10/31/2012 07:07 EDT | Updated 10/31/2012 08:48 EDT

Common Phobias: Why Do People Get Scared?


Was it the hairy spiders or the monster under your bed that made your skin crawl as a kid?

We may laugh at the things we were once scared of, but it's not surprising that many adults are still scared of creepy crawlies, dark spaces and creaks and cracks in their homes.

Being scared and fearful is not only common, it's completely natural, says Natasha Sharma, a psychotherapist based in Toronto.

"There's two types of fears. One is natural, as humans we are born with the ability to feel fear and we need this in order to determine everyday threats — basically animal instinct," she says. Sharma says the second type of fear occurs when we're exposed to other people or overwhelming experiences in our lives that inflate our sense of fear.

"This type of fear is irrational fear and it varies by person. Some people will always be more fearful than others," she tells the Huffington Post Canada.

A certain amount of fear has always been ingrained in our everyday lives. As children, we're told not to let the bed bugs bite, and as adults, we grow up with horror legends like Jason, Freddy Krueger and Bloody Mary. So any time you see a flight of stairs and expect a creepy little possessed girl to crawl down (backwards even), Sharma says that's when our fears remind us of movies and shows that have reinforced this feeling of unpredictable threats.

And there are some people, of course, who just love the pleasure of being scared. When our brains know there is no risk of being harmed, the rush of being scared becomes satisfying, Sharma adds. Psychologist David Rudd told that this heart-pumping and fast-breathing rush could also explain why people like skydiving or bungee jumping.

The fears of flying, swimming or sleeping in darkness — which are more common than any others — can slowly be tackled by simply "facing your fear," Sharma adds.

"A person who is afraid of flying can slowly overcome their fear by flying. It may not eliminate the anxiety, but it has a higher success rate of reducing it," she says, adding that often, the fear of flying comes not from any real danger associated with flying, but instead, a fear of death.

She also recommends calming your body by taking deep breaths to bring down the heart rate, a particularly important tactice for those who are constantly experiencing fears, as with taking the elevator or walking through a dark alley, for example.

What's your biggest fear? Let us know in the comments below:

ALSO: Check out these other 10 unusual phobias.

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