What is a Phobia?
For most of us, fear and anxiety are powerful factors in our lives. Fear has been an important evolutionary tool that has allowed humans to develop precautions against dangerous things and situations. However, when a fear or anxiety becomes a greater threat than the actual person, place, or thing, a normally healthy fear or anxiety can become a debilitating phobia.
Mental health professionals consider phobias to be diagnosable mental disorders. The intense stress that generally accompanies a phobia can stop a person from functioning normally and lead to crippling panic attacks. The United States has approximately 19 million people (over 8% of the total population) that suffer from various phobias, with varying levels of severity.
More Statistics on Phobias:
- Women are nearly twice as likely to be affected by a phobia as men
- Symptoms of phobias tend to begin in early to mid childhood; the average age-of-onset is about 7 years old
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are closely tied to anxiety disorders and phobias
Common vs Uncommon Phobias
While most of us are familiar with common phobias like Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), Acrophobia (fear of heights), Aerophobia (fear of flying), Claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), there are a large number of phobias that may seem unusual, but still have a profound effect on people’s lives.
By understanding these phobias, we will be better equipped to help our suffering friends and family members, and also allow us to better understand our own fears and anxieties. By mastering our fears and overcoming anxiety, we can create a healthy balance between caution and comfort.
Common phobias like Arachnophobia and Ophidiophobia have developed as essential survival mechanisms throughout human evolution. These fear-based precautions have been bred into humans as an instinctual response that allows us to identify and avoid danger. Even many uncommon fears are generally based on practical knowledge.
For example, Aquaphobia may seem strange because our bodies are composed of water, we need water to survive, and we see it almost everywhere. So, how can we be afraid of something so common? The fear of drowning ties into Aquaphobia, a very real threat that has also become part of our instinctual evolution. The fear of water also manifests in Thalassophobia, which is specifically tied to anxiety around deep bodies of water like a deep lake, river, or the ocean.
By examining the root causes and history of fear and phobias, we can better understand how they developed and when they are a useful cautionary device and when they can become a debilitating phobia.
Rare and Uncommon Phobias
Now that we better understand fear, anxiety, phobias, and how they affect everything from human evolution to our everyday lives, let’s explore some of the most intriguing phobias. We have compiled a list of rare and uncommon phobias that may seem peculiar, but are an important aspect of understanding ourselves and mental health:
Ablutophobia | Fear of bathing
This phobia can sometimes be the result of a traumatic, water-related incident, especially if it involves bathing during juvenile years. This phobia can cause a great deal of social anxiety and friction as it can often result in unpleasant body odors. Many sufferers will grow out of this phobia as they get older.
Arachibutyrophobia | Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
Though Arachibutyrophobia may sound like a minor issue, this phobia likely stems from a fear of choking or inability to open one’s mouth. While some sufferers may be able to eat small amounts of peanut butter, especially if it is not sticky, like many candy bar fillings, many will not eat peanut butter at all for fear of it sticking to the roof of their mouth.
Arithmophobia | Fear of math
While many of us did not enjoy math class, Arithmophobia takes this anxiety to the next level. This phobia isn’t as much a fear of seeing numbers or symbols, as it is a fear of being forced into a situation where one has to do math, especially when that person’s math skills are subpar.
Chirophobia | Fear of hands
This phobia can be a fear of one’s own hands or another’s hand. It is often the result of a traumatic event like a severe hand injury or a persistent condition like arthritis.
Chloephobia | Fear of newspapers
This phobia is often connected to the touch, sound, and smell of a newspaper. Sufferers may become anxious at the sound of a rustling newspaper of the smell of newspaper ink and paper.
Eisoptrophobia | Fear of mirrors
Sometimes referred to as spectrophobia or catoptrophobia, sufferers are often unable to look at themselves in a mirror. In more severe cases, this anxiety can also extend to reflective surfaces like glass or standing water.
One genesis of this phobia revolves around the superstitions tied to mirrors. The fear of seeing something supernatural or breaking a mirror and being cursed with bad luck can cause someone to develop Eisoptrophobia. In other cases, this phobia can stem from low self-esteem and an aversion to seeing oneself.
Globophobia (Fear of balloons)
This phobia often originates from a traumatic event, especially at a young age when a popping balloon caused a jump scare and is also often linked to a fear of clowns (coulrophobia). Sufferers of this phobia can have varying levels of anxiety with some casually avoiding balloons, while more severe cases would prohibit being around places that simply may have balloons.
Omphalophobia | Fear of Umbilicus (Bello Buttons)
Omphalophobia sufferers will often avoid areas like the beach, where exposed belly buttons are common. In more severe cases, they may even cover up their own belly button with tape or a bandaid. This phobia may be related to Trypophobia (fear of holes) or could be the result of a previous infection in the Umbilicus.
Optophobia | Fear of opening your eyes
This phobia is generally the result of a traumatic event, especially during childhood. This phobia can be extremely debilitating, as sufferers will often avoid leaving their homes and seek out dark or dimly lit areas.
Nomophobia | Fear of not having your cell phone
This is an anxiety that many of us feel to varying extents, however, it becomes a phobia when the anxiety turns into a consistent panic or fear, especially when perseverating on the mere idea of being without a mobile phone. This phobia also extends to having a phone with a dead battery or being out of service, thereby making the phone unusable. Nomophpia is often connected with an addiction to our phones and the need to be constantly connected.
Plutophobia | Fear of wealth
This phobia deals less with the fear of physical currency and more with the anxiety around wealth or being wealthy. Sufferers dread the responsibility and weight that accompanies wealth. They fear that they will be targeted for their wealth and subsequently put into danger. They may sabotage their career or money-making opportunities.
Pogonophobia | Fear of facial hair
This fear is often the result of a traumatic experience with someone who has significant facial hair or a beard. Beards also partially hide someone’s face, creating an additional layer of anxiety for those that struggle in social situations, or reading social cues. In more severe cases, a sufferer of pogonophobia may not even be able to look at a picture of someone with a beard.
Turophobia | Fear of cheese
A fear of cheese can often be traced back to an incident with cheese, especially in early childhood. Being forced to eat cheese, especially when lactose intolerant can create an aversion of anxiety towards cheese. More severe cases can result in a fear of seeing cheese.
Xanthophobia | Fear of the color yellow
This is a difficult phobia to deal with, as some things in nature and many man-made things are yellow. Sufferers may fear something seemingly benign like a flower, school bus, or wheel of cheese. This phobia could originate from survival-based evolution, as animals that are brightly colored, like frogs or snakes, are sometimes poisonous or venomous.
Get Help with Your Phobias and Anxieties
Though some of these phobias may seem harmless, even the most obscure ones can have a serious, adverse effect on someone’s life. At Louis Laves-Webb we take all phobias seriously and will work with you to find the root cause of your phobia. Our expert team of licensed therapists will help you learn coping strategies and move forward on the path to peace and mental health. Please submit a contact form or call our offices to get started on the journey to overcome your fears and phobias.