SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – While a common topic in popular culture, phobias are more complicated than people might guess. 

(Those concerned about phobia triggers may want to skip reading this article.)

Mental Health America is a non-profit advocacy group that seeks to promote mental health awareness and better treatment for those suffering from mental illness or similar conditions. Their website provides useful definitions of three distinct types of phobias.

First, Specific or Simple Phobias are fears of a “particular object or situation” that are, in fact, relatively safe. Most people who have a specific phobia know that their fears are irrational, but regardless are put into a state of anxiety or panic when confronting (or even thinking about confronting) the subject of their fear. 

Second, Social Phobia is an extreme fear of being judged or singled out in a group of people. Social Phobias are generally debilitating enough to keep people from functioning socially in a normal way. This can include keeping them from working, making friends, attending school, and other normal everyday activities. 

Third, Agoraphobia “causes people to suffer anxiety about being in places or situations from which it might be difficult or embarrassing to escape.” According to Mental Health America, agoraphobia can be serious enough to keep people from leaving their house at all. 

Specific phobia tends to be the broadest category of what laymen would normally consider a phobia in a popular sense, according to Mental Health America. Medical News Today compiled a list of the most common specific phobias as follows: 

  • Claustrophobia: the fear of being in constricted, confined spaces
  • Aerophobia: the fear of flying
  • Arachnophobia: the fear of spiders
  • Driving Phobia: the fear of driving a car
  • Emetophobia: the fear of vomiting
  • Erythrophobia: the fear of blushing
  • Hypochondria: the fear of becoming ill
  • Zoophobia: the fear of animals
  • Aquaphobia: the fear of water
  • Acrophobia: the fear of heights
  • Blood, injury and injection phobia: includes fear of any injury involving blood as well as of needles and injections
  • Escalaphobia: the fear of escalators

While the subject and type of phobia can vary widely and include fears beyond this included list, Medical News Today reports that the symptoms of phobias remain relatively consistent across different. These symptoms can vary largely in their severity, resulting in little to no “impairment” to considerable limitations on normal life. 

The primary symptom of a phobia is panic or anxiety, according to Medical News Today. They report that panic and anxiety in turn can manifest in the human body in a variety of ways including: 

  • Sweating
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Hot flushes or chills
  • A choking sensation
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • pins and needles
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Mental Health America says that phobias are relatively common among Americans and are nothing to be ashamed of. They write that specific causes of phobias can vary and be difficult to determine specifically.  

If you or someone you know suffers from a phobia, Mental Health America says the good news is there is effective treatment available. They continue saying that after a diagnosis, mental health professionals can evaluate a patient’s specific needs and create a treatment plan. Mental Health America writes that this plan will usually include behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy, all of which are shown to be effective at helping those with phobias lead a functional, comfortable life.