Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Strange fears? There's help for you

2/6/2023 by Anne Roche, Ph.D.,Sydney Kelpin, Ph.D., M.S., Craig Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.


Specific phobias are an excessive and intense fear of certain situations or objects to the point where they cause significant disruption in your life. Understandably, the prospect of experiencing extreme anxiety and panic often leads you to avoid these triggers.

While phobias are one of the most common mental health conditions — affecting an estimated 12% of the population — less than 10% seek treatment.

The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition" classifies specific phobias across five subtypes:

  • Animals, such as snakes, spiders and dogs.
  • Situations, including driving, flying and public speaking.
  • Natural environment, such as thunderstorms, heights and the dark.
  • Blood, injection and injury, including blood draws, needles and wounds.
  • Other, and this is where things get weird.

According to basic learning models, having a bad experience with almost anything can result in developing a phobia. About half of people report a direct, negative experience that led to the onset of their phobia.

Naming a phobia involves combining the prefix of a Greek or Latin term for a specific object or situation with the Greek suffix "phobos," which means "to fear."

Here are several of phobias in the "other" category from The Phobia List:

  • Alektorophobia (fear of chickens)
    It's not nice to call somebody chicken for having a phobia, but doing so in this case might be OK because you are just calling it for what it is.
  • Megalophobia (fear of large things) and microphobia (fear of small things)
    Thank goodness, there is no fear of medium things.
  • Porphyrophobia (fear of the color purple) and basileophobia (fear of royalty)
    This is not a good combination for Prince fans.
  • Nyctohylophobia (fear of dark, wooded areas) paired with nebulaphobia (fear of fog) paired with either novercaphobia (fear of your stepmother) or vitricophobia (fear of your stepfather) or coulrophobia (fear of clowns)
    That is a premise for a really bad movie.
  • Zemmiphobia (fear of the great mole rat)
    Have you seen a great mole rat? Having a phobic reaction in this case seems really adaptive.
  • Hypengyophobia (fear of assuming responsibility)
    Come to think of it, that could come in handy from time to time.
  • Chronophobia (fear of time) and chronomentrophobia (fear of clocks)
    Honestly, it's about time you started dealing with this phobia.
  • Geliophobia (fear of laughter)
    For people with this condition, laughter truly is the best medicine. However, for pharmacophobics (fear of medicine), this can turn into a serious condition.
  • Telephonophobia (fear of telephones)
    If you have difficulty with this phobia, call your health care professional. Or if you struggle with technophobia (fear of technology) or cyberphobia (fear of computers), it may be best to book an appointment online.

Thankfully, phobias are among the most treatable mental health conditions, with success rates often reaching close to 90%, which is great, even for those with euphobia (fear of good news). Exposure therapy, which involves predictable, controllable and repetitive exposures to phobic triggers is an effective and durable treatment approach. Some phobias — even long-standing, strange fears — can be treated in as little as a single session of prolonged exposure.

So for all those isolophobics (fear of being alone) out there, you're not alone — phobias are common, treatable conditions.

Anne Roche, Ph.D., and Sydney Kelpin, Ph.D., M.S., are clinical health psychology fellows in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Integrated Behavioral Health at Mayo Clinic.

Craig Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P., is a clinical psychologist in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Integrated Behavioral Health. He is the co-chair of the Division of Integrated Behavioral Health and co-chair of Clinical Practice with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Mayo Clinic.