In-patient luxury rehab center in Thailand

The Diamond Rehab Thailand was born out of a desire to help people recover from addiction in a safe, low-stress environment. We take a highly personalised approach to treatment.

“Not every client is the same, and everyone needs a different approach.”

Get In Touch

5 different types of phobia

Reading time: 15 mins
5 different types of phobia

Phobia is defined as an unrealistic, persistent, and intense fear of situations or objects. It is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with a phobia experiences intense fear and panic or dread even when the subject of their phobia poses no danger at all.

While other affected people are aware that their reaction is unhealthy, they’re not able to control how they behave or what they feel and think when exposed to specific stimuli. That’s what makes phobia different from fear. Most people are afraid of something or experience fear in certain situations, but they don’t necessarily have a phobia. 

The five different types of phobia are listed below.

  • Fears related to animals
  • Fears related to the natural environment
  • Fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues
  • Fears related to specific situations
  • Fear of choking, loud noises, drowning

1. Fears related to animals

dog is barking

Fears related to animals, or zoophobia, encompass a wide range of specific phobias characterized by an intense and irrational fear of certain animals or groups of animals. Fears related to animals are quite common. 

There are people who are afraid of all animals, whereas others are scared of specific types of animals. This phobia belongs to a group of specific phobias. In fact, it is the most common type of specific phobia, as per an article titled, “Zoophobia (Fear of Animals)” last reviewed in April 2022 by Cleveland Clinic. Most people understand their fear of animals is irrational and that the specific animal poses little to no threat to them, but they’re not able to help or control their reaction. 

The most common types of fears related to animals are arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). Other examples of fears related to animals include cynophobia (fear of dogs), musophobia (fear of rats and mice), and entomophobia (fear of insects). 

The exact cause of fears related to animals is unclear, like in several other types of phobia. Factors that contribute to the development of animal phobias include traumatic experiences with animals e.g., being attacked or bitten by a dog, having family members afraid of those animals, and genetics. Certain people are naturally more anxious than others. 

The main symptom of animal phobias is the intense fear of a specific animal or more of them. The presence of the animal or even exposure to it via photos and videos induces such a reaction. 

At times, even thinking about that animal causes fear in the affected person. In most cases, the level of fear is out of proportion to reality. As mentioned above, a person feels intense fear even if that specific animal doesn’t jeopardize their safety.

An individual with animal phobias avoids going to zoos because they want to avoid seeing a specific animal e.g., a snake. Or they refuse to visit friends or family with pets such as dogs or hamsters. 

Intense fear produces a wide range of symptoms, including chest pain or tightness, heart palpitations, nausea and/or vomiting, lightheadedness, dyspnea (shortness of breath), sweating, and trembling. In children, reactions include uncontrollable crying and temper tantrums.

Severe, irrational fear of animals is a good sign to see a healthcare professional. In order to diagnose the problem, a healthcare provider asks questions regarding anxiety in certain situations. 

They are additionally likely to ask whether a patient experiences extreme avoidance of thinking about interacting with specific animals, feelings of panic that are out of proportion to the actual threat an animal presents, and symptoms that interfere with daily routine. Moreover, a healthcare professional possibly wants to know if fear or distress related to animals lasts six months or longer. 

Once a patient receives a diagnosis, the doctor recommends the most suitable treatment approach. Treatment of fears related to animals involves a combination of therapies. The main objective of the treatment is to improve a patient’s quality of life. Exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are the most common psychotherapy approaches for the treatment of animal-related phobias. 

Exposure therapy is the first-line treatment, and its purpose is to help patients manage fear by gradually exposing them to the source of their fear. For example, the therapy starts with looking at photos or videos featuring the specific animal, thinking about them, and progressing to the actual encounter when a patient is ready. The therapist doses exposure, thus making it easier for a patient to control their reaction, reduce anxiety, and lower fear levels.

On the other hand, CBT revolves around patients talking about the symptoms of their phobia. The therapist helps a patient identify irrational thoughts or beliefs, thus leading to negative emotions and uncontrollable reactions. 

A patient learns to replace fearful and irrational thoughts with rational alternatives. Occasionally, a patient is advised to do a combination of exposure therapy and CBT. This is up to a therapist and what they feel is most suitable for the severity of someone’s phobia.

