To know the list of fears, it helps to understand the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is generally easier to eliminate than anxiety. Both can be helped with specific strategies and professional care. Becoming informed is the first best step.
Fear is a vague unpleasant emotion that is felt in anticipation of something unpleasant. Fear is to be afraid, uneasy, anxious or apprehensive about a real, possible or probable situation or event. For more information on fear, check out — What Causes Fear, Overcoming Fear and Fear of Flying.
Anxiety is a discomfort over a vague, imagined threat, or a threat that does not involve physical harm. It is a psychological and/or biological response to stress.
People can feel anxious even if the stress isn’t present. It is a state of restlessness and agitation, often accompanied by a sense of oppression or tightness in the stomach.
Psychiatry defines anxiety as a relatively permanent state of worry and nervousness occurring in a variety of mental disorders, usually accompanied by compulsive behavior or attacks of panic.
It is an abnormal sense of fear, nervousness, and apprehension about something that might happen in the future.
Imagine a horizontal line — a continuum . On the left of the line is a mild fear. Way over on the right is a chronic, challenging anxiety. Somewhere along that line, a mild fear changes to anxiety.
Over my lifetime, in my list of fears I have had fear of heights, bridges and flying. But when I’m not at the top of a tall building or walking over a bridge where the ground is visible, I’m fine. I have these fears. But I don’t have anxiety. I’m not an anxious person with a general sense of uneasiness and dread.
I have felt anxiety, though, and I probably had many of the physical symptoms for anxiety disorder. So if you have anxiety, I have some idea what it is like and I have empathy for you.
When our daughter was nine months, she developed a sudden illness. She was vomiting bile and passing blood by rectum. She couldn’t keep anything down and slept most of the time. The doctor couldn’t diagnose the problem.
Because I was a registered nurse and my husband and I didn’t want to admit her to the hospital until absolutely necessary, we took turns nursing her around the clock, making notes on any changes in her condition. Our other two children were aged two and three at the time.
I was totally anxious. My stomach was in knots, my heart didn’t feel normal. I felt a horrible dread. Everything was out of whack. I thought our daughter might die.
After three days and nights like this at home, we admitted her to the hospital and three days later she was transferred to The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto, a six hour trip with sirens. I was way beyond anxious.
Our daughter was diagnosed and treated. Within a few days she was a normal little baby and my symptoms of anxiety went away.
My symptoms resulted from an external, identifiable fear — the fear that our daughter would not survive. I had fear. But, although I had symptoms of anxiety, I did not have anxiety disorder.
There are many phobias on this list of fears affecting hundreds of thousands of people. If you, a friend or loved one are afflicted with fear, you are not alone. Often people suffer in silence. It’s hard to reach out for help. You might feel shame, embarrassment or even fear of change. Getting help is the solution for eliminating fear in your life.
With some work on your part, by sharing your challenges with someone, you can find the people, the resources and the courage to deal with your own fears on the list of fears. With the right tools and support, and by practicing, you will get rid of your fear-producing habits, regain your self-confidence and self esteem and never look back.
For help and support, with this list of fears, go to What Causes Fear and Overcoming Fear.
For many years, I had a fear of heights, a fear of flying and a fear of public speaking. I also feared artistic painting. After some struggle, I’ve overcome these. With the material and tools on these pages and some practice, you will too.
To be diagnosed as having a specific phobia or anxiety, you need to have a strong avoidance to the fear. The dread also has to interfere with your life, to cause a disruption in your work, family life and socializing as a result. About 10 % of North Americans have a diagnosable phobia that causes impairment at some time in their lives.
The sources for this information are professionals in their fields. In some cases the material comes from people who have studied and developed successful and respected self help programs based upon their own personal challenges with anxieties and phobias. I also write from my own personal experiences.
1. Fear of public speaking
If you have anxiety and public speaking, you are not alone. Not by a long shot! Performance anxiety affects 70% of the North American population and is number one on the list of fears. Why?
From my personal experience and from mentoring many speakers in the Toastmaster program over a ten year period, people are afraid of —
2. Fear of flying
If you fear flying, you are also not alone. Twenty per cent of the population is afflicted with this fear. It has the number two spot on the list of fears. I had a fear of flying. To make it worse my husband, bless his soul, bought a small airplane and assumed (or hoped) I’d fly with him. When he asked me to fly from Brampton, Ontario to British Columbia with him through the Rocky and Cascade Mountains, I said, “No way.”
But, things don’t always work out as we think they will. A few years ago I ended up, my hands sweaty and body shaking in the copilot seat of our four-seater Cessna 172. Somewhere over the Prairies, when there was lots of time to think, I looked down the 5 000 feet to the ground and freaked out.
Being up there was bad enough. But I knew that if something happened to Bob, we’d both go down. I had no idea how to land the plane, let alone understand the cockpit instruments. This fear of flying took on another very real dimension.
Fear of flying makes life miserable and constricting for those afflicted. It affects your job if you have to travel and also limits your ability to visit family and friends.
