Phobias belong to the class of mental disorders known as anxiety disorders. Phobia statistics show that they are rather common, especially among women. Far from being just irrational fears, phobias are complex conditions with significant consequences on the everyday life dynamics for the sufferers. 

Every one of us is at risk of developing a phobia; though some more than others. But, if you do develop one, what would you do? Fight or flight? Most certainly not flight if you are aerophobic! 

So, without further ado, here are some interesting stats and facts regarding phobias that might help you overcome your fears once and for all.

Top 10 Fascinating Facts and Statistics on Phobias

  • Phobias are the most common mental illness for women in the US.
  • The average age of onset of specific and social phobias is 15.
  • Agoraphobia is now considered a severe subtype of panic disorder.
  • Video game-like therapy for phobias is now available.
  • First-degree relatives to phobics have a 20 times higher chance of developing a phobia themselves.
  • 55% of the genes related to phobias overlap with those related to depression.
  • 1 in 6 people has aerophobia.
  • People with SAD are 7 times more likely to use cannabis regularly.
  • CBD attenuates the fear of public speaking.
  • Cannabidiol compares with diazepam in anxiolytic effects.

Statistics & Facts on Global Phobias

Phobia Statistics - Global

1. There’s an additional 3 percent of the population with phobias coming from Western countries. More than in any other part of the world.

(NCBI)

Countries with high and above-average middle income have a higher phobia incidence rate (8%) than low and lower-middle-income countries (5.7%). This trend is accurate for all types of phobias. For example, just 0.9% of Chinese fear blood, injuries, and medical experiences compared with 6% of Americans.

2. 66% of people with SAD have one or more additional mental health disorders.

(SPPE)

Social anxiety disorder/phobia is strongly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and agoraphobia with and without panic disorder.

The chance of occurrence of an additional mental disorder is proportional to the number of phobias that an individual has. Social phobia statistics suggest that 56% of the people that have five or six phobias have a mood disorder. Similarly, about 27% of those who have SAD have been found to have a comorbid mood disorder.

3. The average age of onset of specific and social phobias is 15.

(NCBI)

Different types of phobias have different ages of onset. For specific and social phobia this is early adolescence, whereas, for agoraphobia, OCD, PTSD, PD, and generalized anxiety disorder it’s 28 years. Phobia figures suggest a link between early phobia onset and more severe psychopathology, comorbidity, and higher rates of suicide.

4. Fear of heights is most frequent in women (aged 50–59), acrophobia statistics show.

(Researchgate.net) (NCBI) (NCBI)

Acrophobia is reported to be twice as likely in women than in men. Acrophobia definition cites extreme fear of heights, which is rare, but the milder form, called visual height intolerance (VHI) is believed to be present in 33% of people. 

The cross-national prevalence in 2017 was estimated at 2.8%. The lifetime prevalence of VHI is 28.5% (32.4% for women and 24.5% for men). The initial attacks occurred in their 20s in 36% of cases.

5. Phobophobia statistics show that individuals having this phobia are more likely to commit suicide.

(Very Well Mind)

Phobophobia or the fear of fear is often perceived as the reason behind the idiomatic anxiety disorders with occasional panic attacks. 

Phobophobia is often linked to other mental health disorders and is proven to be more present in those experiencing other types of phobias.

6. Agoraphobia is now considered a severe subtype of panic disorder.

(NCBI)

Genetic studies show that those who have first-degree relatives suffering from panic disorder (PD) have a higher chance of developing PD and agoraphobia. 

Agoraphobia and ochlophobia — or the fear of crowds — is more likely to occur in people whose close relatives suffer from agoraphobia and PD.  

7. What is the name given to the phobia (fear) of being embarrassed? It’s katagelophobia.

(Psychology Today)

Katagelophobia is the fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed in social interactions. As a subtype of SAD, most psychologists agree that this phobia’s origin has a lot to do with the society and culture in which the individual lives. 

Recent research shows that people living in Cambodia and Turkmenistan were the most likely to avoid others out of fear of being laughed at.

8. The majority of agoraphobics are older than 65.

(Psychiatry Advisor)

Looking at facts about phobias, it appears that the severity and duration of phobias are closely related to the time of their onset. If the phobia occurs during childhood, it will most likely diminish in severity and disappear, but life-long phobias have onset age around 25–30. 

Anxiety statistics show that most of the people who suffer from agoraphobia have it life-long. Approximately 10.4% of older adults in the US have agoraphobia with the most prominent syndrome — the fear of leaving the house.

9. Video game-like therapy for phobias is now available.

(Psychology Today)

One of the interesting facts about phobias is that they can be treated by a psychiatric aid called Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, or VRET. Namely, the desensitization of people to their 3-D lifelike phobias by exposure. 

VRET, the alternative to hypnotically-facilitated systematic desensitization, provides assistance in the treatment of acrophobia, claustrophobia, and aviophobia.

10. 1 in 6 people has aerophobia.

(Fear of Flying.com) (Psychology Today)

Desensitization — a method of treating phobia that uses minimal exposure to the feared situation or object/animal — can be quite effective, yet aerophobia is a whole different story. 