Medications aren’t a common approach in the treatment of this condition. At this point, there is no approved medication that targets phobia specifically, but a healthcare provider prescribes anti-anxiety medications for the purpose of reducing the severity of symptoms.

2. Fears related to the natural environment


Fears related to the natural environment are among external specific phobias of conditions in the environment. The term external phobia refers to phobias that relate to places, objects, situations, and environments occurring outside a person’s body.

The most common fears related to the natural environment include acrophobia (fear of heights), nyctophobia (fear of the night/dark), heliophobia (fear of the sun), hydrophobia (fear of water), astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning), and anemophobia or ancraophobia (fear of wind and air). 

The cause of fears related to the natural environment isn’t entirely known. A traumatic experience in childhood is one of the main culprits. For example, scary storms that cause damage leave a child frightened and pave the way to astraphobia. 

In addition, an individual develops a fear related to the natural environment if their sibling or parent has it too. For instance, a child whose older sibling is scared of heights is more likely to develop this type of phobia as well.

Symptoms of fears associated with the natural environment are similar to those of other phobias. The most prominent sign is the overwhelming fear when exposed to the subject of phobia or even just by thinking about it. 

A person with acrophobia experiences intense fear when watching a video of someone looking down from a tall building, for example. People with these phobias additionally experience other symptoms of anxiety, such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, diarrhea, sweating, tremors, heart racing, and nausea and vomiting.

In order to diagnose the condition, a healthcare provider asks questions about symptoms and situations that trigger them. They further investigate to know if symptoms last at least six months or if panic and fear interfere with a person’s life even when they realize that they are safe. Additionally, a healthcare provider is likely to ask questions regarding avoidance of the subject of phobia and immediate dread or distress caused by it.

It’s important to bear in mind that not everyone afraid of thunder has astraphobia, for example. Certain natural environments cause unease among people. A good example is heights as well. 

However, people whose fear, panic, and distress aren’t proportional to reality have a likelihood of being diagnosed with the specific phobia. That happens because the level of threat presented by some environments isn’t as severe to induce such a reaction i.e., the threat is irrational. 

Treatments of fears related to the natural environment depend on their severity. A healthcare provider is likely to recommend exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and anti-anxiety medications – all of which are treatment approaches for animal-related phobias. A healthcare professional additionally recommends dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and stress management techniques.

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of CBT that helps people who experience their emotions intensely. The purpose of DBT isn’t to ignore irrational thoughts about the subject of phobia. Instead, patients learn to acknowledge and accept them while developing healthier coping mechanisms. A healthcare provider is likely to combine DBT with meditation to reduce anxiety levels. 

When it comes to stress management techniques, their main objective is to reduce anxiety symptoms. A good example is deep breathing. By focusing on taking deep breaths instead of paying attention to the subject of phobia, patients notice their anxiety levels are going down.

3. Fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues

scared woman in hospital

Popularly known as blood-injury type phobia, it is a condition wherein a person is likely to have a strong reaction to the anticipation of the injury, the sight of blood, or being exposed to the injection or other medical issues. This kind of fear is additionally referred to as a body-based phobia.

The most common examples are hemopobia (fear of blood), trypanophobia (fear of needles/injections), traumatophobia (fear of injury), and iatrophobia (fear of doctors and medical tests/procedures).

Blood-injury type of phobia is different from other forms of specific phobia. A 2014 paper by Wani et al., published in the journal Behavioral Neurology explained that exposure to blood, needles, or anticipation of physical injury induce a vasovagal reaction, making a person faint. 

Other phobias usually don’t trigger that reaction. As one of the most common types of phobia, fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues affect 3% to 4% of the general population, as per a spring 2013 special report written by John Sanford for Stanford Medicine

Exposure to phobic cues cause tachycardia (fast heart rate) followed by bradycardia (slow heart rate), hypotension (low blood pressure), shock, vertigo, syncope (fainting), diaphoresis (excessive sweating), nausea, and rarely asystole (heart stops beating) and death.

These phobias are usually caused by experiencing direct trauma in childhood or adolescence. For example, a child or teen sustained an injury that involved a lot of blood and developed a phobia because of it. Or they have been directly exposed to someone else’s blood. Similar is the scenario for fears of injuries and injections. 

