The UK’s most common phobia revealed – and it’s not spiders, needles or the dark | The Sun

THE most common phobia in the UK has been revealed.

Lots of us have a fear of something, whether it be spiders, the dark or needles.

And a survey by YouGov  has revealed that, of the 10 phobias asked about, almost a quarter of Brits (23 per cent) say they have a phobia of heights.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a phobia is “an extreme fear or dislike of a particular thing or situation, especially one that is not reasonable”.

A further 29 per cent of respondents said they were either very or somewhat scared of heights.

It means more than half of people are not fans of being too far from the ground.


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The medical term for fear of heights is acrophobia, and it doesn’t need to be a skyscraper building to trigger panic.

Just climbing a ladder can be fear-inducing for sufferers.

The survey found the second most common phobia is spiders (21 per cent), followed by public speaking (15 per cent).

A phobia is more than just being scared. It is an exaggerated sense of danger about a situation or object, the NHS says.

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It is therefore a type of anxiety disorder, and can cause symptoms of dizziness, nausea, sweating, increased heart rate, shortness of breath or upset stomach.

Some people can live with their "irrational fears".

But "if a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety", the NHS says. 

The survey showed that women are more likely to have each of the 10 phobias listed.

Some 57 per cent of women admit to a fear of heights compared to 46 per cent of men.

Almost twice as many women (26 per cent) are scared of spiders than men (15 per cent).

Researchers have theorised that women are more scared of spiders because they either are inherently more fearful of dangerous animals, or have learned to fear spiders from their female family members.

Phobias can be taken on by children who watch their siblings or parents panic in response to objects or situations.

This, along with an incident or traumatic event, are among the root causes of a phobia. 


Georgina Sturmer, a counsellor based in Hertfordshire, told The Sun: “Everyone’s fears and phobias are different and it’s not always easy to pinpoint the exact cause.  

“It could be the result of something that you have directly experienced or that you have witnessed or the result of an event that you have been told about.

"It could be the result of messages that you have internalised from other people, for example ‘we are all scared of spiders in this family, aren’t we?’”

A fear of heights may be linked with a childhood memory of being up high and feeling vulnerable, says Georgina. 

She added: "It often goes hand in hand with claustrophobia and/or fear of flying.

"These are all linked with worries and anxieties about being trapped and being out of control."

How is a phobia treated?

Most phobias can be treated when a person is referred by their GP to a specialist with expertise in behavioural therapy, such as a psychologist.

Simple phobias are often tackled with desensitisation, otherwise known as exposure therapy. 

A person is repeatedly and gradually exposed to the object or situation that causes them anxiety.

For someone with heights, this might involve looking at photos of tall buildings, then watching videos from them, before doing tasks such as walking over a bridge.

More complex phobias need counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – which helps develop coping strategies for when negative thinking patterns arise.

Hypnotherapy helps to reprogram responses, while more general counselling or therapy explores the root cause.  

Everyday coping strategies around breathing, mindfulness, distraction, visualisations are also useful, Georgina said.

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She added: "I’ve found that the ‘five finger breathing’ technique often works for people.

"Understanding the reality of the fear, the facts and figures – how likely it is that they might fall or become injured – is also good."

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