Why So Many People Are Scared of These 10 Things

Some of our top fears include both emotional and physical threats. Here’s what you should know about fear.

What causes fear?

There aren’t that many things in this world that are inherently scary. An object only becomes an object of fear when a person decides that they view it as a threat. For example, many people are afraid of heights. Fair enough—one could fall and die if they’re on the thin edge of a tall cliff. However, there are also people who are afraid of things that aren’t life-threatening, like public speaking. Nevertheless, it is still a common fear. But why? Dana Dorfman, PhD, a clinical psychologist affiliated with New York University, says, “Common fears [and] phobias are a byproduct of one or more of the following causes: evolution, genetics, learned behavior, or trauma.”

What are the most common fears?

“Fear of heights (acrophobia), closed spaces (claustrophobia), and fear of illness [nosophobia] represent potential threats to our physical safety,” Dorfman notes. The same goes for things like fear of spiders (arachnophobia) and insects. But not all of the top fears have to do with physical threats. According to Dr. Dorfman, many of the most common fears are emotional fears, e.g. fear of public speaking or fear of abandonment, isolation, humiliation, shame, and sadness. The sources of phobias are diverse, and some might surprise you.

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