This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

Most everyone is scared of something, whether real or imagined, even if they won’t admit to it. From snakes to sharks and disease to being alone, there are plenty of things humans can get worked up over. Some of these fears are understandable while others can get farfetched and unrealistic. Still, every fear feels very real to the person experiencing it, and this is especially true when it comes to phobias. When someone has a phobia, other people might not understand it; however, it’s important to understand it from a mental health perspective. You can learn more about phobias here: Having more awareness of common types of phobias can help you empathize with those who have them but can also help you recognize if you might be experiencing one yourself.

What Is a Phobia?

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by an uncontrollable, excessive, and irrational fear of something specific. This could be an object, place, activity, or certain situation. It’s important to note that the threat the person thinks they’re under is either exaggerated or nonexistent. In reality, the source of the person’s fear poses no danger to them.

When someone with a phobia encounters the thing that they’re afraid of, they may experience a panic attack or other feelings of dread. So, to avoid those negative feelings, people often do whatever they can to avoid whatever they’re afraid of. In many cases, people will go to extreme measures to keep their distance from that thing, place, or situation. Their lives are usually impacted as a result in more than one area, and it can be hard for them to live normally.

A mental health professional can diagnosis someone with a phobia, which millions of people live with on a daily basis. Once a person is accurately diagnosed with a phobia, they can begin treatment to get their life back on track.

Types of Phobias

There are many different types of phobias a person can have, many of which you might not be aware of at all. Some of these include:

  • Aerophobia: The fear of flying.
  • Atychiphobia: The irrational fear of falling.
  • Thanatophobia: A fear of death or dying. Most people are afraid of no longer being alive to an extent, but this fear affects a person’s life deeply.
  • Acrophobia: The fear of heights, even when one isn’t high up.
  • Nosophobia: Also known as illness anxiety disorder or hypochondria, nosophobia makes a person worried about any changes in their body. They worry about having a serious medical condition.
  • Claustrophobia: The fear of tight or confined spaces.
  • Vehophobia: The fear of driving; it often begins after someone is involved in a serious auto collision or accident and can be very common.
  • Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders.
  • Astraphobia: The fear of thunder and/ or lightning. It typically affects children and can be very common.
  • Social Phobia: Also known as social anxiety disorder, it is marked by withdrawal or avoidance of other people. It’s a type of anxiety disorder which causes extreme terror in any type of social situation. People with social phobia are afraid of meeting new people and fear being criticized or judged.
  • Cynophobia: The fear of dogs.
  • Ophidiophobia: A fear of snakes.
  • Nyctophobia: It’s common for kids to be afraid of the dark, but this phobia is characterized by an age-inappropriate fear of the darkness.
  • Trypanophobia: Having an aversion to blood or needles.

There are an endless number of phobias, some of which are much rarer than others. It’s possible for anyone to have a phobia to anything. Even if a fear seems irrational to you, know that it feels very real to the other person. The best thing you can do is encourage that individual to seek help.

Treatment for Phobias

The type of treatment pursued for a phobia depends on the individual experiencing it, how intense their symptoms are, and how strong the fear is. It also can depend on the specific type of phobia that needs to be treated. A mental health professional will ask questions about your experiences, symptoms, and medical history. They will also use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to make an accurate diagnosis, especially if they believe your symptoms are the result of something other than a phobia.

Most phobias are treated using what is called exposure therapy. It’s a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing the stress response someone has to whatever they’re afraid of. If, for example, you have a fear of escalators, your therapist would likely start by showing you pictures of escalators, talking about them, and then eventually you’d go near one. You might ride up one floor the first time and then two floors the next time. Over time, the panic response you have to escalators would likely go down.

Exposure therapy might be combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as well. CBT focuses on challenging negative thought patterns and replacing them with more positive ways of thinking. Some people will need medication to aid in their recovery, but psychotherapy is often successful in treating most phobias. As always, it depends on the person and the severity of the phobia being treated.

Finding Help for A Phobia

If you believe you have a phobia, it’s essential to reach out to someone who can help as soon as possible. Talking with a mental health professional can reduce symptoms and help you start to get your life back on track. Aside from therapy, you should also focus on developing healthy habits and doing things for yourself that you enjoy. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, eating healthy meals, and getting enough sleep each night. Picking up a hobby like basketball, jogging, or archery can also help reduce stress and keep your mind occupied. Everyone has fears in life, but phobias can significantly impact the way you live on a daily basis. Still, a phobia-free life is possible with the right support, guidance, and commitment.