10 Celebrities & Their Unexpected Fears

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
As a culture, we have a slight tendency to exaggerate. We don’t just love PSLs — we’re obsessed. We aren’t just neat and tidy — we Kondo.

Another term we like to throw around (regardless of its clinical definition) is “phobia.” But just because you don’t like being around antique furniture (as Billy Bob Thornton has mentioned) doesn’t necessarily mean it triggers a severe sense of dread or anxiety.

Phobic disorders, as experts call them, include social anxiety disorder (essentially a fear of interacting with others), as well as specific phobias, like an overwhelming and irrational fear of spiders. These fears can be the result of general anxiety disorders, past experiences, or they can be simply inexplicable. And they’re not to be taken lightly — they can really interfere with a person’s life.

That said, everyone has a fear of something, whether they constitute true phobias or not — even celebrities. After all, they’re just like us.

Ahead, 10 celebrities who’ve opened up about the things that scare them the most.

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Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Kendall Jenner
Fear: Holes


Yes, the model and reality star suffers from the excessively memed fear of tiny holes, also known (colloquially) as trypophobia. Jenner recently wrote about it on her app and website: “Things that could set me off are pancakes, honeycomb, or lotus heads (the worst!). It sounds ridiculous, but so many people actually have it!”

While it’s true that many people claim to have it (popular triggers of trypophobia have included the Apple Watch) and that this writer (and her editor) were suddenly deeply uncomfortable after researching it for this story, trypophobia is not an official diagnosis. Some critics have brushed it off as a viral phenomenon rather than a legitimate phobia.

That said, at least one 2013 paper published in the journal Psychological Science argued that the fear "hitherto unreported in the scientific literature" may be caused by the scary patterns' visual similarity to dangerous animals, such as poisonous snakes. "We argue that although sufferers are not conscious of the association, the phobia arises in part because the inducing stimuli share basic visual characteristics with dangerous organisms," the authors wrote.
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Photo: Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock.
Jennifer Aniston
Fear: Flying


Aniston has publicly discussed her aviophobia several times. During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the actress said that she hasn’t visited as many places in the world as she’d like to due to her fear. Aniston isn’t alone — Ben Affleck, Sandra Bullock, and Aretha Franklin are known aviophobes, too.

This phobia is quite common among non-celebrities, too, to the point that the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has recommendations for coping with and treating it, which include learning about how planes and airlines actually work (which will make the process less mysterious and, therefore, less frightening), breathing exercises, and speaking with a therapist.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock.
Nicole Kidman
Fear: Butterflies


"It's so bizarre. I'm not afraid of snakes or spiders. But I'm scared of butterflies," Kidman told InStyle. “There is something eerie about them.”

The number of people who agree with her might surprise you — there’s even a website (IHateButterflies.com) dedicated to Kidman’s fellow lepidopterophobes. Although this isn’t an official term for people who fear butterflies, it’s been adopted by the public since butterflies belong to the lepidopteran order of insects.
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Photo: Masatoshi Okauchi/REX/Shutterstock.
Madonna
Fear: Thunderstorms


It’s been said that the singer checks the forecast before her outdoor performances just to be sure she won’t encounter any storms when she hits the stage. Specifically, Madonna could suffer from either astraphobia or brontophobia, depending if she fears storms (the former) or just thunder (the latter). Unfortunately for Madge, these fears can affect sufferers whether they’re outside or inside.
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Photo: Masatoshi Okauchi/REX/Shutterstock.
Keanu Reeves
Fear: Darkness


Reeves got pretty deep while describing this fear to Hello!: “I am afraid of the dark, but I mean that in a real philosophical way." Sigmund Freud and subsequent researchers have theorized that nyctophobia could be an extension of separation anxiety, or the fear that children experience when they’re away from their caregivers. But it’s hard to say if kids deal with separation anxiety “in a real philosophical way” or not, man.
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Photo: Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.
Zach Galifianakis
Fear: Heights


The comedian's fear of heights is so intense that he refused to attend a press conference for The Hangover 3 because it was on the small Brazilian mountain, Morro da Urca. We say it’s small in comparison to nearby peaks, but, at 220-meters high, it’s enough to put off any acrophobe. Live Science reports that if your fear of heights is severe enough, you’re actually more likely to overestimate objects’ heights. Much like Aniston and her fear of flying, Galifianakis is in good company — it’s been estimated that acrophobia affects one in 20 adults.
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Photo: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock.
Adele
Fear: Seagulls


While we could chalk this up to ornithophobia (the fear of birds), Adele is very specifically afraid of seagulls — and for a good reason. The singer was attacked by a seagull when she was a child, and the story is downright harrowing: “I was walking down the promenade in Tenby, eating a 99 [a.k.a. a Cadbury ice cream cone], when this huge fucking seagull came down and swiped it off me. I’ve still got a scar from its claw on my shoulder. I thought it was going to take me away with it.”

This story may sound silly, but it’s rather common for a stressful event in childhood to lead to a lifelong fear.
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Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock.
Tyra Banks
Fear: Dolphins


Banks actually tried to conquer her fear of dolphins in a segment on her talk show, but, to put it lightly, it didn’t go well. Similar to Adele’s childhood experience, Banks had upsetting dreams about dolphins and whales when she was much younger, and she feels that creeping fear to this day: “I've gotten a little past it, but there is something that still lives inside me."

While both Banks’ and Adele’s phobias formed during childhood, Banks’ wasn’t inspired by an actual experience. Fears can be completely borne out of your imagination and still have major impact on your real life.
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Photo: Donna Ward/Getty Images.
Uma Thurman
Fear: Small spaces


Yes, even celebrities fall victim to this all-too-common fear. Thurman told the Daily Mail that filming the scene in Kill Bill where she gets buried alive completely triggered her claustrophobia: “The sound effects ended up being so effective. I mean, the raw sound...and the sound of dirt hitting the wooden lid.”

A 2011 study suggested that claustrophobia depends on a person’s perception — for instance, you might feel comfortable in the back seat of a car, while the person next to you feels cramped, uncomfortable, and anxious to get out in the open. It’s safe to say everyone has a threshold for this feeling of closeness, which helps explain why claustrophobia is so common, whether it’s triggered by a plane, elevator, or (in Thurman’s very understandable case) a coffin.
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Photo: Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images.
Jennifer Lawrence
Fear: Social interaction


While promoting Catching Fire, Lawrence described a fear that sounds exactly like social anxiety: “I have a stupid fear that I’m going to start annoying everybody, so I try to make a conscious effort to calm down and be mature and cool so nobody gets sick of me.”

No matter how much seagulls, dolphins, darkness, or all of the above give you the heebie-jeebies, this is just about the most realistic fear we’ve heard. Lawrence has spoken about coping with anxiety before and has mentioned that she takes medication for it.

If you’ve been dealing with anxiety or find that your fears are interfering with your everyday life, consider seeing a therapist, finding a support group, or practicing mindful stress-management techniques. There's no reason to be ashamed of your fears, or for seeking help in overcoming them.
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