Consisting of two components — claustrophobia and the fear of in-flight panic — this disorder affects one in six people, as noted in flying phobia statistics. The key component in desensitization is the frequency of exposure which poses practical problems for fearful flyers;  flights last longer than the usual exposure time implied by this therapy.

11. First-degree relatives to phobics have a 20 times higher chance of developing a phobia themselves.

(NCBI)

Hereditary studies show that close relatives to someone suffering from phobias usually develop the same disorder. Twin studies suggest 44% heritability for panic disorder, 39% for agoraphobia and around 30% for specific phobias.

12. Depressing phobia statistics — 35% of people with SAD wait for 10 years to seek treatment.

(Very Well Mind) (Hindawi.com)

More than half of those suffering from SAD don’t seek treatment; in the US only 40% of people with SAD are under treatment. The very nature of this disorder disables sufferers from reaching out to seek professional help. 

Once they do, cognitive behavioral therapy is prescribed with a success rate of 80% in mild phobias. Severe phobias require additional medications that lead to true remission only in 30% of cases.

13. Pregnancy phobia facts: up to 78% of pregnant women report fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

(NCBI)

Research in the maternity population revealed an 8.4% prevalence of specific phobias and 1.5% phobias related to childbirth. This is about a 1% higher prevalence than the general population.

Overall, pregnancy disturbs the neuro-hormonal homeostasis in women and this is the main cause behind the development of these phobias. While phobias in pregnancy are much more frequent, the fear of pregnancy itself — tokophobia — is rare (0.032%).

14. 55% of the genes related to anxiety and phobias overlap with those related to depression, as per statistics on phobia.

(NCBI)

About 40% of people experiencing anxiety owe it to their genes; a specific personality trait called neuroticism. 

Depression is a related condition that shares more than half of the genes related to anxiety. Hence why depression is often present in individuals with phobias and other anxiety disorders.

15. Hypochondriasis is not a phobia, nosophobia is.

(Very Well Mind)

Hypochondriasis classification is not well-defined, but new research suggests it shares a lot of symptoms with anxiety disorders. The phobia definition includes the notion of irrationality, and this makes all the difference between the two conditions, as the analysis of the specific phobia statistics show.

Nosophobia is the fear of developing a deadly disease that appears randomly, without a clear trigger, while hypochondria is the fear that present symptoms may indicate the presence of a deadly illness.

Stats on Phobias in the US

Phobia Statistics - USA

16. Phobia is the most common mental illness for women in the US.

(Cambridge.org)

Stats suggest that 8.7–18.1% of Americans have phobias. Among women of all ages, phobias are the mental illness with the biggest prevalence, and the second most common in men, after substance abuse. Multiple phobias occur in 5.4% of women and 1.5% of men.

17. Only social phobia equally affects women and men in the US.

(Statista)

The most recurrent phobia, social phobia, is the only one that is equally prevalent in both genders, mental health statistics suggest. Other phobias and general anxiety disorder note significant gender disparities with the female population in the lead, as phobia statistics in America for 2012 suggest.

18. In 2012, there were 6,005 people (aged 26–49) with multiple anxiety disorders.

(Statista)

The biggest number of co-occurring or cumulative anxiety disorders were noted in the working population in the US for 2012. On the other hand, the biggest number of specific phobias, for the same year, was noted among the population of 50 and over.

19. Americans with higher incomes were twice as much agoraphobic than those on the poverty line.

(Statista)

Richer people tend to have a higher incidence of phobias. This is one of the rare fun facts about phobias and is especially evident in the statistical data of agoraphobic people in the US for the period 2008–2012 (a 307:145 ratio).

The reasons behind these trends are not quite clear, but similar tendencies for common fears and phobias are noted both worldwide and in the anxiety disorder statistics in the US, where the prevalence for phobias is 3 times higher for those gaining more than 200% of the poverty threshold.

20. 22.8% of adults and 8.3% of adolescents have a severe impairment linked to anxiety.

(NIH)

One of the common myths about phobias is that they are slightly exaggerated fears and not real illnesses. Consumption of approximately $6,475 in medication per person on an annual level say otherwise. Phobias and related anxiety disorders generate indirect and direct costs to societies around the globe with a higher incidence rate each year.

Marijuana for Phobia Stats & Facts

Phobia Statistics - CBD

21. People with SAD are 7 times more likely to use cannabis regularly.

(NCBI) (NCBI)

A 2016 study shows that adolescents with SAD had greater cravings for marijuana, using weed for phobia cure and as a coping mechanism. SAD had greater prevalence among solitary cannabis users as noted in the phobia statistics. Smoking marijuana attenuated phobia-related social avoidance and induced sociability.

22. THC promotes isolation but CBD induces friendliness.

(NCBI)

A recent animal study describes the opposite effects that THC and CBD have on social interaction in mice. While THC induced anxiety-like behavior and isolation, CBD when introduced prior to, or after, THC, countered this effect. This indicates that weed and social phobia are closely interlinked.

