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When a mentally sound individual flaps around a room, shakes uncontrollably, or has a panic attack for no apparent reason – chances are they have a phobia. A phobia is a completely irrational fear. Sufferers know they are behaving oddly. But that doesn’t lessen the fear – in fact, it can make it worse. That’s because it is a subconscious reaction. It comes from deep inside. No amount of logic and rationality will help. In short, it is a flaw in their perception of reality.

Here are the most common phobias reported by both men and women.

1. Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders. There is no escape from these eight-legged beasts. They live in our houses, gardens, and even our places of work. True arachnophobes are even scared of pictures of spiders.

2. Social phobia – the fear of social situations. More than simple shyness. This is an extreme fear of being scrutinised by others, or humiliated by one’s own actions.

3. Aerophobia – the fear of flying. In a plane, obviously. Often paired with claustrophobia.

4. Agoraphobia – the fear of inescapable situations. The result is anxiety and panic attacks, which can easily become self-perpetuating. Extreme agoraphobes are confined to their own home, which is the only place they consider to be safe.

5. Claustrophobia – the fear of confined spaces. Sufferers will stay well away from elevators, trains and tiny cupboards under the stairs. May cause panic attacks if escape is not possible.

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