Simple Phobias: Causes. Treatment. Most common phobias.

Simple Phobias Causes. Treatment. Most common phobias.

Simple phobias. Other common phobias.

In this chapter we will look at some simple phobias that are common, but that due to lack of space we could not address in the previous chapter. We will analyze the causes that are most frequently involved in its origin. Finally we will talk about the treatment of simple or specific phobias.

In the previous article on simple phobias we discussed phobias of spiders, snakes, closed spaces, storms, needles, and heights. Now we will see some more.

Drive phobias.

We understand impulse phobias as the irrational fear of losing impulse control and harming yourself or other people. The patient with an impulse phobia may fear throwing himself off a balcony or jumping on the subway. A mother with an impulse phobia may be afraid to drop her baby.

Although we cite them together with the rest of the simple phobias, this pathology must be included in the group of obsessive compulsive disorders. The ideas and fears of the subject are obsessive thoughts, which lodge in his mind against his will. These thoughts appear constantly and repeatedly. Although the subject fights against them, he cannot prevent them from breaking through and therefore feels fear or anxiety.

The origin of impulsive phobia is usually the knowledge through another person or the media of a terrible and traumatic event: someone has jumped on a train, a mother has drowned her baby. The subject who hears the news thinks that the same thing can happen to him. “If it has happened to someone, it can also happen to me.” At that moment the subject confuses “the possible” with “the probable”. In life it is possible that someone will get a prize in the bonoloto. However, in reality it is very unlikely that it will touch me.

The subject with impulsive phobia does not reason the probability of the event. He is simply terrified to think that he can do some horrible act. Many times these obsessive thoughts determine rituals or compulsive behaviors. Through these rituals he tries to neutralize the anguish he feels.

Dental phobia or Dentophobia.

Dental phobia or Dentophobia

Dentophobia, odontophobia or dental phobia is the exaggerated and irrational fear of dentists and dental offices. Although it may seem ridiculous, dental fear or phobia is much more common than is believed. The patient with dental phobia avoids going to the dentist at all costs. When he does, he is forced by a situation of serious risk to his health.

The development of this disorder, like other simple phobias, can be conditioned both by a traumatic experience with dentists in childhood, and by behaviors learned from parents with this pathology.

Odontophobia or phobia of dentists.

Blood phobia or hematophobia.

A phobia of blood or the sight of wounds is called hematophobia. It is closely linked to needle phobia or trypanophobia. These two simple phobias appear in the same activities (medical acts, laboratories, blood extraction) and share the same pathophysiological mechanism.

The phobia causes a sudden vasovagal discharge. The immediate consequence is the appearance of tachycardia, hypotension, sweating, falling to the ground and a more than probable loss of consciousness. The picture is usually dazzling and with hardly any reaction time, neither for the sufferer nor for the companions.

Hematophobia is one of the phobias, whose origin seems more determined by the genetic load, than by environmental stimuli. Thus, experimental studies have observed that hematophobia is much more frequent when one of the relatives of the subject has also suffered from this phobic disorder.

Phobia of the dark or nyctophobia.

Phobia of the dark or nyctophobia.

Fear of the dark or night is called nyctophobia. Fear of the dark is very common in childhood. Children in their evolutionary development begin to experience fear of the dark from the age of two. However, in nyctophobia, this fear is exaggerated, irrational and alters the life of the subject.

The patient with nyctophobia is not afraid of the night or the dark. Your fear is caused by objects, situations, or people that may be hidden in the dark and you cannot see. Faced with the darkness, the nyctophobe’s fantasy overflows and he imagines all kinds of terrifying scenes.

Although different authors, such as Freud, have proposed theories to explain nyctophobia, or the search for substances responsible for the condition, it is most likely an evolutionary-type phobia like other simple phobias, such as arachnophobia or ophidiophobia. Night vision has never been a quality of the human species. Our cave ancestors, at night, in the dark, were at a clear disadvantage against felines and other predators with very marked nocturnal visual acuity. This ancient fear has been perpetuated and we harbor it in our genetic makeup.

Nyctophobia or fear of the dark.

Phobia of birds or birds (Ornithophobia).

The exaggerated, irrational and persistent fear of birds is quite frequent. Pathological fear at other times focuses only on those birds that we feel as threatening. The birds of prey would be included here: eagle, vulture, hawks, owls or owls. In other cases, it affects the closest birds, such as poultry (hens and chickens). In the latter case, we speak of alekterophobia. It is usually due to the superstitious belief that chickens are harmful animals, always ready to sting and harm man. In some more severe cases, alekterophobia can include pathological fear of chicken eggs.

