Phobia epidemiology and demographics

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [2] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Kiran Singh, M.D. [3]

Epidemiology and Demographics


The 12 month prevalence of specific phobia is 7,000-9,000 per 100,000 (7%-9%) of the overall population.[1]

An American study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that between 8.7% and 18.1% of Americans suffer from phobias. [2] Broken down by age and gender, the study found that phobias were the most common mental illness among women in all age groups and the second most common illness among men older than 25.

Phobias In Children

Severe fears are present in about 10-15% of children and specific phobias are found in about 5% of children. Children with specific phobias experience an intense fear of an object or situation that does not go away easily and continues for an extended period of time.

Common specific phobias seen in children include:

  • Dark
  • Varieties of insects, spiders and bees
  • Heights
  • Water
  • Choking
  • Snakes, dogs, birds, and other animals

For many children, these fears and phobias interfere with their participation in and enjoyment of various activities. It may also interfere with their education, family life, or their social life. However, effective treatment is available for children who experience phobias.


  1. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 0890425558.
  2. Kessler etal, Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of 12-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, June 2005, Archive of General Psychiatry, Volume 20

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