However, it’s useful to mention that it is possible for people to develop these phobias due to indirect or vicarious trauma as well. Someone else’s traumatic experience is likely to result in the development of a phobia.

Symptoms of fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues include fainting, panicking, shortness of breath, sweating, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and desire to escape the situation. Avoidance is another common symptom. A person with these phobias even avoids watching medical shows.

Most people are uneasy about blood, needless, and other medical-related things. Not everyone has a phobia, though. People who have an irrational response to the exposure, fear, and experience of fainting are those considered to have this specific phobia type. 

To diagnose the problem, a healthcare provider is going to ask a patient about symptoms and their duration. They additionally look into the patient’s family health history and personal health. The doctor uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), to make a diagnosis if a patient meets all criteria mentioned in this manual published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Treatment for this phobia is necessary because it interferes with a person’s daily life. Hemophobia leads to avoidance of doctor’s appointments, which jeopardizes a person’s health. 

The most common treatment approaches are exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, anti-anxiety medications, relaxation techniques, and applied tension. The latter is helpful for patients who faint when exposed to blood. 

The main goal is to tense muscles in the arms, torso, and legs at timed intervals until the face becomes flushed when exposed to the trigger.

4. Fears related to specific situations

scared woman in flight

Otherwise known as situational phobia, this kind of phobia causes overwhelming fear and worry due to exposure to specific situations. The best examples include aerophobia (fear of airplanes/flying), elevatophobia (fear of elevators), amaxophobia (fear of driving), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), gephyrophobia (fear of tunnels), and dentophobia (fear of going to the dentist).

The causes of fears related to specific situations aren’t fully understood. Similar to other types of phobia, causes usually include experiencing a traumatic event as a child, having a triggering effect after childhood, or exposure to a parent’s or sibling’s phobia in childhood. 

For example, a person developed claustrophobia after getting stuck in an elevator in childhood or due to an uncomfortable experience that happened later. Scientists additionally believe that, in the presence of fear, neurochemicals overstimulate the amygdala, which is the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. 

This part of the brain serves as the central component of a brain system that processes stimuli associated with fear and threat, according to a 2012 article written by Mark G. Baxter and Paula L. Croxson published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Symptoms of fears related to specific situations are similar to those of panic attacks and anxiety. They involve intense and irrational fear of a subject of phobia, sweating, shaking, ringing in the ears, shortness of breath, flushing, upset stomach, dry mouth, dizziness, and feelings of dread. 

The level of fear in someone with these phobias isn’t proportionate to the threat projected by the subject of that phobia. For example, a person with claustrophobia feels like they can’t breathe in an elevator or any other small space, but the reality is that they can. 

If a person has claustrophobia, aerophobia, or another situational phobia, they know it’s a problem. Most people understand their reactions to these situations symbolize the presence of a problem and they know their fear is irrational. 

However, they’re unable to control their reactions. For that reason, they need to see a healthcare provider, who is going to hand out a questionnaire for a patient to complete. The purpose of the questionnaire is to make a distinction between fear and phobia and to see whether a patient’s symptoms meet the criteria from DSM-5 to be classified as a phobia.

If the symptoms have been present for at least six months and a person tries to avoid a certain situation as much as they can, they are likely to be diagnosed with a form of situational phobia.

Two main treatments for these phobias are exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Occasionally, a doctor prescribes medications such as anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants to manage the severity of symptoms.

5. Fear of choking, loud noises, drowning

woman choking

Pseudodysphagia (fear of choking), ligyrophobia or phonophobia (fear of loud noises), and thalassophobia (fear of drowning/deep water) are among “other phobias,” i.e. fears that don’t fall into the four above mentioned categories. People develop a phobia of several different things, including foods, objects, and even characters. 

Like with all specific phobias, the exact cause isn’t fully understood. Trauma, especially in childhood, potentially plays a prominent role here. For instance, a child has experienced choking on something and developed trauma as a response to this traumatic experience. 

A person is additionally more likely to develop these phobias if their parents or siblings have them too. In certain cases, genetics is involved. Other people have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, which influences their reactions to exposure to certain situations.

