What are different types of phobias?

Anyone can experience a fear or phobia about anything. Many phobias have names, some you will not ever have heard of. Ever wondered what is the phobia of long words? Ironically is it hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – it’s like a deliberate wind-up.


You will find many other phobias with names if you search, for example:

  • Chaetophobia, a fear of hair.
  • Oikophobia, a fear of houses.
  • Ablutophobia, a fear of washing or bathing.

We often group fears and phobias together or use the two words interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two.

So, what is a phobia?

A phobia is more extreme than a fear. If you have a fear of flying, you might book a flight and then worry about it until you land on the other side. If you have a phobia of flying, you will not book a flight no matter what anyone says or does. I once worked with someone that had previously booked a family holiday but struggled to overcome their feelings on arrival at the airport and went home leaving the family to take the holiday without him. I would say he was somewhere in the middle of the fear–phobia spectrum.

Put simply, a phobia is an irrational or extreme fear of/or aversion to something.

If you have a phobia, you will organise your life to avoid the thing that causes your worry. Some phobias appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and can receive a formal diagnosis of phobic disorder. The DSM lists seven conditions that combine to meet the diagnostic criteria for specific phobia.

  1. Fear or anxiety about something specific.
  2. The situation or object must always provoke fear or anxiety immediately.
  3. The object or situation is actively avoided or only endured with intense fear or anxiety.
  4. The anxiety or fear is out of proportion to the actual danger.
  5. The feelings are persistent – typically lasting for six months or more.
  6. The fear anxiety or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or affects social, occupational, or other important aspects of life.
  7.  The feelings do not relate to or are better explained by any other mental disorder.

The great news is that studies show hypnosis to be a powerful and successful method for inhibiting the reaction of the fear circuitry structures. Specifically, studies by Ulrike Halsband and Thomas Gerhard Wolf (cited below), demonstrate a significant reduction in dental phobias under hypnosis.

What is fear?

Fear is the natural response to the presence of danger or a threat of harm. When your brain perceives something as a threat to your life it will switch into the fear response. This you may know as the fight or flight response. Your body will prepare to run or fight to save your life.

The feelings associated with the fight or flight response are the same as the symptoms of anxiety. The fight or flight response is naturally a quick response to get you out of the face of danger rapidly. The response should then subside, and your body return to its default state. When your fear of something specific becomes so strong you start to fear the fear and therefore avoid it, your fear moves into phobia territory.

Top of red circus tent with fairy lights

What is social phobia?

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder is an unusually heightened worry about social situations. The fear is a specific fear of judgement or scrutiny by others. Ironically, it is the worry of exhibiting the symptoms of anxiety that you fear judgement of.

When you feel social phobia, you avoid social situations or endure them with intense fear or anxiety. The feelings of anxiety in social situations are typical of general anxiety (amongst others):

  • A racing heart.
  • Sweating.
  • Breathing changes or difficulties.
  • Digestive issues.
  • Tightness in your muscles (including your chest).

What is the phobia of clowns called?

How often have you heard someone saying they don’t like clowns? I hear it a lot, at children’s birthday parties or when the circus comes into town. Bizarrely these funny faced creatures are entertainment for children! The phobia of clowns is coulrophobia. Some popular films cast the 'baddie' as a clown. It is this portrayal of clowns as evil and frightening that contributes to fears and phobias of clowns. 

Sometimes a child finds themselves in a situation with a clown, at a birthday party for example, in which they feel terror whilst unable to escape. This trauma is likely to cause a phobia of clowns going forwards. 

What does phobia mean?

Put simply, a phobia is an irrational or extreme fear of/or aversion to something. The fear is persistent, and you seek to avoid the thing or situation that you fear. Some phobias are more life-limiting than others. If you feel a fear in your life is starting to morph into a phobia and affect your life or you have a phobia that is preventing you from enjoying life as you deserve, please know that a few sessions with a hypnotherapist will help you live a more comfortable life.

When you use hypnosis to overcome a fear or phobia the hypnotherapist will first get to know you and how the phobia affects your life. Your therapist will choose their preferred therapeutic modality to help your brain recognise your fear as safe. You might spend time working on the bodily response to fear. Some therapists will spend time in the past dissecting the root cause of the fear to give your brain time to reprocess the original experience. Other therapy sessions will focus solely on the future, giving you techniques to feel safe in the face of your previous fear. 

If you feel you're ready to reach out for support with your phobia, feel free to drop me a message.


Halsband, U. and Wolf, T.G., 2015. Functional changes in brain activity after hypnosis in patients with dental phobia. Journal of Physiology-Paris, 109(4-6), pp.131-142.

Halsband, U. and Gerhard Wolf, T., 2019. Functional changes in brain activity after hypnosis: Neurobiological mechanisms and application to patients with a specific phobia—Limitations and future directions. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 67(4), pp.449-474.

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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