The 13 Most Universal Phobias

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…and seven phobias that should have been on the list but were, strangely, absent.

Heights, snakes and public speaking top the list of things of which people are most afraid.

The results come from a survey of 2,088 British people who were given a list of 13 phobias and asked how fear-inducing each one is (YouGov, 2014).

It was women who were more afraid of each item on the list than men — or perhaps men just won’t admit to their fears.

The widest gender gap was seen for spiders, which scared 52% of women but only 33% of men (or so they said).

Here is the full list of phobias and the percentage of people that said they were “very” or “a little” afraid of them:

phobias13

Age also played a role in what people were afraid of.

Younger people were more petrified of public speaking than older people:

  • 59% of those between 18-24 said they were afraid of public speaking.
  • 32% of people over 60 said they were afraid of public speaking.

Older people meanwhile, were more afraid of heights and snakes.

Unsurprisingly there’s no place on the list for one of the most common fears which most people have never heard of: the fear of holes.

Technically it’s called trypophobia and, according to a recent study, it may result from the visual features of certain poisonous creatures (Cole & Wilkins, 2013).

The study found that around 1 in 7 had some trypophobic reactions.

Like all the fears on the list, arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, varies a lot between people, with some just being ‘scared’ of spiders to others being so terrified they can’t even look at a picture of one.

Of course people in this survey could only respond to the thirteen phobias they were asked about, they might have had other ones.

Here are a few personal favourites:

  1. Nomophobia: fear of being out of phone contact (no-mobile-phobia: it’s bad Latin, but easy to spell compared with the others…)
  2. Omphalophobia: fear of bellybuttons; of having one’s own bellybutton touched or pulled or seeing another person’s bellybutton.
  3. Lipophobia: fear of fat in foods.
  4. Oikophobia: fear of the home and/or household appliances.
  5. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia: fear of the number 666.
  6. Sesquipedalophobia: fear of long words (oh, the tremendous weight of irony).
  7. Panphobia: fear of everything (Woody Allen has this).

Image credit: Eole Wind

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 27 March 2014

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Images: Creative Commons License