Everyone is afraid of something. Whether these fears are rational or a product of some long buried trauma can vary from person to person. Whatever the root cause, many people all over the world experience the same fear for various reasons. Year-to-year the exact percentages can fluctuate, but what people are afraid of rarely does. Those who fear both #1 and #8 on this list are encouraged to avoid the movie “Snakes on a Plane.” For that matter, so is everyone else.
It is probably a good rule of thumb to follow: if it scares Indiana Jones, it scares me. And so, like Dr. Jones, we find ourselves terrified of the reptiles we perceive to be slimy and sinister. In reality, most snakes are neither, but since one talked Eve into taking a bite of that damn apple, snakes have gotten a bad rep. It’s difficult to overcome Biblical prejudice and Harrison Ford.
2. Public Speaking
Most of us are self conscious enough when we leave the house, often perceiving that people are watching us, judging us for a fashion faux pas or some extra holiday weight around the middle. So imagine the tension if all eyes really are on you? This popular fear leads to an equally popular bit of advice: just imagine your whole audience is naked.
Everyone has experienced a case of vertigo now and then, but only those who suffer from a legitimate fear of heights can truly understand exactly how unsettling it can be. Interestingly, there is no set limit for how high is too high – a person with a fear of heights could have an equally intense reaction from the top of a mountain, the top of an escalator, or the top of a ladder. Worst vacation ideas for those that suffer a fear of heights would include tours of the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, and the London Eye.
4. Enclosed spaces
Fear of enclosed spaces, or claustrophobia, plagues most people, even those that would not readily list it as their greatest fear. Simple, every day experiences like riding the elevator to your office can leave many feeling both shaken and stirred. The extreme end of the claustrophobic spectrum leads to vivid nightmares of being buried alive, which is disturbing enough to scare anyone.
5. Spiders and insects
Arachnophobia is the irrational fear of spiders. Millions of people suffer from it. There’s a very good reason why big Hollywood horror movies often feature gross-out scenes stuffed to the gills with creepy crawlies. Most people are freaked out by things that have twice as many limbs as they do. Even harmless insects can give you a full body shiver. It isn’t the fear of being bitten by something poisonous, after all, that causes our bug-ban.
Anyone who was traumatized by their immunization shots at as a child can easily understand the aversion many feel to making that yearly check up to the doctor. As soon as the words “blood” and “draw” are uttered, those with intense fear of needles start flipping through their mental Rolodex of excuses why today isn’t a good day. Sufferers do not find acupuncture a relaxing, de-stressing healing technique.
Ironic, isn’t it, that one of the most beloved characters of all time is Mickey Mouse, but shrink him down to life size and he represents a rodent that invokes irrational, mind numbing terror in many. Interestingly, when you separate the data culled by men and women instead of people as a whole, mice terrify women significantly more than they terrify men, indicating that the cliché of a housewife standing on a stool shrieking may not be as outdated as some feminists would like to claim.
Millions of dollars in prescription drugs. Self-help books and behavior modification audio CDs. Enough tiny bottles of alcohol to intoxicate a herd of elephants. These are just a few of the coping mechanisms employed by those who are terrified of taking flight on an airplane. This particular fear can stand alone, or be incorporated with a few of the other greatest fear hits, such as heights, or claustrophobia. Travelers aware of their fear are encouraged to never fly un-medicated as a courtesy to their fellow passengers.
They may be man’s best friend, but dogs also embody a certain amount of fear. Usually linked to traumas surrounding an attack in childhood, fear of dogs can plague people well into adulthood. Unfortunately, a dog that is prone to attack will only be encouraged to do so by your panicked countenance, making this particular fear one of the most legitimate. People in this classification may find the classic Disney film “Old Yeller” surprisingly uplifting.
10. Thunder and Lightning
Many small children are afraid of storms; surprisingly, this is not something everyone grows out of. While the explanation or thunder and lightning is perfectly rational, the fear remains ingrained in many adults. The idea that “God must be bowling” is of little comfort to those who are currently cowering beneath their blankets, praying for daylight.