Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 29, 2010

Writers Can You Use A Good Phobia?

Editors are always saying they like character-driven stories and how writers should strive to make their characters different.  In the past we have talked about writing up a profile for each character to help authors know them better. 

With that in mind, I thought you may want to think about throwing a few phobias into the mix of character traits.  Certainly an unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing your character tries to avoid would provide interest for your readers and a challenge for your protagonist to overcome.

Although phobias are largely underreported, the number of people who suffer from phobias is estimated at more than 6 million people in the United States. The average age that phobias begin is about 10 years of age.  Women tend to be twice as likely to suffer from a phobia compared to men.

There are hundreds, but here are a few to help spur and idea.

  • Ablutophobia – Fear of washing or bathing.
  • Acrophobia– Fear of heights – close to tall buildings.
  • Aerophobia – An abnormal and persistent fear of flying. Sufferers experience severe anxiety even though they usually realize that the flying does not pose a threat commensurate with their fear.
  • Agoraphobia An abnormal and persistent fear of public places or open areas, especially those from which escape could be difficult or help not immediately accessible.
  • Aichmophobia– Fear of needles or pointed objects.
  • Alektorophobia– Fear of chickens.
  • Altophobia– Fear of heights.
  • Arachnophobia An abnormal and persistent fear of spiders. Sufferers from arachnophobia experience undue anxiety even though they realize the risk of encountering a spider and being harmed by it is small or nonexistent. They may avoid going barefoot and may be especially alert when taking showers or getting into and out of bed. This phobia was exploited in a 1990 movie called Arachnophobia.
  • Ataxophobia– Fear of disorder or untidiness.
  • Batophobia – Fear of heights or being close to high buildings.
  • Chiraptophobia – Fear of being touched.
  • Claustrophobia An abnormal and persistent fear of closed spaces, of being closed in or being shut in, as in elevators, tunnels, or any other confined space. The fear is excessive (and quite common).
  • Coimetrophobia – Fear of cemetries
  • Coulrophobia – Fear of clowns.
  • Dentophobia– Fear of dentists.
  • Elurophobia– Fear of cats. (Ailurophobia)
  • Equinophobia– Fear of horses.
  • Ergophobia– Fear of work.
  • Felinophobia– Fear of cats. (Ailurophobia, Elurophobia, Galeophobia, Gatophobia)
  • Gelotophobia– Fear of being laughed at.
  • Gerascophobia– Fear of growing old.
  • Gerontophobia– Fear of old people or of growing old.
  • Helminthophobia– Fear of being infested with worms.
  • Hemophobia or Hemaphobia or Hematophobia– Fear of blood.
  • Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia– Fear of the number 666.
  • Hierophobia– Fear of priests or sacred things.
  • Hippophobia– Fear of horses.
  • Homichlophobia– Fear of fog.
  • Hominophobia– Fear of men.
  • Hydrophobia– Fear of water
  • Hylophobia– Fear of forests.
  • Laliophobia or Lalophobia– Fear of speaking.
  • Melissophobia– Fear of bees.
  • Microphobia– Fear of small things.
    Misophobia or Mysophobia– Fear of being contaminated with dirt or germs.
  • Musophobia or Muriphobia– Fear of mice.
  • Mycophobia– Fear or aversion to mushrooms.
  • Mycrophobia– Fear of small things.
  • Myctophobia– Fear of darkness.
  • Myrmecophobia – Fear of ants.
  • Nebulaphobia – Fear of fog. (Homichlophobia)
  • Necrophobia – Fear of death or dead things.
  • Obesophobia – Fear of gaining weight. (Pocrescophobia)
  • Ochlophobia – Fear of crowds or mobs.
  • Ophidiophobia – Fear of snakes. (Snakephobia)
  • Ophthalmophobia – Fear of being stared at.
  • Ornithophobia – Fear of birds.
  • Paraskavedekatriaphobia – Fear of Friday the 13th.
  • Pediophobia– Fear of dolls.
  • Pedophobia– Fear of children.
  • Peladophobia– Fear of bald people.
  • Phalacrophobia– Fear of becoming bald.
  • Phasmophobia– Fear of ghosts.
  • Ranidaphobia– Fear of frogs.
  • Rupophobia – Fear of dirt.
  • Scoleciphobia – Fear of worms.
  • Scolionophobia – Fear of school.
  • Scotophobia – Fear of darkness. (Achluophobia)
  • Scriptophobia – Fear of writing in public.
  • Selachophobia – Fear of sharks.
  • Sinistrophobia – Fear of things to the left or left-handed.
  • Sinophobia – Fear of Chinese, Chinese culture.
  • Sitophobia or Sitiophobia – Fear of food or eating. (Cibophobia)
  • Spectrophobia – Fear of specters or ghosts.
  • Spermatophobia or Spermophobia – Fear of germs.
  • Taphephobia Taphophobia – Fear of being buried alive or of cemeteries
  • Theatrophobia – Fear of theatres.
  • Tonitrophobia – Fear of thunder.
  • Triskaidekaphobia – Fear of the number 13.
  • Verminophobia – Fear of germs.
  • Wiccaphobia – Fear of witches and witchcraft.
  • Xenophobia – Fear of strangers or foreigners.
  • Zoophobia An abnormal and persistent fear of animals.

If left untreated, a phobia may worsen to the point where the person’s life is seriously affected by the phobia and by attempts to avoid or conceal it, leading to problems with personal health, friends and family, failures in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope.

Phobias tend to run in families, can be influenced by culture and parenting style, and can be triggered by life events.  Symptoms of phobias often involve panic attacks.

If you don’t like phobias, you can always try an anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Talk Tomorrow,



  1. I don’t see my top two phobias on this list. I’m afraid of:
    1. leaving the iron plugged in.
    2. Christopher Walken.


    • LOL Ame! I think my worst fear is losing my mind along with my house keys and eyeglasses ’cause the chances are I would eventually find the keys and glasses, but the mind would be gone forever! 😉

      And yes, this is a year behind, but that goes to show you all the catching up I have to do on Kathy’s blogs! 🙂


  2. I agree, phobias can be fun! (-;

    My main character in the novel I’m working on is recovering from hydrophobia – fear of water. Hey, it’s book II, she has to get over it!

    Personally, I love water.
    As far as my own fears, I have to agree with Ame!
    Christopher Walken—shiver shiver, shake shake shake!


  3. Intereesting way to create interesting characters.



  4. I just wrote a strong story idea about gerascophobia before googling about it at all.I tried to search for novels on it but I can’t find any.I would love to know a lot about it a part from the ones I have discovered.


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