Ornithophobia, like other zoophobias, appears more frequently in women. Its intensity can be very variable, from the mildest cases, where the birds only cause discomfort, to the most severe where the presence of the birds can trigger a panic attack. Like so many other simple phobias, its origin seems to be conditioned by childhood traumatic events in relation to birds or other birds.

School phobia.

School phobia is a heterogeneous disorder where various pathologies are mixed. We can define it as the attitude of the child who cannot go to school due to a pathological and irrational fear related to school activities.

This fear of going to school causes anticipatory anxiety that can appear when going to bed at night or when getting up to go to class. It can be accompanied by all kinds of symptoms derived from anxiety. Sometimes the child can clearly express the reason for his fear. In many other cases, he does not find an adequate justification to explain his anxiety.

It can affect 4% of the general population. It must be differentiated from cases in which the child does not want to go to class and makes up all kinds of excuses. It must also be differentiated from separation anxiety. In these cases the anxiety is caused by having to separate from the mother or their usual caregiver. It is not uncommon for school phobia and separation anxiety to coexist at the same time.

Phobia of flying by plane or Aerophobia.

Aerophobia is the irrational fear of flying or more specifically of flying by plane. It is usually closely related and can sometimes be confused with other simple phobias such as claustrophobia, for the fear of feeling locked inside the plane, or with acrophobia, which is the fear of heights.

This term would therefore be reserved for people who have an exaggerated fear of having to get on a plane. In these people, the initial fear is the firm conviction that the device is going to have an accident and crash. Therefore, it is not the claustrophobic sensation or the fear of altitude that predominates, but the sensation of impending catastrophe.

It can be a tremendously limiting phobia, especially in people who, due to their profession, must travel continuously.

Aerophobia the phobia to fly.

Phobia of holes or Trypophobia.

The phobia or pathological fear of holes is called trypophobia. It is a recent phobia, closely linked to the dissemination of images over the internet. In reality, the phobic object is not a hole, but a repeating pattern of small clustered holes. Perhaps the most similar image could be that of a honeycomb, with tiny holes or grouped geometric figures.

This phobia is so recent that it is not even classified as a phobic disorder in DSM-5. Let us remember in this regard, that for an irrational fear to be considered a phobia it must:

– Produce significant anxiety.

– Or significantly alter the life of the subject.

There is no record of this occurring in most cases of trypophobia.

It is still curious that almost 20% of the population suffers with greater or less intensity, an aversion or deep disgust at the sight of objects with the characteristics described. This phenomenon began to be known in 2005. In this year the works of two American psychologists were published in the journal “Psychological Science”.

Cole and Wilkins, professors at the University of Essex, did some curious experiments. In them they showed different people, 286 objects, covered by small grouped holes. Faced with this vision, a little more than one in six people felt discomfort, discomfort, rejection and in some cases even nausea.

Trypophobias. Possible causes.

Theories in this regard advocate the resemblance of these geometric patterns to the skin of some poisonous reptiles and amphibians. To confirm this hypothesis, the brain activity of subjects with trypophobia was monitored. While looking at images of snakes, their brain waves were recorded. At the sight of the reptiles, the brain signals were triggered in a very significant way.

This could confirm what has already been pointed out in the origin of the snake phobia: the existence of a retina – thalamus – amygdala connection that would trigger alert signals to patterns that somehow resemble reptiles.

Other studies suggest that the vision of the grouped holes can evoke images of organic diseases with great physical deterioration. Both hypotheses could be perfectly complementary. They would respond to forms of behavior acquired throughout human evolution. They would act as defensive mechanisms against poisonous reptiles or possibly contagious diseases.

Trypophobia or phobia of holes.

Phobia of dogs or Cinophobia.

Phobia of dogs or Cinophobia

That the dog is man’s best friend seems a confirmed fact. However, many people, at the sight of a dog, even if it is a tiny chihuahua, panic and flee in terror.

Psychological studies carried out at the University of highlighted that one in ten people have an unjustified pathological fear of the sight of a dog. We insist, as in the case of trypophobia, that to consider this fear of dogs as a phobia, it must be very intense or alter the life of the subject. Even so, these data suggest that we are facing a very frequent disorder.

The subject with true cynophobia, not only has fear and pathological anxiety when meeting a dog. Just thinking about this possibility produces symptoms of fear and anguish. In extreme cases it can lead to panic attacks.

The origin of this phobia may be motivated by a dog bite in childhood. Or, by stories about ferocious dogs, heard from family or friends. Watching movies where dogs appear as violent and aggressive animals can condition the appearance of this phobia in sensitive and predisposed people.

Phobia of cats or Ailurophobia.

The phobia of cats is known as ailurophobia or elurophobia. It is an intense, persistent, irrational and unjustified fear in the presence of a cat. Although it is not uncommon to find people with this disorder, it is much less common than the phobia of dogs.

