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Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

What Is Reddit Scared of?

Ranking the Most Popular Phobia Subreddits

What fears do we share with the others around us? A particular type of fear that I find especially interesting are phobias, or an irrational fear of something that’s unlikely to cause harm.

If you were to try to learn more about phobias on Google, all that comes up are a bunch of generic “Top 10” lists based on therapist interviews. I wanted to take a more data-driven approach to rank phobias, and Reddit is the perfect source to give us insight into the most engaging fears that we share.

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Source: Google

What data am I using?

  1. List of phobia subreddits: I found this text file of over 1 million subreddits created by Reddit user orgnohpxf in 2018. Using this list as an exhaustive source of truth, I filtered for subreddits with ‘phobia’ in the name for a total of 337 subreddits.
  2. Subreddit Metadata: I use Reddit’s API in order to get metadata on the 337 subreddits above: title, description, public_description, subscribers, active_user_count, quarantine, over18.

The Top 10

10. Thanatophobia: The fear of death. 1.6k subscribers

9. Claustrophobia: The fear of tight or crowded spaces. 5.9k subscribers

8. Emetophobia: The fear of vomiting. 7.8k subscribers

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

7. Acrophobia: The fear of heights. 8.6k subscribers.

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Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

6. Agoraphobia: Fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong. 9.9k subscribers.

5. Nyctohylophobia: A fear of dark wooded areas or forests at night. 12.5k subscribers.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

4. Trypophobia (Subreddit is 18+): Fear of holes, pods, circles, or cracks, especially those found in nature. 75.4k subscribers.

3. Megalophobia: Fear of large things. 254k subscribers.

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Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

2. Submechanophobia: The fear of submerged machines. 310k subscribers.

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Photo by NOAA on Unsplash
  1. Thalassophobia: Fear of the ocean. 687k subscribers.

Some Other Findings

Honorable mentions: Five interesting phobias that I never knew about

  1. Apeirophobia: The fear of infinity or infinite things. 800 subscribers.

2. Kosmemophobia: The fear of jewelry. 429 subscribers.

3. Anatidaephobia: The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you. 294 subscribers.

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Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

4. Pittakionophobia: The fear of stickers. 139 subscribers.

5. Sidonglobophobia: The fear of cotton balls. 66 subscribers.

A look at the top 40

Here is an unfiltered look at the top 40 subreddits with “phobia” in the title. There are three main types of subreddits that I did not include in the top 10:

  • Misspelled subreddits: Spelling “Thalassophobia” is really hard, so you actually have a couple of subreddits below that just redirect to the correctly-spelled subreddit.
  • Ambiguous subreddits: For example, r/phobia seems to be a subreddit for the general discussion of a bunch of different types of phobias.
  • Phobias that cause harm to others: I wanted to keep the list above on topics that are less harmful/serious and do not involve real-world issues such as discrimination. For example, r/TransphobiaProject, whose goal is “to help trans people (and our allies) respond to transphobia on Reddit and elsewhere” would have technically made the list above, but I decided not to include it as I felt that it was not appropriate.
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The most upvoted phobia post of all time

With 45.9k upvotes, we have this thread.

The thread above is actually really interesting because it reveals a key counterpoint to my analysis. It’s very likely that a large number of subscribers in a phobia subreddit are people who are there for the cool pictures. But because my analysis was centered more around engagement of fears, if 600,000 people want to subscribe to a subreddit to see pictures of the open ocean, then I still would consider that to good enough reason to earn it its top spot.

Another counterpoint is that the Glossophobia (fear of public speaking) subreddit only has 105 subscribers, when in reality it is probably one of the most prevalent fears that people have.

Data Scientist based in NYC