The 13th Floor

The Ten Most Common American Phobias (as Seen in Movies)

What are you afraid of? Come on, you can tell me.

There’s a wealth of things out there that can make your skin crawl and your heart shudder, and it’s likely that your fear is more common than you think: 6.3 million Americans have diagnosed phobias, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That statistic doesn’t even touch all the undiagnosed fears out there.

So, fellow fear-stricken citizen, let’s grab the smelling salts and examine the ten most popularly known phobias experienced by our fellow Americans…

[All statistics cited below courtesy of]



Lights flash and low booms rumble across the plains… if this description gets you antsy, you’ll find good company among the 2% of Americans diagnosed with brontophobia, or the fear of thunder and lightning, proving that “dark and stormy nights” still pack a punch among a large section of the population to this day.



If standing in the middle of an open plain sans thunder and lightning gives you the heebie-jeebies, you likely have agoraphobia, or the fear of open spaces. I believe that the 2.2% of Americans diagnosed as being agoraphobic are likely delighted with the “Netflix and Chill” trend. May your home delivery selections be ever-varied and abundant!



While agoraphobes are grooving on the influx of mellow meet-ups, to claustrophobes the “Netflix and Chill” trend may seem like the onset of a dating apocalypse. 2.5% of diagnosed Americans can’t stand the thought of being in confined spaces. I henceforth dub Houdini, famous escaper of many small spaces, the unofficial patron saint of the claustrophobes.



Soaring above the clouds may be a wonderful daydream for some, but it’s an absolute nightmare for the 6.5% of diagnosed Americans who suffer from aerophobia, or the fear of flying. Interesting fun fact: author Ray Bradbury had such intense aerophobia that he usually took trains to get where he needed to go. And who doesn’t like trains? I like trains.



When it comes to parties, a sociophobe can definitely cry if they want to… 7.9% of diagnosed Americans quiver when faced with the thought of interacting with people, or social situations in general. Approach sociophobes cautiously in the wild, preferably with your hands extended in front of you, offering soothing gifts like books or cardigans.



While trips to the top of the Empire State Building may seem incorrigibly romantic to many, 10% of Americans diagnosed with acrophobia may respond to this fun excursion with screams of terror. Acrophobia, or the fear of heights, kept Richard Gere’s character away from his penthouse windows in PRETTY WOMAN — oh, the plight of the social status-driven millionaire!



A fear by any other name is still as terrifying: 11% of Americans are diagnosed with the fear of the dark. This phobia has a handful of names — most of which mean generally the same thing, but just have different etymological roots. Achluophobia: keeping nightlight manufacturers in business since the dawn of time (I hear the “fire” prototype was pretty popular back then).



Despite our attempts to inoculate children against the fear of spiders, the 30.5% of Americans diagnosed with arachnophobia did not respond positively to the “itsy-bitsy” technique. If the eight-legged crowd leaves you cold, you’re not alone — this fear is so well-known, Hollywood couldn’t help naming a feature film after it.



68% of Americans are diagnosed with the fear of death. Considering the mystery and inevitability of our own mortality, this is hardly surprising. Necrophobia is a classic staple of horror — perhaps even the central spinal column of the phobia nervous system. Thus, the “Big Sleep” still manages to keep us awake at night.



Beating the fear of death with an astonishing 74% of Americans diagnosed, we thus informally crown glossophobia Miss American Fear. What? You’ve never heard of it? Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. If your seat of choice in an auditorium remains among the audience and not onstage, take comfort in the fact that a large portion of the crowd you’re sitting with feels exactly the same way.

[Is your own irrational fear a little more… well, irrational than these? You’re not alone… check out our list of ten very unusual but totally real phobias!]


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