This fear often overlaps with other phobias such as claustrophobia or fear of being in confined spaces and fear of heights. People who have a fear of flying may be anxious about air turbulence, high jacking, crashes and so forth. Stats for air crashes are less than one in ten million. But fears, however irrational are very real to the sufferer.
This fear of confined spaces also ranks high on the list of fears. People are anxious about being in tunnels, traffic jams, elevators, subways and waiting lines, never mind MRI scanners. Sufferers will avoid crowds, sit near exit doors in rooms with other people. Planes trains and cars are difficult because of the prolonged confinement.
4. Fear of disease
On the list of fears, if you fear disease, you are probably anxious even if reassured by your doctor. Symptoms such as headaches, stomach discomfort or heart palpitations raise fears of a brain tumor, cancer or heart attack.
It’s absolutely normal and necessary to be body. But not if the fear becomes an affliction that takes over your thoughts.
Hypochondria affects equally 3 to 5 percent of the male and female population. Hypochondria may appear as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD because of frequent self checking, doctor-searching and reassurance seeking behavior.
5. Dental phobia
More than 50% of North Americans dislike dental procedures. When the fear progresses to avoiding the dentist altogether, it is a phobia and you need help.
Good dental care makes smiling, eating, and talking comfortable. But also dental phobia and lack of dental care can contribute to medical problems such as diabetes, respiratory problems, and even cardiovascular disease.
6. Blood/injection phobia
On this list of fears, anxiety of blood often goes together with fear of injuries connected to blood and also dread of injections. This apprehension can result in fainting at the sight of blood, avoiding doctors and shunning immunization or blood transfusions when they are necessary.
During travel to some Eastern countries without immunization you can contract malaria and other diseases, for example. So this fear on the list of fears limits the life of the person who has it.
According to experts in the field of anxiety, phobias of blood, injury and injections tend to run in families. Children internalize the fear from their parents and siblings.
If you are a parent with this liability, you can eliminate these dreads with knowledge and effort. By facing these frights, you and your children will live calmer and safer lives.
7. Fear of vomiting
This fear on the list of fears is more common than you might think on the list of fears. It includes the fear of vomiting, of seeing vomiting and of vomiting in public. It may cause you to avoid long car trips, go only to places that have washrooms and avoid being around babies and sick people who might throw up.
Nausea is a real problem because of the fear of vomiting and this makes the nausea worse and so the cycle continues. As with other fears, this dread can lead to panic.
8. Fear of heights
On the list of fears, terror at elevations is common and often related to fear of flying, elevators – especially exterior glass elevators, driving on high bridges and being on the top floors of tall buildings. Surprisingly many pilots fear heights – or so they tell me.
This has been one of my fears. When I was a kid I’d crouch on the floor of our car over bridges. When my husband and I moved to Germany with our kids and started downhill skiing, I panicked in the chair lifts and gondolas. But I loved skiing. So I just had to try to freak out privately and eventually it got easier.
While we were building our last home, I froze at the top of ladders and have panicked on steep hills. This anxiety can develop from the memory of a childhood fall. For people who aren’t scared of heights this fear might be laughable. But for the sufferer, it’s miserable.
9. Animal and insect phobias
People can be afraid of snakes, bats, mice or rats, dogs, cats, certain birds, frogs, spiders, bees or cockroaches and will avoid places where these animals or insects might be present. Zoos, hearing a dog bark can evoke a strong fear. Sometimes even seeing a photo of the animals or insect can trigger a panic attack.
10. Fear of death
Sometimes this fear on the list of fears is related to the fear of losing control because we usually can’t control our own death.
In a list of fears, some phobias are often grouped together in broad categories.
Fears of Small Animals — snakes, spiders, mice, birds, moths, dogs.
Fears of Being Away from a Safe Place — leaving the house or going out alone; going to crowded stores or open areas; traveling by bus, car, airplane, subway or train.
Fears of Being Trapped or Confined — this category is related to the next — social fears; meetings, cinemas or theaters, lineups, escalators, elevators, showers.
Social Fears — meeting new people and socializing; doing things in front of others such as writing, public speaking, eating, or using the telephone.
Fears of Illness or Injury — seeing blood, needles, vomiting or hospitals.
Fears of Natural Phenomena — hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, thunderstorms and others.
1. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D.
2. Managing Your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide by Gillian Butler Ph.D. and Tony Hope Ph.D.
3. From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life by Lucinda Bassett. Bassett is a former sufferer of anxiety, agoraphobia, panic attacks and depression. She is president of The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety.
4. Free Yourself From Fear: Self Hypnosis For Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Phobias by Valerie Austin. Austin is an internationally renowned English hypnotherapist, trainer, lecturer, author and journalist.
5. 101 Exercises for the Soul: Simple Practices for a Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel
6. Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies by Charles H. Elliott Ph.D. and Laura L. Smith Ph.D.
I am looking forward to your questions and suggestions.
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