are pretty dangerous, but people with pyrophobia aren’t just afraid of raging wildfires; they’re also afraid of small flames like the ones on birthday candles. Imagine being too afraid to blow out your own birthday candles.

It takes a lot of therapy for people with this disorder to learn that small flames are mostly harmless.

Coulrophobia — A Fear Of Clowns

GettyImages-1148611682 A clown performs on stage during the 26th
Photo by GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP
Photo by GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP

People who are coulrophobic, or people who have an excessive fear of clowns, experience sweating, chest pains, and even pins and needles when they are in the presence of clowns or images of clowns.

Clowns were originally designed to be trickster characters, which may contribute to their ability to induce fear in specific people. Also, they fall into the uncanny valley, which is a phenomenon that describes things or beings that look very human, only they’re slightly inhuman.

Agoraphobia — A Fear Of Public Spaces Or Crowds

GettyImages-1159347707 crowd of people Audience members as singer Melissa Etheridge performs during the Closing Ceremony of WorldPride NYC
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Agoraphobia is the fear of being out in public, especially in crowded rooms or crowded spaces. Some people who are agoraphobic can spend years locked up in their homes. Even walking across their front lawn can cause extreme anxiety.

Agoraphobia is a serious mental disorder that requires therapy and medical intervention. If you’re afraid of clowns, you can go about your life pretty normally unless you happen to stumble upon a clown. If you’re agoraphobic, it becomes very difficult to live a normal life.

Arachnophobia — A Fear Of Spiders

GettyImages-1153265289 Big spider on an Olive tree in Rovies on the island of Euboea
Photo by Wassilios Aswestopoulos/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo by Wassilios Aswestopoulos/NurPhoto via Getty Images

While most spiders (at least in North America) are not venomous or harmful, many people still harbor an intense fear of these eight-legged creepy crawlies. There’s something about the way these creatures move about the world that just freaks people out.

As with all phobias, people can experience arachnophobia at different levels. Some people will just scurry away from a spider if they see one, while others become completely paralyzed by fear. Like all other fears, arachnophobia is totally treatable.

Pteromerhanophobia — A Fear Of Flying

GettyImages-1153556449 An Ilyushin Il-76MD strategic airlifter and Aero L-39 Albatros trainer aircraft of the Belaya Rus aerobatic team leave a trail in the Belarusian national colours during a military parade
Photo by Natalia FedosenkoTASS via Getty Images
Photo by Natalia FedosenkoTASS via Getty Images

Pteromerhanophobia is the fear of flying. Pteromerhanophobia is a mouthful, though, so this fear is more commonly referred to as aerophobia. People who are afraid of flying often avoid going on trips overseas just because they’re so afraid of getting on an airplane.

This fear of flying usually stems from generalized anxiety and it’s usually linked to feelings of being out of control. Most anxiety is about control, and when you’re thousands of feet in the air and you’re not piloting the aircraft, that means you have to put your trust in physics and other people.

Hypochondria — A Fear Of Illness

GettyImages-930125092 Mother taking her son's temperature
Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

People with hypochondria, or the extreme fear of illness, often believe that they are sick or that they’re becoming ill. Anytime they feel a physical sensation, they attribute it to being on the verge of developing an illness. Hypochondriacs spend a lot of time in doctors’ offices. They also spend a lot of time researching diseases online.

The irony is that hypochondria is an illness in itself. They are unable to recognize that their perceived illness are all due to real mental illness.

Podophobia — A Fear Of Feet

GettyImages-1008046186 feet in high heels Musical artist Caroline Jones, shoe detail
Photo by Desiree Navarro/Getty Images
Photo by Desiree Navarro/Getty Images

There’s something about feet that just totally weirds some people out. The fear of feet is called podophobia. Most people with podophobia are just afraid of human feet, but this fear could extend to the feet of other species as well.

Let’s face it, feet aren’t exactly attractive (except to some people, but that’s an article for a different day). There’s a difference between thinking that feet aren’t attractive and being afraid of feet. Sometimes people with podophobia are even afraid of their own feet.

Atychiphobia — A Fear Of Failure

GettyImages-1160109493 Jacob Host of the Dragons looks dejected after defeat in the round 16 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Melbourne Storm
Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Atychiphobia or the fear of failure is a very real thing for many people of all different ages, genders, and backgrounds. People with atychiphobia experience physical symptoms like sweating, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing when faced with the prospect of failure.

Many people with this disorder also self-handicap, which means they don’t put forth an earnest effort when faced with a challenge at school or at work because they don’t want to find out that they tried their hardest and still failed.

Tachophobia — A Fear Of Speed

GettyImages-1153737329 Visitors ride the
Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Many people don’t enjoy that feeling in the pit of their stomach when a roller coaster goes down a big drop. There’s a difference between not enjoying that feeling and full-blown tachophobia. Tachophobia is the fear of doing something too fast. This could include driving, biking, going on a roller coaster, or even walking.