23. Repeated CBD administration has anxiolytic effects on late teenagers with SAD.

(Frontiers in Psychology)

A public speaking phobia is a specific phobia in people with SAD that provokes cognitive impairment and extreme discomfort. In a study that included simulated public speaking, 600 mg of CBD was administered to the SAD subjects (Japanese adolescents) with undisputable positive effects. CBD reduced anxiety symptoms, increased cognitive performance, and eased any discomforts. 

A clinically proven increase in brain activity in the right cortex (emotional regulation) is believed to be the reason behind this therapeutic effect.

24. CBD prevents the anxiogenic effects of long-term stress.

(Hindawi.com)

Medical research about phobia statistics using animal models points to the conclusion that the CB1 receptors for endocannabinoids, located in a specific area in the brain called the periaqueductal gray, play a big role in the anxiety-induced “flight” responses. 

These studies show that activation of this receptor by CBD promotes fear extinction in mice and has a preventive effect of the adverse anxiogenic consequences induced by long-term stress.

25. CBD increases blood flow to the regions of the brain responsible for SAD.

(Cambridge.org) (NCBI) (NCBI)

Animal and human studies using functional neuroimaging showed that CBD can modify cerebral blood flow in areas of the brain involved in anxiety, including the amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and cingulate cortex, adding some hope to phobia statistics

This way, it provides an anxiolytic effect for SAD sufferers; studies show that in patients with phobias and panic disorder this region has reduced activity and decreased blood flow.

26. Cannabidiol parallels diazepam in anxiolytic effects.

(NCBI)

A study involving behavioral and cardiovascular effects of CBD and diazepam in animals show that CBD has anxiolytic-like properties similar to those of diazepam. 

CBD has been shown to reduce the stress-induced cardiovascular response, allowing relaxation, with the exception of the addictive effects that diazepam provokes.

27. CBD acts like SSRIs, minus the addiction.

(Cambridge.org)

Since there is significant evidence suggesting a correlation between depression and anxiety disorders, phobia interesting facts and stats reveal that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are also effectively used to treat anxiety disorders. 

Following results from a 2018 study, CBD presented agonist activity towards serotonin receptors, elevating serotonin levels, much like SSRIs, in specific cerebral areas that are related to anxiety. This physiological activity ranks CBD as anxiolytic, which is effective for treating depression as well.

28. CBD promotes treatment-seeking in people with social anxiety.

(Frontiers in.org)

Despite the negative effects SAD has, it is very likely to be left without proper treatment in patients, especially in adolescents, social phobia statistics suggest. The very nature of SAD makes seeking treatment by interacting with others an improbable event, but a CBD study showed that CBD administration can make patients have a more positive and optimistic attitude towards seeking treatment. 

In this study, CBD-treated teenagers were increasingly seeking treatment like CBT or other consultations, not worrying as before, for the potential social stigma it brings.

FAQs

Phobia Statistics - FAQs

How many people have a fear of the dark phobia?

(No Sleepless Nights)

Nyctophobia is very common in children and is seen as a natural part of their development. In one survey, 17% of British adults admitted sleeping with a light on.

What is the #1 phobia?

(Medical)  (PSYcom.net)

Social phobia, or the fear of certain social situations is the most frequent phobia around the globe, affecting 2–5% of the global population.

The fear of public speaking or glossophobia, a specific form of social phobia is reported as the most frequent phobia, affecting an estimated 74% of people. Glossophobia and social anxiety disorder are closely linked but they are not necessarily the same thing. 

Acrophobia, arachnophobia, and necrophobia, ophidiophobia, are the next in line. 

Does everyone have a phobia?

(NCBI)

Every individual possesses certain fears, but phobias are considered an anxiety disorder; in other words, an overreaction that is disproportionate to the dangerousness of given situations, objects, animals, or people. 

Globally it is estimated that phobias affect 14.7–16.7% of people in Western countries and around 4.2–8.2% of people in the rest of the world.

What causes a phobia?

(Mind.org)

When phobias are concerned, there can be several causes for their onset; each can work individually, or in unison, leading to the development of a fully-fledged phobia. 

Simply put, some people have a genetic predisposition, some grew up with anxious people, others experienced long-term stress, traumas, and incidences that lead them to develop said phobias; overall, it varies from person to person.

How common is acrophobia?

(UPV) (Journal of Neurology)

Approximately 2–5% of the general population have a fear of heights, also known as acrophobia, characterized as a simple phobia, it usually develops during childhood.

A related, milder form of acrophobia, called visual height intolerance, is believed to affect up to one-third of the population. Acrophobia, like any other type of phobia, is more present in women than men.

Final Words

Phobias are a side effect of modernization, especially social phobias. 

While there are new treatment techniques involving CBT, hypnosis, and virtual reality, yet phobia medication often causes unwanted side-effects. On the other hand, cannabidiol shows excellent results in phobia statistics with its ability to balance the anxiogenic brain chemistry, reducing exacerbated reactions, attenuating isolation, and offering optimism for the fearful among us.   

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