Unusual phobias

Claire Bennett
Author: Claire Bennett Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

Most of us are familiar with common phobias, such as fear of spiders (arachnophobia), heights (acrophobia), or blood (hemophobia or hematophobia). But there are a multitude of more unusual specific phobias you may not be aware of, some of which are outlined below.

unusual phobias

What are phobias?

A specific phobia is a type of anxiety disorder involving an intense fear of an object or situation.

We all feel fearful sometimes, but a fear becomes a phobia if it:

  • Is ‘irrational’, meaning the level of fear or anxiety experienced is disproportionate to the actual level of danger or threat posed
  • Lasts for more than six months
  • Has a significant impact on your daily life. [1]

People with specific phobias become very distressed when confronted with the object or situation they fear and will often go to great lengths to avoid it. [2]

How common are phobias?

In the US, data shows:

  • An estimated 9.1% of US adults (aged 18 and over) had a specific phobia in the past year – prevalence is higher among females (12.2%) than males (5.8%). [3]
  • An estimated 12.5% of US adults experience specific phobias at some time in their lives. [3]

In any given week in England, 2 in 100 people report having a phobia [4].

15 unusual phobias and ‘faux’-bias

Phobias can be serious and potentially debilitating mental health problems. Misinformation and misunderstanding still surround phobias, which can make people living with a phobia feel that their condition is trivialized or even mocked. Below are some examples of some rare, but genuine phobias and a couple suspected of being made-up (faux) phobias.

1. Amaxophobia (fear of driving or being driven)

Also known as hamaxophobia, amaxophobia is a fear of driving or being a passenger in a vehicle such as a car or a bus. People with this phobia will feel anxious in certain situations and might avoid them, potentially affecting their social life and work. They might fear having an accident and being injured or killed, getting lost (especially alone), or getting stuck in traffic. Those with amaxophobia have often been involved in road traffic accidents and may also have another diagnosis, such as PTSD. Amaxophobia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and virtual reality exposure therapy. [5]

2. Anatidaephobia (fear of a duck watching you)

Anatidaephobia is a fear that a duck is watching you. It’s not recognized as a phobia in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) most recently published Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5), but the fear of ducks is covered under ‘ornithophobia’ – a fear of birds. People with ornithophobia are likely to fear specific birds, such as chickens or pigeons, often following a problematic encounter.

3. Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth)

Arachibutyrophobia refers to the fear of a very specific object and situation – eating peanut butter and having it get stuck to the roof of your mouth. It is thought to be related to fear of choking (pseudodysphagia) or of sticky textures. It is sometimes, but not always, related to peanut allergies.

4. Bananaphobia (fear of bananas)

Although considered a quick and healthy snack for many, people with bananaphobia experience anxiety at the sight, taste, and smell of bananas. Some people with bananaphobia won’t be able to identify when their phobia began and will change their behavior in order to avoid situations they find distressing. For example: getting off a train if a fellow passenger is eating a banana. [6]

5. Emetophobia (fear of being sick)

Emetophobia is the fear of feeling or being sick. Someone with emetophobia may become extremely distressed if they become unwell or see others vomiting. They may change their behavior. For example: avoiding crowded places due to fear of picking up stomach bugs or being sick in public, avoiding certain foods due to fear of food poisoning, or avoiding restaurants and only cooking one’s own food, often using a limited number of ingredients deemed to be ‘safe’. People with emetophobia often worry excessively about vomiting, though they are far less likely than the general population to be sick given the steps they take to protect themselves from it. [7] 

6. Globophobia (fear of balloons)

People with globophobia have a fear of balloons typically found at a child’s birthday party (but tend to be unaffected by hot air balloons). Some people are especially fearful of balloons popping or being popped. Although balloons can be avoided much more easily than other feared objects or situations, such as animals or elevators, this phobia can still have a serious impact on those who experience it. [8]

7. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (fear of long words)

The ironically named hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia relates to a fear of long words. An aversion to long words tends to be more common in people with dyslexia or those who experienced embarrassment or shame at mispronouncing long words while reading aloud in public. Thought to be coined by a poet in 2000, this is an amusing wordplay, rather than a treatable psychiatric condition. [9]

8. Koumpounophobia (fear of buttons)

People with koumpounophobia may feel anxious, distressed or fearful at the sight, sound or texture of buttons on clothes. People with this phobia will sometimes avoid clothing with buttons, instead opting for items with zippers or Velcro fastenings. But unfortunately avoiding buttons altogether is much more of a challenge. Thankfully button phobia is treatable with therapy.

9. Pedophobia (fear of children and babies)

Pedophobia is a fear of small children. It could be related to a traumatic experience involving an infant or child, and you may be more at risk of developing it if you already have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – particularly if it relates to fears of contamination – or mysophobia (fear of germs) may be more at risk of developing pedophobia. Pedophobic people feel anxious or fearful when they see children or are around them, but it can be treated with exposure therapy and CBT. [10]

10. Phobophobia (phobia or phobias or fear of fears)

Phobophobia is an intense fear of phobias and the symptoms often associated with them, such as heart racing, rapid breathing, excessive sweating, or dizziness. Unfortunately, this phobia can be self-fulfilling, in that people with phobophobia are more likely to experience phobic symptoms of an existing phobia (including anticipatory anxiety) and are also more likely to develop a new phobia, compared to the general population.

