Know and Understand Phobias

From brontophobia (fear of lightning) to hematophobia (fear of blood) and even phobophobia (fear of being afraid), the list of phobias seems unlimited. Knowing them makes it possible to fight them better You can read all these phobias in detail on

Establishing an exhaustive list of different phobias seems impossible. And this for two main reasons. First, some of them appear just for the singular story of an individual. Thus, the phobia of bamboos suffered by this man because his parents, as a child, corrected it severely with its stems … On the other hand, there is a tendency today to easily add the suffix “phobia” to some words to designate objects that are rejected. Thus, one can be technophobic without feeling an irrational fear of computers! A certain confusion prevails in the country of phobias. We therefore propose, here, to focus on some of them, from the most classic to the most recent, through the most wacky.

Remember that each time these fears can appear at first as fears … but among them, some will turn into excessive fears, then irrational and chronic.

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➔ The most “old”

● Phobias of natural elements 

Phobia of fire (pyrophobia), lightning (brontophobia), wind … Genetic programming seems here at stake. These terrors are probably of the same order as those felt by the first homins who slept in the caves and had to endure, without protection, weathering. By displacement, one can observe phobias of plants, trees, as it was the case for Freud who, it seems, feared the ferns!

● The phobia of water or aquaphobia

It has a place apart, because it is born of this protective instinct that drives us to move away from the water, we who do not know how to swim instinctively. Gradually, certain reassuring conditions (having feet, carrying a buoy, etc.) allow the anxious person to become familiar with the feared element. There are phobias of water in 2.5 to 5% of children under 10 years.

“According to a recent study,” says Dr. Mirabel-Sarron, “it is partly a matter of learning by observing the behavior of people around you. And aquaphobic children are often the eldest of siblings. “In adulthood, some phobics refuse any bathing or boating. The therapist will have to define whether it is more of a “natural environment” fear or a “space phobia”, ie a terror “in the water” and not “of the water”. It is always the in vivo exposure, graduated and associated with relaxation, which gives the best therapeutic results.

● Animal phobias

They are the most frequent (22% of the population would be affected by excessive fear, 5% by phobia). They too are probably part of our genes, because they concern practically the entire animal panel (reptiles to insects) and, by extension, can turn into phobias of hairs or feathers. Hitchcock has made a superb representation in his film The Birds. These fears are sometimes accompanied by a feeling of disgust: thus the phobia of the rats is explained by a rejection of the dirt, while the snakes terrorize because of their viscous aspect. Even if the dreaded animals are not dangerous (see the phobia of the bats, chiroptophobia), the phobia prevents to look at them and to touch them. Fear of cats (garlicophobia) is often combined with an allergy. It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte and Julius Caesar suffered from it. For Dr. Roland Coutanceau, this focus on an animal has a fetishistic dimension: “The animal is then an” exciting repellent “, the person assigning him a psychic over representation. Through him, she touches on the very essence of her anxiety.


● The phobia of blood

Sometimes we find together in the same family all fears related to the disease, say nosophobia (phobia of blood, stings, medical procedures and even white coats!). In this category, the phobia of blood (hematophobia) is specific because it most often causes the person to faint. “We noticed that most of the people suffering from this phobia were women,” notes Dr. Mirabel-Sarron, “and they also very often have mothers with the same problems. There is thus a particular transmission of blood phobia, different from other anxiety disorders, with genetic factors possibly borne by the female chromosomes and involved in the associated cardiovascular reactions. ”

Read about Eremophobia

● The fears of childhood

We have all known them: fear of the dark, big animals, witches in the fairy tales … Clowns or dolls often trigger real terrors among the little ones. “Because of their fixed or very make-up faces,” says Dr. Antoine Pelissolo. The emotions are impossible to decode for the child, which is a great source of anxiety. “These anxious reactions, sometimes very strong, are considered as part of the normal psychological development of the child. They even have an adaptive function to the unknown, to otherness, and we have been able to establish a chronology: at 2 years, the phobias of certain animals appear, at 4/5, those of burns by fire , drowning … However, when some of them persist or take exceptional forms (phobia of the hot water, to die), it is advisable to consult. The same applies to school phobia (see box at the end of the article).