The most prominent symptom is intense fear or panic when exposed to the subject of phobia. In this case, a person feels overwhelming panic or severe fear when exposed to loud noises or deep water, or they get scared of eating foods or taking pills because they don’t want to choke. 

Other symptoms include fear of losing control or dying heart palpitations, hyperventilating, sweating, dry mouth, shaking, chest pain, nausea, stomach cramps, and weakness.

The healthcare provider diagnoses these fears by asking a patient questions about their symptoms and triggers. In addition, they discuss a patient’s medical, psychological, and social history. In order to determine whether someone’s fear is a phobia, the healthcare provider uses the DSM-5.

When left untreated, these fears significantly limit a person’s life. The most common treatment approaches are exposure therapy, CBT, and medications such as those to manage anxiety. 

Relaxation techniques are equally helpful in the management of these phobias. They help patients cope with negative stimuli in a healthier manner. The best effects occur when relaxation techniques are combined with other treatment approaches. For certain people, regular therapy sessions are all they need to get better.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, persistent, and irrational fear of specific activities, objects, or situations. Phobia is indicated by the rapid onset of fear, panic, and other symptoms that are usually present for at least six months. 

9.1% of American adults, or 19.3 million people, suffer from certain phobias, according to a publication titled, “Anxiety Disorders – Facts & Statistics” last updated in October 2022 by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.

In order to understand what phobia is, it is important to make a clear distinction between fear and phobia. Fear is a normal reaction to a threat, whereas phobia is usually an irrational reaction. 

An individual’s reaction in the form of fear or panic is out of proportion to the actual situation. A person with phobia experiences severe symptoms even when the subject of their phobia isn’t threatening them or jeopardizing their safety.

The influence of phobia ranges from mild to disabling. In various cases, the affected individuals realize their phobia is irrational, but they’re unable to do anything about it. Phobia, when left untreated, interferes with the affected person’s work, school, and personal relationships. 

Phobia as a separate disorder is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). In DSM-5, a phobia is described as an overwhelming and excessive fear that results in avoidance or extreme distress. Indeed, persons with phobia tend to avoid the trigger or subject of their fear as much as they possibly can.

What kinds of phobias are most common?

scared woman

The various kinds of phobias are classified based on the object or situation that triggers the fear response. The most common kinds of phobias are listed below.

  • Arachnophobia: Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and other arachnids. The fear response is triggered by the sight of a spider, even by an image or video. People with arachnophobia tend to avoid places or situations where they have a chance of getting exposed to spiders. They react with intense fear even though most spiders are harmless. It is likely that our ancestors lacked knowledge on how to take care of spider bites and that we developed a predisposition to fear these creatures.
  • Acrophobia: This pertains to the fear of heights. It leads to anxiety attacks and avoidance of high places. An individual with this phobia goes to great lengths just to avoid high places such as bridges, towers, tall buildings, or balconies.
  • Mysophobia: Mysophobia is defined as the fear of germs and dirt. It leads people to engage in compulsive hand-washing, extreme cleaning, and avoidance of situations and things they perceive dirty. In certain cases, mysophobia is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Agoraphobia: This is the fear of being alone in situations when escape is difficult. This phobia is complex and includes different cases, such as fear of open spaces, crowded areas, and situations that cause a panic attack. People end up avoiding these triggering events. Other patients refuse to leave their homes entirely.
  • Ophidiophobia: Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. It is one of the most common phobias, mainly because snakes have the potential to be dangerous. Since several snakes are poisonous, our ancestors probably avoided places or situations where these reptiles are involved. They have likely passed down their genes to the next generations. For certain people, even watching a video or photo of a snake is enough to trigger phobia symptoms.

How do experts identify different phobias?

Experts identify different phobias based on their severity and impact. While there are various types of phobias, it is possible to divide them into two groups: specific and complex phobias. 

Specific phobias are indicated by overwhelming fear and panic about something that poses little to no danger. On the other hand, complex phobias are more disabling because they are linked to a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about a specific situation. 

Most phobias mentioned in this post are specific phobias. Examples of complex phobias are agoraphobia and social phobia. Complex phobias tend to develop in adulthood and are more difficult to treat, whereas specific phobias usually begin in childhood and are easier to manage, as per an article titled, “Phobias” last updated in November 2023 by NHS Inform.

