Spiders, teenagers, sleep, rain, and chickens are but a few examples of what can really frighten people around the world - enough so that people can suffer from phobias of them. Phobias are characterised by strong, irrational fears of something that in reality are little to no threat at all. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder and specific phobias are what we refer to when someone has, for example, an extreme fear of chickens (Alektorophobia).
Ailurophobia is the irrational and often intense fear of cats. A person with ailurophobia may demonstrate extreme anxiety when seeing or thinking about cats, no matter how cute they are. They will likely avoid visiting friends who have cats or stay away from those co-workers who constantly talk about everything to do with their pets, from cat food to cat insurance. In severe cases, people can even refuse to leave their house to avoid just the chance of seeing cats out in the world.
While the list of specific phobias is potentially nonexhaustive, we created a list of all known phobias to explore where in the world these phobias are most frequent. We investigated Google searches from around the world to show you what each country is most afraid of when it comes to irrational fears, which animal they are most afraid of, and which unusual phobias each country exhibits.
If someone with a specific phobia finds themselves in a stressful situation relating to their phobia, they'll more than likely experience the symptoms of a panic attack, including rapid heartbeat, hyperventilating, feeling hot and sweaty, and feeling sick. While it may seem irrational to someone without a phobia, we should all be respectful that phobias are real anxiety disorders that often cause unpleasant experiences for the sufferer. Specific phobias are actually fairly common, with approximately 7 to 10% of the world’s population suffering from a specific phobia.
61.67% of the World’s countries on our list reported Agoraphobia as their most searched for phobia. Agoraphobia is a social phobia commonly understood as the fear of public spaces and crowds, however, Agoraphobia is actually a more complex condition that covers an irrational fear of being in a situation or place in which you feel trapped, embarrassed, or helpless, and can even be so severe that sufferers cannot leave their own homes.
Xenophobia, the fear of strangers or foreigners, is the second most common phobia in the world with 19.17% of countries reporting it as their most searched for phobia. Xenophobia includes the fear of anything strange or foreign, not just people.
Claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces or of being confined. People with claustrophobia can experience anything from mild to severe anxiety when in a confined space. The most common experience is a feeling or fear of losing control. Claustrophobia sufferers will often avoid confined spaces such as lifts, tunnels, tube trains, and public toilets.
Well ahead of any other animal phobia is arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Arachnophobia dominates the global leaderboard by being the biggest animal phobia in 78.33% of countries on our list. Some academic research suggests that arachnophobia is hard-wired into our psyche as a survival technique because venomous spiders have been a danger to our ancestors for millions of years.
Zoophobia comes in second place, with 11.67%. Zoophobia is an irrational fear of all animals in general, rather than any specific animal. It is often the case that a person with zoophobia will fear all or many types of animals, a fear that spreads across species and even breeds within the same species, like fluffy cats.
Cynophobia is the irrational fear of dogs and was the biggest animal fear in just 1.67% of countries, yet still makes it into our top three animal phobias. Triggers of cynophobia include seeing a dog, hearing a dog bark or growl, or even seeing a picture or watching a movie containing a dog.
Megalophobia is the fear of large things, such as buildings, statues, and vehicles. Megalophobia can also extend to large animals like elephants or whales and large open spaces like stadiums or theatres. People with megalophobia generally fear more than one kind of large object.
Ombrophobia is the fear of rain and is the second-highest reported unusual phobia on our list. Younger children are known to suffer from ombrophobia more so than adults. Some might fear weather conditions that accompany heavy rain and so this phobia can often be accompanied by several weather-related phobias such as the fear of lightning and thunder, fog, or flooding, and also the fear of drowning.
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliopho- bia, the irrational fear of long words, is the most common unusual phobia in the US, with 18 states searching for this phobia the most each month. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliopho- bia is considered a social phobia and can result when a person experiences a hard time learning words as a child leading them to panic when they see long words.
Hover over each phobia to reveal it’s definition
Agoraphobia and arachnophobia are the biggest phobia and biggest animal phobia for all US states and the US as a whole. Each state, however, did show some interesting data when it came to some of the more unusual phobias on our list.
Those that suffer from Hippopotomonstrosesquippedalioph- obia often experience a great deal of anxiety when they encounter long words, making it particularly ironic that the scientific name for this phobia is such a long one.
Philophobia is a fear of falling in love. Philophobia covers fears of getting into relationships and fears of not being able to maintain a relationship. Many people experience a minor fear of falling in love at some point in their lives but people with philophobia have strong irrational fears of falling head over heels for someone.
Somniphobia is the fear surrounding the thought of going to bed, also known as sleep anxiety or sleep dread. Sufferers can worry about getting to sleep at night all throughout the day. The frequency of nightmares or sleep paralysis can contribute to sleep-related anxiety.
Using Google’s Keyword Planner we explored search data for a curated list of all known phobias (using lists from Healthline and The Recovery Village), using their real name (e.g. arachnophobia) along with their definition (e.g. fear of spiders). We recorded the most searched for phobia and the most searched for animal phobia. For the most unusual phobia, we recorded what we felt was the strangest phobia that had a relatively high search request for each country and state compared to the rest of the phobias listed.
For whole countries, however, this happened to be either megalophobia or ombrophobia. While there were stranger phobias in these countries, their search data was often significantly less than these other two weird phobias and so were not recorded. For US states there was a lot more equality between the search data for more weird phobias and so we were able to record a greater variety when looking within the USA compared to whole countries.