The most common phobias in the UK

When you have a phobia, you will experience severe anxiety if you think about or encounter the thing you fear. This anxiety will feel like a sense of panic or dread. Generally, the feeling is irrational and out of proportion to the actual threat posed. This phobia might feel life-limiting as you seek to avoid certain situations. 


Researchers have classified fears into three subsections - situational phobias, animal phobias, and mutilation phobias. 

Situational phobias

A situational phobia is when the fear is about a specific situation, for example, enclosed spaces, lightning, flying, darkness and heights. A situational phobia might appear after a bad experience that your brain connects with the situation.

The experience does not always have to be a direct connection. For example, you might get hit by a car in a tunnel - rather than connecting the car to the experience, your brain may connect the tunnel and create a phobia of tunnels.

Animal phobias

Animal phobias most often include spiders and snakes but there is a name for every animal fear, for example, the fear of cats is ailurophobia. Like all phobias, animal phobias might occur after a bad experience with the animal or you may learn it from someone else. For example, the natural learning pattern from parent to child suggests that if a parent experiences a phobia of spiders, their reactions teach the child that spiders are dangerous as a result the child feels the phobia too. 

As some animals pose a real threat to humans, a certain level of fear is necessary for self-preservation, therefore, some people believe that some animal phobias are innate and a human survival tool.

Mutilation phobias

Mutilation phobias are phobias of things such as dentists, injections and injuries. Mutilation phobias might involve an underlying fear of losing any part of your body structure, the thought of a body boundary invasion or losing the integrity of any body part, organ or natural function. 

Research studies show that around half of the people with a phobia can recall a past event, either real or imagined that they believe contributed to or caused their fear. Many others know that they learned their fear from parents or authority figures.

Common phobias in the UK

Although there is not an official list of the top phobias, one study found the most common phobias are spiders, bugs, mice, snakes and heights. When you feel the fear of a phobia your body is reacting in the same way as it does for someone who experiences anxiety. Your brain is working hard to keep you alive because it perceives the thing you fear as a threat to your life.

Dr Karl Albrecht is a coach who believes humans have five basic fears:

  1. Extinction - the thought of no longer being alive. This is an alternative way to describe a fear of death because, fundamentally, most of us believe that when we die we will either feel a release or nothing at all. This is not so scary. The thought of no longer being alive, however, is quite terrifying. 
  2. Mutilation - as per the above, the thought of your body being invaded or losing any typical human functioning is scary for most. The fear of needles is not always a fear of the needle itself - perhaps a needle is too invasive and crosses your body boundary, generating the fear response. 
  3. Loss of autonomy - similar to aspects of the fear of mutilation a fear of the loss of autonomy involves a fear of entrapment, being imprisoned or controlled by circumstances. The same as or similar to a feeling of claustrophobia physically or metaphorically.
  4. Separation - a fear of rejection, loss of connectedness or abandonment, a fear of becoming unwanted, not respected or valued by anyone else. 
  5. Ego death - this is a fear of shame, humiliation or something that threatens the integrity of the self. 

Hypnotherapy for phobias

According to Albrecht, all fears or phobias fall into one of the above categories. When you work with a hypnotherapist to overcome a phobia, the first step is to work out where your phobia sits in the above list.

A fear of flying for some is a fear of extinction whilst, for others, it is a fear of the loss of autonomy. It is important that your hypnotherapist understands your phobia to help you in the best way possible. 


Fredrikson, M., Annas, P., Fischer, H. and Wik, G., 1996. Gender and age differences in the prevalence of specific fears and phobias. Behaviour research and therapy, 34(1), pp.33-39.

Bourdon, K.H., Boyd, J.H., Rae, D.S., Burns, B.J., Thompson, J.W. and Locke, B.Z., 1988. Gender differences in phobias: Results of the ECA community survey. Journal of anxiety disorders, 2(3), pp.227-241.

Rimm, D.C., Janda, L.H., Lancaster, D.W., Nahl, M. and Dittmar, K., 1977. An exploratory investigation of the origin and maintenance of phobias. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 15(3), pp.231-238.

Karl Albrecht International

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Farnham, Surrey, GU9
Written by Juliet Hollingsworth, MSc
Farnham, Surrey, GU9

Juliet is a trauma-informed therapist. Her passion is helping people reach their potential through a combination of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and transpersonal psychology. Juliet works online and face to face with clients across the world. (DHP Clinical Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy. MSc Consciousness, Spirituality & Transpersonal psychology.)

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