11. Pupaphobia (fear of puppets, dummies,and marionettes)

People with this phobia fear puppets, dummies, and marionettes. As with pediophobia (fear of dolls), it’s more common in children, but adults can be affected too. Like other phobias, there are thought to be both genetic and environmental causes to pupaphobia, and popular culture (scary movies featuring evil puppet characters) could be a contributory factor too.

12. Somniphobia (fear of sleep)

You’ve likely heard of insomnia (difficulties getting to and staying asleep) but people with somniphobia fear falling asleep. It’s more common in people with PTSD and those who have other sleep disorders that affect people during sleep, such as sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, or night terrors. People may fear sleep due to fear of dying in their sleep. Somniphobia can be treated with talk therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR) , which is a treatment often offered to people who have experienced trauma.[11]  

13. Toilet phobia

Toilet phobia includes fear of urination, defecation, fear of using public toilets, fear of not being near any toilets when out, and experiencing a ‘shy bladder’ (not being able to urinate even when your bladder is full). Toilet phobia can be treated with different types of talk therapy, including CBT, gradual exposure therapy, hypnotherapy, anxiety medication, and relaxation and meditation techniques. [12]

14. Trypophobia (fear of holes in a pattern)

People with trypophobia experience feelings of anxiety, repulsion or disgust at the sight of patterns with lots of holes. Some examples of the types of objects that can illicit this response include honeycombs, sponges, sunflowers, and seeded fruits. [13]

15. Zoophobia (fear of an animal)

This phobia relates to the fear of a specific animal. Someone who is zoophobic may feel panicky, revolted, and anxious about seeing their feared animal. People with this phobia can go on to develop related phobias, such as fear of fur or in extreme cases, agoraphobia (fear of situations where it’s difficult to escape). [14] 


Phobias can be treated with various types of therapy and medication. However, people with certain phobias might find it especially difficult to ask for, or access, help. For example, people whose anxieties are triggered by situations involving healthcare professionals, medical settings, making phone calls, or leaving the house. If these types of issues affect you, you could consider things like asking a trusted friend for help, making an appointment at a quiet time, and preparing what you want to say to your doctor in advance. [15]

Treatment for a phobia will vary depending on the type of phobia. However, it will often involve therapy, such as CBT, dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT), or gradual exposure therapy.

In exposure therapy, you are asked to confront your feared object or situation in gradually more challenging scenarios. For example: if your phobia is arachnophobia, you might start by being in the same room as a spider and over time work up to holding one in your hand.

Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to put you in a state of deep relaxation to access subconscious beliefs, thoughts, and memories, with the aim of changing habits and the way you respond to your feared object or situation. [15]

Virtual reality therapy can help people with phobias, using a ‘game’ to simulate situations you fear, such as flying, heights, using public transport, or getting into elevators. [16]

If your phobia causes you severe anxiety, you might be offered the same types of psychiatric medication prescribed for people with anxiety disorders, such as antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers. [15]

  1. What is a phobia? Mind. Retrieved August 25, 2023 from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/phobias/about-phobias/
  2. Specific phobias. Penn Psychiatry. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/phobias_symptoms.html
  3. Specific phobia. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia
  4. McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R and Brugha T. Published 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20180328140249/http:/digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748
  5. Amaxophobia – Fear of Riding In A Car: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, & Tips – Common Phobias. (2022, February 15). https://common-phobias.com/amaxophobia/
  6. Living with my phobia of bananas. Mind (case study blog). Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/living-with-my-phobia-of-bananas/
  7. Emetophobia. Anxiety UK. Retrieved August 25, 2023 from https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/emetophobia/ 
  8. Globophobia. British Medical Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6652
  9. What is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia? BBC Science Focus Magazine. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/what-is-hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
  10. Medical Definition of Pedophobia. (n.d.). RxList. Retrieved October 25, 2023, from https://www.rxlist.com/pedophobia/definition.htm
  11. What is Somniphobia? (2022, January 12). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/somniphobia
  12. Toilet phobia fact sheet (Instant download). Anxiety UK. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/products/fact-sheet/fact-sheets-downloadable/toilet-phobia/
  13. Martínez-Aguayo, J. C., Lanfranco, R. C., Arancibia, M., Sepúlveda, E., & Madrid, E. (2018). Trypophobia: What Do We Know So Far? A Case Report and Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00015
  14. Zoophobia. Anxiety UK. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/zoophobia/
  15. Phobias – treatment for phobias. Mind. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/phobias/treatment/
  16. North M M, North S M, Coble J R. Virtual reality therapy: an effective treatment for phobias. Studies in health technology and informatics. 1998; 58:112-9. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10350911/
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Claire Bennett
Author Claire Bennett Writer

Claire Bennett is a medical writer with 14+ years of experience with a (B.Sc.) degree in Psychology from the University of Sheffield.

Published: Oct 25th 2023, Last edited: Oct 25th 2023

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Oct 25th 2023