Everyone is afraid of something. Feeling fear and anxiety is normal—it’s a natural instinct that helps protect you from danger.
Fear vs. Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorders: What’s the Difference?
Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat. It triggers a “fight or flight” reaction—meaning you’ll either stay in the fearful situation and fight it, or you’ll flee.
Anxiety is anticipation and fear of what may happen in the future. This behavior is more associated with avoidance. For example, if you’re anxious about going to an event because you think something uncomfortable or dangerous might happen, this may lead you to not want to go.
An anxiety disorder, however, differs from normal feelings of anxiety or fear. Anxiety disorders are excessive feelings of fear or anxiety that can seriously impact a person’s quality of life. They are mental health disorders that need to be treated by a medical professional. A phobia is just one type of anxiety disorder. (Learn more about the different anxiety disorder types.)
What Is a Phobia?
A phobia is an excessive and persistent fear of a generally not harmful particular object, situation, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
People with phobias may know that their fear is excessive, but they’re still unable to overcome it. Some phobias cause such distress that people go to great lengths to avoid what they fear. For example, if someone is afraid of flying, they may not travel anywhere by plane their whole lives. Or, if they’re afraid to go outside, they may stay indoors at all costs.
Some phobias are more common than others, such as a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) or a fear of small spaces (claustrophobia). Others, however, are so rare that they only occur in a small amount of people—but they’re still very real.
Here are 10 unusual and uncommon phobias that you may have never heard of:
1. Alektorophobia: Fear of chickens.
2. Onomatophobia: Fear of a word or phrase.
3. Pogonophobia: Fear of beards.
4. Arithmophobia: Fear of numbers.
5. Octophobia: Fear of the figure 8.
6. Barophobia: Fear of gravity.
7. Leukophobia: Fear of the color white.
8. Melanophobia: Fear of the color black.
9. Anthophobia: Fear of flowers.
10. Phonophobia: Fear of phobias.
It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a normal fear (like, who isn’t a little afraid of spiders?!) and an anxiety disorder that may be affecting your quality of life. (Here are signs your worrying could be an anxiety disorder.)
If your fears and anxieties are significantly impacting your life—whether it’s your job performance, school work, or relationships—it may be wise to see a doctor. (Learn more about how anxiety disorders are treated.)