17 Top Things People Are Afraid of in the US

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By Jonathan Trent

Fear comes in many forms and can profoundly affect people’s lives, shaping thoughts, decisions, and behaviors and significantly impacting mental health and well-being. So, if you’re wondering what Americans are most scared of, here are the 17 most common fears in the US.

Public Speaking

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Amazingly, the fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, is the most common phobia in the world – even ahead of death! As Forbes estimates, around 75% of the population is affected by the condition, which often stems from fear of judgment, embarrassment, or failure during presentations and speeches.


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You probably know at least one person who suffers from acrophobia – the fear of heights. This common fear can trigger intense anxiety and panic attacks, preventing people from enjoying activities like hiking or climbing. Some experts link it to an evolutionary survival mechanism, but regardless of the reason, it can significantly impact daily life.


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Air travel is very stressful for Americans experiencing aviophobia, the fear of flying. This fear is often a result of hearing news about plane crashes, and if they’re passengers, these people may deal with extreme stress during turbulence despite evidence showing flying is one of the safest modes of transport.

Enclosed Spaces

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Claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed or tight spaces, is another common fear that affects a significant portion of the U.S. population. Situations such as riding in elevators, getting tested inside MRI machines, or being in crowded rooms can set off anxiety and lead to avoidance behaviors, which further perpetuate the cycle of fear.


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Spiders are famously more afraid of us than we are of them, but that fact doesn’t help much for people with arachnophobia. Being scared of spiders isn’t uncommon, and it’s thought to be evolutionary, seeing as some spiders are dangerous. For people with this fear, even the sight of a spider can cause distress.

Social Situations

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Social anxiety disorder is a long-term fear of social situations and is one of the most common mental health conditions, with Cleveland Clinic claiming that between 5% and 10% of people worldwide are affected. It can be debilitating, leading to an avoidance of social interactions and severely impacting personal and professional relationships. That’s sad.


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Germs are a part of life, but for people with mysophobia or a fear of germs, they can cause significant anxiety. People with this fear might excessively clean things, wash their hands, and avoid physical contact with others. These behaviors can lead to obsession and affect daily functioning, considering it’s constantly on their mind.


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A fear of failing can prevent people from pursuing goals, greatly reducing their quality of life. It’s rooted in low self-esteem and perfectionism; setting unattainably high standards and having an all-or-nothing mindset can cause serious stress, as rather than seeing failure as a way to learn and overcome, it’s seen as a disaster.


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VeryWell Health describes ophidiophobia as an extreme and irrational fear of snakes, which may or may not occur alongside herpetophobia—a fear of reptiles. Even though some snakes are actually dangerous, people with ophidiophobia may be afraid of all types of snakes and anything related to them, even similarly shaped objects.

The Dark

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Some people think that only children are scared of the dark, but that’s not true; the fear, called nyctophobia, affects a surprising number of adults, too. Associated with the unknown and potential dangers, nyctophobia can lead to a whole host of problems, such as insomnia, anxiety, and avoiding dark places.


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Clowns may be popular at children’s parties, but they actually keep many grown adults up at night. Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, affects far more people than you’d imagine and is likely the result of the media’s portrayal of clowns in horror movies such as IT, Terrifier, and All Hallows’ Eve.

Open Spaces

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According to the Mayo Clinic, agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a strong fear of open places or scenarios that might cause feelings of helplessness. Sufferers may fear being stuck on public transport, being in large open parks or stadiums, being in a busy crowd, or even standing in a line. 


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Astraphobia is the fear of thunderstorms, a fear that can cause extreme anxiety during weather events involving thunder and lightning. Once again, this isn’t limited to children; many adults also experience intense fear during storms, leading to symptoms of rapid heartbeat, sweating, and hiding upon hearing thunder.


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Death is a natural part of life, but for many, the thought of it is all-consuming, significantly impacting their mental health and well-being. The fear is called thanatophobia, and it can lead people to become preoccupied with what happens after death, which sadly limits what they can achieve in their limited time alive.


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Crime is a real problem across the world, but people who excessively fear it can become stressed and change their behavior, such as by isolating themselves to feel safer. Intense media coverage of violent crime undeniably makes this fear worse, so many people avoid watching the news to keep themselves from experiencing anxiety.


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The National Institutes of Health reports that an overwhelming 36% of the population is thought to suffer from dental phobias, often due to past traumatic experiences. These people might avoid visits to dentists and avoid proper dental care, which can cause poor oral health and diseases. It’s a truly awful affliction.

Financial Problems

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Lastly, with many people struggling to afford essentials and experiencing debt, it’s no wonder that financial fear has finished up our list. Sadly, continuously worrying about finances can cause immense stress, relationship issues, and constant anxiety, all of which can lead to health problems and negatively impact someone’s enjoyment of life. It’s a sad part of life.

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