In its origin, traumatic childhood experiences can influence, but in the case of cats it is more related to traditions inherited from ancient times. Cats have been considered mysterious animals.

For the Egyptians, cats were considered a demi-god. They were under the tutelage of the pharaoh and killing or injuring a cat was punishable by death. In the Middle Ages they were directly related to the devil, witches and satanic rituals, especially black cats.

There are people who believe in the power of cats to predict the weather. There are few who think that seeing a black cat is a bad omen. Perhaps because of this, the phobia in many cases is limited to black cats.

The symptoms of ailurophobia are the same as other zoophobias. They course with intense fear and a variety of symptoms, related to the anxiety caused by the unfortunate encounter with the feline.

Ailurophobia or phobia of cats.

Phobia of insects or entomophobia.

Four zoophobias account for more than 50% of the cases of phobic disorders: fear of snakes, spiders, birds and insects. Let’s know some details of the latter.

Entomophobia is a very common disorder, due to the large number and variety of existing insects. Due to this, severe cases can significantly condition the life of the phobic patient, since it is difficult to find places that ensure the absence of insects. A particular form of entomophobia is the pathological fear of bees or apiphobia.

A subject with entomophobia will not practice sports outdoors. Nor will he go on excursions or walk in the countryside. You will be very careful about having flowers in your garden. It will live all day pending the presence of any insect that flies over it and its life will be very limited. It is not uncommon for entomophobia to be associated with other simple phobias. Specifically, the association with arachnophobia and phobia of worms is frequent.

Cockroach phobia or Blatophobia.

Cockroaches are one of the animals that occupy the ranking of disgust for much of the population. They also happen to be the species with the most survival capacity. They already existed in the time of the Tyranosaurus Rex. According to experts, it would probably be the only species that would survive after a nuclear catastrophe.

The pathological fear of cockroaches is closely related to the phobia of spiders and insects. However, unlike spiders, whose fear may be justified by the existence of highly poisonous species, in the case of the cockroach the predominant feeling is disgust.

The blatophobic cannot be near a cockroach. Despite knowing that their presence does not carry any danger, he feels invaded by a deep disgust. It is common for them to react with a start to the presence of these animals.

Blatophobia or phobia of cockroaches.

Clown phobia or Coulrophobia.

One of the most peculiar phobias is the pathological fear of clowns and mimes. It is an early-onset phobia. It is usually generated in childhood, but can be sustained over time and last into adulthood.

Contrary to what it might seem, the fear of clowns has been corroborated by science. A 2008 study in England challenged the image of friendliness of clowns and clowns. At the University of Sheffield an experiment was carried out to decorate the walls of a pediatric hospital with cheerful motifs to the liking of children.

After analyzing the behavior of 250 children, of varying ages, before the different decorative options, one fact was revealing: Antipathy for the images of clowns was the common denominator in all ages.

It does not seem easy to interpret this fact, but psychologists have found a theory, which could give an explanation to this phenomenon. The clown’s face is hidden behind makeup that draws disproportionate features. This fact of not being able to know what the makeup hides produces a certain unease. The study authors called it “undefined familiarity.”

Theories about Coulrophobia.

This phenomenon is far from new. At the beginning of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud was already talking about “cognitive dissonance”. It is a phenomenon that causes concern, fear or rejection, in the face of familiar but unusual and contradictory situations.

The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance would explain the fear of clowns. A smile is nice. A face that smiles all the time is unnatural. It can be unsettling and even scary.

Although much more recent, some movie characters such as Batman’s Joker (Jack Nicholson) or the television clown from Stephen King’s “It” series, have not exactly contributed to improve the appreciation for clowns.

In recent years the fashion for “creepy clowns” has appeared. These are people who dress up as clowns, freeze, and scare passersby. With this attitude, they are certainly not helping to fight coulrophobia.

Coulrophobia or phobia of clowns.


The objective of the treatment is that the subject with a simple phobia, can carry out the daily tasks of his normal life, without being altered by the fear that the phobic object originates in him. Its success or failure is usually conditioned by the severity of the phobia.

Until the middle of the last century, psychoanalysis was the only psychotherapy used in specific phobias. In 1958, starting with the work of Josep Wolpe, the so-called behavior therapy began to be used, which in its different modalities always implies a certain degree of exposure to the phobic situation.

Exposure therapies (live or through images), cognitive behavioral therapies, and virtual reality are included. About 80% of patients can benefit from the results of psychotherapy.

Unlike other anxiety disorders, where pharmacology is the first step in treatment, in the case of phobias, medications are only a secondary complement. Beta-blockers such as propanolol and  anxiolytics  (benzodiazepines) as well as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been used, but there is no unanimous criterion for deciding the drug of choice.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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