TR Robertson –Previous Vista Press articles dealt with the variety of superstitions many people have that are part of their everyday life. For the most part, these superstitions do not control their lives, do not upset their daily routine and do not cause a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety. True, some of the superstitions many have will make individuals a little nervous if they are not followed, but as far as bringing a great deal of stress in our lives, they simply come and go. We learn to make changes to go with the situation we are in. But, when some of these superstitions or some specific situations or objects present themselves and our anxiety level rises to a point that it controls our life, becomes overwhelming and brings our emotional state to an almost uncontrollable situation, then we are entering into the world of phobias and their effect on our life.
The National Institute of Mental Health says roughly 8% of U.S. adults have some type of phobia. Other research says this rate is much higher and a large majority of people have one or two phobias that cause some concern in their life. The NIMH says women are more likely to experience phobias than men. Having a phobia is generally of little concern to most people, the problem arises when these phobias become a controlling part of your life and hamper what might be considered a “normal” lifestyle.
The general reaction to things you might be extremely afraid of, for example snakes or other animals, includes nausea, trembling, rapid heartbeat, feeling of unreality and being preoccupied with the fear. Most people’s reaction to something like this is to simply avoid the thing you are afraid of. When the phobia becomes irrational, unwarranted, persistent or disabling, help may be needed for the individual to deal with the phobia that is of greatest concern. Howard Hughes had several phobias, the most debilitating of which was fear of germs. It became so troublesome for him, Hughes required that everyone who worked for him was to wear white gloves and he required boxes of Kleenex to be placed all throughout his offices and home. He would lock himself away at various times to “protect” himself from these germs.
Many times, it is hard to understand why a person develops certain phobias, other times it is easy to understand. For example, my son once had a friend who was bitten in the face by a dog and this young boy developed an extreme fear of dogs. The American Psychiatric Association identifies three different categories of phobias: social phobias, agoraphobia and specific phobias. A specific phobia would be fear of a specific object such as snakes, needles, small places. There are four major specific phobia categories – Natural Environment (like water, thunder or lightning), Animals, Medical Treatment (like going to the dentist or getting shots) and Situations (like flying, going outside, riding an elevator). When dealing with specific phobias, most therapists use a treatment like emersion therapy where the person is challenged to put themselves into a situation where they take part in or with the thing that scares them the most. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes not. I have a fear of going in water over my head and not being able to see the bottom. I have tried snorkeling many times and it just does not work for me. It is not so much a fear of the water as it is a fear of drowning. I simply avoid these situations.
Social phobias and agoraphobias can be some of the most debilitating of the phobias. Fear of leaving your home or being in crowds or speaking to groups or germs can lead a person to a solitary lifestyle trying to avoid contact with people in general. Speaking in public is the #1 most common phobia effecting around 25% of the general public. The COVID pandemic is stressful enough for most people, but for people with social phobias like the ones mentioned, COVID may be an overwhelming, stressful time filled with uncontrolled fear and anxiety. Look at the fear many of us have now with shaking someone’s hand. These people may be experiencing changes in their sleep patterns, worsening of mental or physical health and fear for the health and welfare of their family. At times, an increase in unhealthy behaviors, like an increase in alcohol or substance abuse and depression, may arise. Everyone is reacting to the COVID pandemic differently. How you are responding can depend on your social circle, your financial situation, your general health and the health of those around you, your emotional state, the community you live in and many other factors. Seeking assistance is the key to dealing with the situation we all are in. Also knowing the facts and avoiding the rumors will help as well.
The most unusual of the phobias is the fear many people have developed of certain specific things. I know I have a couple of these and without making light of specific phobias, here is a short list of some of the more than 600 common and uncommon specific phobias and the name attached to the phobia. What is hard to imagine, for some of these, it how a person became so afraid of the object it led to an uncontrollable need to avoid the item. Remember, each of us probably has one or two things we are afraid of and avoid as much as possible. These are in no particular order.
- Arachibutyrophobia – fear of peanut butter
- Bibliophobia – fear of books
- Coimetrophobia – fear of cemeteries
- Coulrophobia – fear of clowns
- Emetophobia – fear of vomiting
- Gamophobia – fear of marriage
- Genuphobia – fear of kneeling or knees
- Gerontophobia – fear of the elderly
- Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia – fear of the number 666
- Ichthyophobia – fear of fish or fear of dead fish
- Koumpounophobia – fear of buttons
- Mageirocophobia – fear of cooking
- Myrmecophobia – fear of ants
- Nomophobia – fear of being out of mobile phone contact
- Numerophobia – fear of numbers
- Phobophobia – fear or fear itself or of having a phobia
- Pogonophobia – fear of beards
- Osomophobia – fear of odors
- Porphyrophobia – fear of the color purple
- Tetraphobia – fear of the number 4
- Xanthophobia – fear of the color yellow
- Auroraphobia – fear of Northern Lights
- Bolshephobia – fear of Bolsheviks
- Bogyphobia – fear of the bogeyman
- Caligynephobia – fear of beautiful women
- Consecotaleophobia – fear of chopsticks
- Deipnophobia – fear of dining or dinner conversations
- Dutchophoobia – fear of the Dutch
- Ephebiphobia – fear or teenagers
- Hobophobia – fear of bums or beggars
- Katsaridaphobia – fear of cockroaches
- Lutraphobia – fear of otters
- Kosmikophobia – fear of cosmic phenomenon
- Melophobia – fear or hatred of music
- Metrophobia – fear or hatred of poetry
- Omphalophobia – fear of belly buttons
- Oenophobia – fear of wines
- Paraskavedekatriaphobia – fear of Friday the 13th
- Peladophobia – fear of bald people
- Philematophobia – fear of kissing
- Pupaphobia – fear of puppets
- Siderodromophobia – fear of trains
- Zemmiphobia – fear of the great mole rat
Again, these are some of the more unusual specific phobias. Some might be easily explained, others are a little mystifying. But to those that have the fear, it is real, and it can affect the way they live in this world.
For those that have some concerns and feel they need help, here are some numbers you can contact to relieve your stress, tension or situation many are feeling or living in this world today:
- Coronavirus Anxiety – Text HOME to 741741 or online go to www.ghif.org
- Disaster Distress Helpline – 800-985-5990
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233
- National Child Abuse Hotline – 800-422-4453
- Veteran’s Crisis Line – 800-273-8255
- National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800-656-4673