Usually, this fear of speed is related to a fear of motion. Sometimes people with tachophobia are even afraid of speaking or eating too quickly.

Lockiophobia — A Fear Of Childbirth

GettyImages-1142167987 Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor
Photo by Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Photo by Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Let’s face it, childbirth isn’t exactly a walk in the park. While there are some women who enjoy the process, for most it’s painful, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. There are some women who very much want to have children but refrain from doing so because they have lockiophobia, or a fear of childbirth.

This fear can be overcome with therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and meditation. It is possible for women with lockiophobia to become mothers if that’s something they want to achieve.

Bathmophobia — A Fear Of Stairs Or Steep Slopes

GettyImages-1150404493 View into the staircase of the Albinmüller Tower
Photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Bathmophobia is the fear of stairs or steep slopes. This fear is related to basiphobia, the fear of falling, and escalaphobia, the fear of escalators. While people do sometimes fall down stairs or slopes and become injured, most people expect to walk down a set of stairs without a hitch.

People with this fear might avoid the higher floors of buildings altogether, which can really have a profound impact on their lives. Sometimes people with this fear only live on the main floor of their two or three-story houses.

Pogonophobia — A Fear Of Beards

GettyImages-1160115925 Grounds crew assistant Mike Bradberry shows off his beard as he celebrates the Fourth of July
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Beards are back in style (I mean, maybe not beards like the one in this photo, but nice, groomed beards are back in style) which is bad news for people with pogonophobia. Wild, unkempt beards can just freak some people out.

Sometimes this fear of beards stems from a negative experience with a bearded man during childhood. Christmas must be torture for people with pogonophobia. Have you seen Santa’s beard? That thing is quite impressive.

Claustrophobia — A Fear Of Small Spaces

GettyImages-1156944128 Former White House communications director Hope Hicks (L) stands in an elevator
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Claustrophobia is the fear of being confined in a small space. People with claustrophobia often avoid small spaces like elevators or crowded rooms altogether. Sometimes this fear can be so severe that people will experience panic attacks when they start feeling trapped or enclosed.

Triggers for people with claustrophobia include being in a small room without windows, sitting in a plane or car, being in an MRI or CT scan machine, or standing in a closet.

Glossophobia — A Fear Of Speaking In Public

GettyImages-1141634626  Brian Landis' defense attorney Ted Dilworth speaks to Judge Charles Dow during a hearing
Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking, and it’s one of the most common phobias people experience. Four out of ten Americans have reported feelings of glossophobia.

When people with glossophobia are faced with the possibility of speaking in front of a crowd, they can have mild to severe physical reactions that include sweating, trembling, and an overwhelming urge to run away. The fear of public speaking is connected to general social anxiety disorders, and it can be treated with therapy and medication.

Lilapsophobia — A Fear Of Tornados And Hurricanes

GettyImages-1159998668 Debris of collapsed houses is seen after a tornado hit the area
Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Lilapsophobia is the fear of large storms. Tornados and hurricanes pose a very real threat to people living in parts of the world that are prone to such natural disasters. These natural events can be completely devastating, as you can see in this photo.

Unfortunately, tornados and hurricanes are a fact of life. We can’t stop them; we can only foresee them, prepare for them, and do our best to help out affected communities in their aftermaths.

Bacteriophobia — The Fear Of Bacteria

GettyImages-1097919816 A lab technician swabs out a blood Agar plate bacteriology sample
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

People with a fear of bacteria have bacteriophobia, but this disorder is often coupled together with germophobia, or more technically, mysophobia, which is the fear of germs. People with this disorder often refrain from touching unsterilized surfaces, and they often refuse to shake hands with other people.

Comedian Howie Mandel is a famous germophobe. Sometimes this disorder is a symptom of OCD. People become obsessive about cleanliness and sterilization and develop bacteriophobia in the process.

Noctiphobia — A Fear Of The Night

GettyImages-1153324073 Solar eclipse as seen from the La Silla European Southern Observatory
Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

The fear of things that go bump in the night has long been the theme of spooky campfire stories. What people fear most about the night time is the unknown. In the dark, it’s difficult to see the dangers that could be right in front of you.

Noctiphobia is often coupled with nyctophobia, which means a fear of the dark. Night is also a time when the world becomes quiet, which can be unnerving for some people.

Alektorophobia — A Fear Of Chickens

GettyImages-1096371966 A local farmer shows her chicken during a chicken beauty contest
Photo by Qiu Haiying/VCG via Getty Images
Photo by Qiu Haiying/VCG via Getty Images

Ok, so this isn’t the most common phobia in the world, but it is a real phobia. Some people are very afraid of chickens. Alektorophobia is a specific phobia, and people with this disorder usually understand that their fear is irrational.

Specific phobias usually develop before a person reaches ten years of age, but they can also develop later. People who grew up around farms and chickens are more likely to develop alektorophobia. Sometimes this fear grows out of a frightening experience with a specific chicken.