It’s a fact of life that everyone’s afraid of something. We’re all convinced that we have some irrational fear that must be unique to only us: antique furniture (furniture phobia), otters (lutraphobia), knees (genuphobia) — the list of phobias goes on and on. But while some fears are definitely specific to a few select people (say, Billy Bob Thornton’s admitted furniture phobia), there are many more that are shared by whole swaths of the population — and not just on spooky days like Halloween.
So how common are phobias, exactly? Nearly nine percent of all American adults suffer from a specific phobia in a given year, and nearly 22 percent of all those cases are classified as severe, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
‘Weird Phobias’ Are Not So Weird After All
One of the most common phobias that you’ve probably heard before is the fear of the number 13, aka triskaidekaphobia. While it may sound like a weird phobia if you don’t have it — after all, a number can’t physically harm you like a poisonous snake or a deathly food allergy — the fear is all too real: Researchers estimate that at least 10 percent of Americans think the number 13 is scary.
This fear is apparent all around us. For example, you may have noticed that many buildings (especially hotels) don’t have a 13th floor. Instead, there is often a noticeable gap between the 12 and 14 in the elevator buttons. This “mistake” is done completely on purpose to accommodate any people moving through that building who might have triskaidekaphobia. (Although let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone realize that “14” is actually the 13th floor with a less frightening name?)
It just goes to show how a seemingly harmless fear can actually be a legitimate, life-altering issue. The same goes for many other so-called “odd phobias” and “weird fears” out there. But it is comforting to know that if you or someone you love is suffering or has ever suffered from a fear of that nature, you are far from alone. Even better news? There are many therapy options available today that can help people face their fears and learn coping mechanisms to put their phobias to rest for good. Scroll below to see a list of phobias that are more common than you might think.
Trigger warning: Some of the images and descriptions below may upset people who are afraid of clustered holes (trypophobia), flying (aviophobia), or clowns (coulrophobia).
Trypophobia Fear Clustered Holes
Trypophobia: Fear of Clustered Holes
At least 16 percent of the population is afraid of clustered holes due to a fear known as "trypophobia," according to an August 2013 study published in Psychological Science. “The stimuli are usually clusters of holes of any variety that are almost always innocuous and seemingly pose no threat,” the researchers wrote. Feeling distress while looking at the clustered holes of a lotus seed pod is the most classic example of this phobia, but people can also be triggered by the holes in a sponge, soap bubbles, and even aerated chocolate. Trypophobia isn't formally recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a very real effect on people who suffer from it.
Aviophobia Fear Flying
Aviophobia: Fear of Flying
More than 20 million Americans (6.5 percent of the population) are intensely afraid of flying, a fear known as "aviophobia." Even though flying is statistically much, much safer than driving, this fear is not actually based on a concern that the plane will crash. “Fear of flying is a feeling. Feelings aren’t facts,” said Martin Seif, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders, in an interview with the Washington Post. “And almost every person who’s afraid will say, ‘My fear is out of proportion to the danger, and I can’t reason my way back.’”
Coulrophobia Fear Clowns
Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns
No wonder It was such a successful horror film: 7.6 percent of Americans are terrified of clowns, which is a fear known as "coulrophobia," according to Chapman University's Study of American Fears. There are many theories as to why clowns inspire such fear in so many people, but one of the most common is known as the "uncanny valley" response: When something looks a lot — but not exactly — like a human (think: clowns, dolls, or robots), it sparks a deep and emotional response in our brains. Or maybe there have just been too many clowns with spooky faces in films for us to ever look at them the same way again.