Phobias in Media


Approximately one-third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia involves a fear of being alone in a situation or place where escape may be difficult. This type of phobia may include the fear of crowded areas, open spaces, or situations that are likely to trigger a panic attack. The disorder typically begins as a spontaneous and unexpected panic attack, which then leads to anxiety over the possibility of another attack happening. Due to this, individuals will begin to avoid triggering events, sometimes to the point where they cease leaving their house entirely.


Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias, affecting as many as 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men.

This extreme fear of spiders (and other eight-legged arachnids like scorpions) elicits a “disgust response” so aversive that individuals will avoid being near them altogether. For example, an individual may be afraid to go to their basement or garage because a spider may be present or if they encounter a spider, they may actually leave the house rather than deal with it. “When it causes such anxiety that it stops us from participating in activities that we want or need to do, or manifests itself in such a way that it can be physically and mentally debilitating, we know our fear of spiders has become irrational,” says Alan Manavitz, MD, clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC.


Mysophobia is thought to be closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder

Mysophobia (aka Germophobia) is the excessive fear of germs and dirt. People with mysophobia struggle to evaluate which situations are dangerous, as they feel worried or panicked when encountering daily scenarios that involve germs. As a result, they will take extensive measures to avoid contamination, or decontaminate themselves and the spaces they inhabit. Some of the behaviors demonstrated by those with the phobia include extreme cleaning, compulsive hand washing, avoiding physical contact with other people, overusing disinfectants and having a preoccupation with medical reports on illness outbreaks. Howie Mandel is another great example as he is one of the more famous victims of mysophobia and has spoken candidly about how the fear manifests in his life (i.e. his choice to shave his head and fist bump contestants on his game show, Deal or No Deal, rather than shake hands).


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that over 12% of adults in the US experience a specific phobia at some point in their lives.

Ornithophobia, or fear of birds, can take many forms – some individuals with the phobia fear only birds of prey (like vultures), while others are afraid of household pets (like parakeets). Like most phobias centered around animals, the onset of ornithophobia is typically caused by a negative encounter with the feared animal. This encounter can be direct (such as a childhood run-in with an aggressive seagull on the boardwalk bent on stealing French fries) or from observation (such as a child watching their parents get nervous when a bird flies through an open window into the home).


  • (video credit: YouTube)
  • Black, Rosemary. Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders and How to Overcome It. PSYCOM 2019.
  • Cherry, Kendra. 10 of the Most Common Phobias. Verywell Mind. 2019.
  • Fritscher, Lisa. Coping with Ornithophobia. Verywell Mind. 2019
  • Seladi-Schulman, Jill. Ornithophobia: What You Need to Know About Fear of Birds. Healthline 2019.
  • Smith Ph.D., Kathleen. Mysophobia (Germaphobia): The Fear of Germs. PSYCOM.