According to a study conducted in July 2014, more than 6.3 million Americans—or 4 to 5 percent— have been clinically diagnosed with phobias. Yet, when you pause to think of the people in our own lives, including ourselves, who have these intense and persistent fears but haven't been diagnosed, the actual number could be much larger. So what exactly is a phobia? It's an ongoing and irrational fear of an object or situation which creates intense fear and anxiety. For example, the number one fear of those who suffer from phobias, approximately 74 percent, say glossophobia—the fear of public speaking—outranks their fear of death, at 68 percent. Other common phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of small or crowded places), acrophobia (fear of heights) and aerophobia (fear of flying). Some of the lesser-known, more niche phobias like nomophobia, the fear of being without a cell phone or cell service, are products of an ever-changing society.
But if a phobia stems from an irrational fear, how do our psyches allow these fears to spin out of control? If we know it isn't worth being truly afraid of, why are we still? And maybe biggest of all: what differentiates a simple fear from a full-blown phobia? Check out the answers in this playlist.