What Your Fears Reveal About Your Personality

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021

These nerve-wracking phobias aren't entirely irrational—and they might just say a lot about your inherent character.

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Fear of clowns means you value honesty

Does the idea of Pennywise make your heart drop? Not to worry, you aren’t alone. According to an article in Scientific American, clowns are portrayed as “tricksters” whose masks give them the feeling that they can abandon typically acceptable social behavior. So it’s no surprise that coulrophobia is quite common—nearly one in 10 adults fesses up to having it. In a University of Sheffield study, 250 children aged 4 to 16 were asked how they felt about clown images. The conclusion from this study was that the children simply find them to be “frightening and unknowable.” Carlin Flora writes in Psychology Today, “Because reading facial expressions has long been a key to survival, our inability to discern a clown’s expressions (and true intentions) underneath what covers their face raises automatic suspicions.” People who are afraid of clowns tend to pride themselves on their honesty, transparency, and straightforwardness, and expect others around them to do the same. However, your no-nonsense and overly logical nature may sometimes prevent you from kicking back in social situations. Although you don’t need to do it at the circus, don’t be afraid to clown around every once in a while. (Here are some unusual phobias you may not have known existed.)

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A fear of blood means you’re calm and collected

If the sight of this red, course liquid makes your head spin, you suffer from hemophobia. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders groups this fear as blood-injection-injury phobia, or BII. Observing blood seep from a wound or spatter on the ground will instantly spark your defense mechanisms, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure in the process. PhD neuroscience candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis writes, “Do you get woozy when you see blood? As it turns out, fainting at the sight of blood may be a primitive reflex buried deep in our brain.” Basically, your mind associates blood with something wrong and sends a danger signal to your brain. If this is the case, you have a strong protective instinct and tend to be the calm, collected one in your social group. You also harbor an appreciation for your body and strive to take care of it as best you can. Use your centered zen to create calm around you and share your inner peace with more stressed friends. (Learn the things your birthdate can reveal about your personality.)

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A fear of snakes means you stand up for others

These slithering serpents are guaranteed to send a chill down many spines. If you can relate, your fear of snakes may derive from your protective instincts for others. Psychology Today writes that one scientific theory is that “humans and other primates are predisposed to acquire fears of critters that once threatened our ancestors’ lives.” Above all else, you value the people and relationships around you. You’re definitely not one to lay low in arguments; you like to stick up for others and stand ground as a loyal friend. However, your fiery temper may get in the way at times, even when you’re just instinctively looking out for the ones you love. While being devoted is a good thing, make sure to maintain balance in your relationships and seek out compromises when need be. (Find out what therapists really think about the Myers-Briggs personality test.)

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A fear of spiders means you’re a leader

Not a fan of these eight-legged creepy-crawlers? Understandable—this is actually one of the most common phobias in existence. A U.K. study of 261 adults showed that 32 percent of women and 18 percent of men harbor an unease for these guys. Past research also indicates that spiders posed such a prevalent threat to the survival of first humans, that the ability to locate them became an evolutionary necessity. Scientists use this rationale to explain why people still shriek when seeing harmless household spiders today. Ultimately, your acute awareness indicates a rooted tendency to lead and survive. Sensitivity and reliability are your strong suits, and your vigilant reaction time comes much appreciated—these are said to have been of significant selective advantage back in the ancestral days. If you want to eliminate this phobia, check out how this woman did exactly that with the help of hypnotherapy.

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A fear of speaking in public means you’re a perfectionist

According to the Fear Of encyclopedia, most individuals who suffer from fear of public speaking are low on self-esteem, expect perfection in everything they do, seek constant approval, and expect failure. Ultimately, the fear of failure that is associated with public speaking is what gets your nerves tingling; breaking down in front of many eyes overwhelms your semblance. While it’s not something that you’d freely admit, you care about what other people think of you. And although you generally like to be alone with your thoughts, that doesn’t mean you’re a social pariah; you just prefer a few solid relationships over many transient ones. As you evolve, push yourself to come out of your shell and slowly wean yourself to coming into the limelight on occasion. (Learn what your dreams reveal about your personality, too.)

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A fear of the dark means you’re creative

Don’t fret—your fear of the darkness isn’t completely irrational. According to Medical Daily, researchers believe that it stems from genetic encoding that hardwired us to avoid predators at night. Cognitively speaking, the abnormal and persistent dread of the dark is linked to the fear of the unknown (similar to thalassophobia, the fear of deep water). First and foremost, darkness impairs our vision, which dampers our ability to understand and control our surroundings; darkness blinds one of our most important senses, leaving us with a lack of control and vulnerability. The mental demons that we store away in the daytime remain in our subconscious psyche, and all those deep-rooted worries begin to emerge into our awareness. Overall, those with nyctophobia spring creativity off what they see. You also have an overactive imagination; your brain automatically formulates an image when nothing is provided. Similarly, when the lights go out, your imagination kicks in and you produce a mental image to fill in the blanks—usually one that replicates something scary. If your fear is sparking overpowering anxiety every time you flip the switch, try filling your mind with positive images instead—and yes, that means staying away from those horror movies.

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A fear of germs means you’re detail-oriented

Researchers believe that mysophobia can be triggered by trauma, such as an overwhelming health scare. Dean McCay, PhD, writes: “This creates a vicious spiral where the sufferer becomes increasingly concerned over being clean, and is incapable of satisfactorily ridding themselves of the contaminant.” As a result, you like to keep your surroundings clean and absolutely despise anything that is disordered and in disarray. Although your boss may appreciate you for being organized, meticulous, and detail-oriented, the downside is your high anxiety levels. After all, high levels of stress can take a harmful toll on your body. Don’t forget to relax every once in a while and experiment with some creativity—a bit of mess isn’t always a bad thing. (Find out which personality type is the rarest in the world.)

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A fear of crowds means you like your personal space

Psychology Today describes agoraphobia as an “intense fear and anxiety of any place or situation where escape might be difficult.” This is often closely linked to claustrophobia; enclosed spaces are likely to set off your fear mechanism. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a people person, it does imply that you like to maintain your personal space. Your persona leans more cautious and wary, and you tend to be more mistrustful as a result. In a fight-or-flight scenario, you generally opt for the latter. However, because you desire to keep physical space between yourself and others, this could branch over to the emotional sector as well. As a result, a potential downfall may be missing out on meaningful relationships. Don’t be afraid to open up and let people in—you may be surprised at what you find. (Find out if Covid-19 is giving you agoraphobia.)

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A fear of heights means you’re self-aware

If a fear of being above ground sets you off, it may be that you prefer to be grounded in life. As Psychology Today puts it, “We feel fear when our most basic means of controlling feelings—using our own two feet to approach what interests us and to back away from what frightens us—is lost.” Ultimately, people know you for being firmly rooted and centered in what you’re doing. Change is not exactly your favorite thing in the world, and you have a streamlined mindset and carry a strong identity. Heights can be disorienting to you because there is a loss of orientation in place and time. John McGrail, a clinical hypnotherapist, agrees with this disconnect: “Phobics tend to be intelligent, extremely sensitive, and have a fear of losing or being out of control; the phobia is a manifestation of that insecurity or fear of loss of control.” Rather than the altitude itself, you fear the drop and the uncontrollable plunging sensation that comes with it. Next, check out these small habits that reveal more about your personality than you think.