How is phobia diagnosis done?

Phobia diagnosis is done through clinical interviews and diagnostic guidelines, according to a 2023 article from Mayo Clinic titled, “Specific phobias”. The healthcare provider asks questions about symptoms as well as the psychiatric and medical history of a patient. To make an accurate diagnosis, a healthcare provider is going to use the diagnostic criteria from DSM-5. 

Criteria that patients need to meet for phobia diagnosis include suffering persistent, excessive, or unreasonable fear, experiencing anxiety symptoms when exposed to the stimulus, and fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger. 

Other criteria include a phobic situation or object that is actively avoided, the disturbance isn’t better explained by symptoms of other mental health disorders, and symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and avoidance are present for at least six months. Doctors make sure the patient is aware their fear is irrational but they are unable to control their reactions.

What phobia treatments are available?

woman sitting on the floor

Phobia treatments include a variety of therapeutic modalities intended to assist people in conquering their unfounded fears and controlling the symptoms that accompany them. The most common phobia treatments are listed below.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Other medications

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps patients manage their mental health problems or improve psychological health by changing their thinking patterns. This type of therapy is based on the notion that negative or irrational beliefs lead to negative emotions and behaviors. 

Focusing on those thoughts or beliefs increases anxiety symptoms in persons with phobia. As a result, during CBT sessions, these unhelpful thoughts or beliefs are identified. Patients are additionally taught various skills and coping mechanisms that help reduce their anxiety and fear when exposed to the subject of their phobia. 

The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy is scientifically proven. For example, a 2009 paper by Priyamvada et al., published in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal focused on CBT for social phobia and found that this therapy helped a patient. Seventeen sessions were necessary in this case.

There is no specific number of CBT sessions that work for every patient with a phobia, but in most cases, between four and 20 appointments are necessary. It’s useful to mention that CBT sessions involve a component of exposure. Basically, a therapist helps the patient overcome their fear with incremental steps. 

During cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions, patients develop coping mechanisms that allow them to respond to fear and anxiety adequately. They additionally learn other skills that improve their functioning. 

The exact skills depend on the type of phobia. For example, a person with social phobia learns communication skills. Patients get homework to do in between sessions. The homework consists of practicing skills learned during the appointment. It is strongly advised to do homework because it helps patients continue managing their phobia even when the treatment comes to an end.

2. Antianxiety medication

Anti-anxiety medications are prescribed to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic in patients with phobia. A doctor may prescribe benzodiazepines that promote relaxation by lowering anxiety. Since sedatives like this one can be addictive, they are used with caution. 

Patients need to adhere to the dosage and frequency recommended by the doctor. It’s important to keep in mind the doctor may not prescribe anti-anxiety patients to persons with a history of substance use disorders. 

Evidence shows the effects of anti-anxiety medications begin shortly after oral use.

Keep in mind that medications are never the sole treatment for phobia. They are always an adjunct to the therapy approaches. Doctors only prescribe medications when patients need more support in the management of their symptoms. 

3. Other medications

Besides anti-anxiety medications, a healthcare provider prescribes other classes of drugs to patients with phobias. These medications include beta-blockers and antidepressants. Beta-blockers work by blocking the stimulating effects of adrenaline. These adrenaline effects include rapid heart rate, pounding heart, elevated blood pressure, and shaking voices and limbs, all of which are caused by anxiety. 

On the other hand, antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) act on levels of serotonin in the brain. These medications decrease anxiety symptoms. They are prescribed to patients with social phobia. 

Like anti-anxiety medications, beta-blockers and antidepressants are often used as adjunct therapies.

Are phobias treatable?

Yes, phobias are treatable in various situations. This is particularly the case with specific (simple) phobias. A healthcare provider is likely to use exposure therapy or a combination of several approaches to reduce anxiety and other symptoms. 

The patient learns to handle their response to the subject of phobia more effectively. There are certain phobias that are difficult or impossible to fully treat, however. In these cases, patients still learn how to cope and thereby improve their quality of life. 

One important thing to keep in mind is that not all treatments work equally for all phobias. While certain people need a few exposure therapy sessions to get better, others are more likely to benefit from a combination of CBT and exposure therapy.