➔ The most modern

● Social phobias

At times very frequent and sometimes very disabling. “In this category, it is the fear of the look and the judgment of the other who wins,” says Dr. Roland Coutanceau. Behind, there is almost always a deep sense of self-esteem. “Fear of the other, perceived as an aggressor, but also exclusion when it comes to a group. Shyness is the most shared form, which can range from having difficulty speaking in public to refusing to meet new people. The anxiety disorder then manifests itself before the test (the jitters), during (inability to communicate, stuttering), but also after, when the phobic is hammered with reproaches because it has never “done well enough”. The Ereuterophobia (fear of blushing in public) is common and rests on a fear of not having control over his blushes, the visibility of his emotions, etc. The fear of ridicule is also present behind many social anxieties. For this type of phobia, group therapy is particularly recommended.

● Agoraphobia

These complex phobias are among the most crippling: people refuse to leave their homes and find themselves in transport or deserted streets. “Moreover, these phobics necessarily consult little, adds Dr. Antoine Pelissolo. They really have a hard time coming to the hospital! “Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a big space or in a public place” if something suddenly happens “. (see page 91). Many situations can then become phobogenic: crossing a long bridge, walking alone in nature … “The fear common to all agoraphobia is the general fear of emptiness, which is associated with a fear of being afraid,” says Dr. Christine Mirabel-Sarron. In its exact opposite, claustrophobia, quite common (5% of the population would suffer), rests on a fear of suffocation, closed places. Gradual immersion, and accompanied, in the dreaded places is recommended.

● The phobia of the plane

The mediatization of large air crashes did not help: 23% of frequent travelers fear the plane, while 9% of French people never take it because of this fear. Aerodromophobia, with the terror of traveling by train or sailing, belongs to the category of transport phobias. Many airlines now offer training courses “antipeur” framed by psychologists, which would help to free themselves from this disorder. The person is installed in a plane at a standstill, then a flight simulator is activated and turbulence is staged … “However, we can have a terror of the plane at different levels, or all together, says Dr. Roland Coutanceau. The terror of being unable to leave the cabin is claustrophobia;

The phobia of blood

➔ Most recent

● The phobia of mouth noises

More and more people are complaining that they can not handle chewing or swallowing their neighbor. But we can not speak of fear. “It’s more of an obsessive anxiety,” says Dr. Antoine Pelissolo. Some people are even afraid of stomach gurgles, theirs but also those of others! One is then in a form of social rejection, as for the phobia of the noises of neighborhood: as I do not control my territory, the other disturbs me.

● The fear of being afraid (phobophobia)!

It belongs more to the performance anxiety that tends to become widespread today. “We have more pressure and fewer benchmarks to accomplish things,” says Dr. Antoine Pelissolo. Therefore, even if the endogenous component does not change, the environment strongly influences our level of anxiety. ”

80% of children suffering from school phobia have been victims of psychological harassment or physical aggression in school.

To remedy the school phobia

About 4 to 5% of school children of all ages have anxiety disorders related to school. And 1% of them would suffer from an extreme form of this syndrome. They are said to be victims of “school phobia”. But the diagnosis remains difficult to make, parents tend to think, despite the vomiting, crying, the refusal to get up in the morning manifested by the child, he “pretended”. As for the professionals, they have to distinguish the academic refusal, which comes from a learning disorder, the absenteeism of convenience of a refusal really linked to too much anxiety. In the latter case, the child says he is willing to attend classes, he may even be good, but he just can not.

A survey conducted by an association of parents showed that 80% of children suffering from school phobia were victims of psychological harassment or physical aggression as part of the school. For the experts, school refusal is also to be considered in relation to the anxieties of separation born in early childhood and which are reactivated through schooling. The best treatments to date remain a TCC type of care or a family psychotherapy. In the first case, the child is encouraged to do other things, such as sending him bread and teaching him how to count the money, which allows him to develop his skills and confidence. In family therapy, the therapist seeks to uncover the rules and family issues hidden behind the child’s school problem.