Everyone has something that makes their skin crawl or their knees a little weak — something that makes their eyes widen and their mouths let out an ever-so-piercing shriek. Whether it is heights, spiders or monsters under the bed, fears plague all people — even the most seemingly fearless ones. And while fears may cause intermittent inconveniences, phobias are far more debilitating. Let’s learn more about phobias and how they affect us.
A fear is an occasional occurrence — one that’s manageable and temporary. A phobia is an anxiety disorder that a person just can’t shake.
When people encounter objects or situations they fear, they experience an emotional response in that moment. Dissimilarly, when people have phobias, they spend a considerable amount of time and effort thinking about their phobia and how to avoid it.
In the simplest of terms, a phobia is an irrational fear. It causes physical or emotional stress on the individual who possesses it.
Phobias are often onset during childhood, teenaged years or early adulthood — very few people develop phobias in their later adult years. Stress-inducing situations and horrific happenings can cause someone to develop a phobia.
While they are certainly disruptive, they are not often life-threatening. However, people with pharmacophobia — fear of medication — can put themselves at risk. Some ailments, injuries and diseases require medicine, and depriving oneself of this type of treatment can lead to more serious complications and even death. The same can be said for trypanophobics, who are terrified of needles. Needles can be a necessary means of issuing pharmaceuticals and immunizations, so someone who denies his or her body these healthful injections may be in danger of worsening conditions or contracting diseases he or she was not vaccinated for.
Some of the most common phobias are ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes; acrophobia, the fear of heights; agoraphobia, the fear of open or crowded spaces; and claustrophobia, the fear of small spaces. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is possibly the most common phobia, affecting approximately 48 percent of women and 12 percent of men, according to Fearof.net.
“The texture bothers me a lot, and the smell is disgusting. It makes me gag,” Debbie Sorgi said of her phobia of mayonnaise. “I first noticed during my teen years. My parents said I ate it as a kid, but I don’t remember that. I have no idea what prompted it. Now, I won’t eat in a sub shop unless they completely clean the knife off before they make my sandwich, and I told my kids they were allergic to mayo, so they wouldn’t want to eat it. ”
“I feel pins and needles all over my body, break out in a cold sweat and have a hard time breathing. I have to pull over.”
“I think it is the realization that I have no control over the other drivers, who are traveling at extremely high speeds,” Suzie Byrne said of her fear of highways. “I was always a bit apprehensive about driving on the highway. On September 11, 2001, my brother-in-law was killed while working in Tower Two of the World Trade Center. The trauma of this tragic event forever changed my life. I remember truly recognizing how fragile life was and how it could change in an instant. Now, when I’m driving on an unknown road that I think may be heading toward a ramp, I feel pins and needles all over my body, break out in a cold sweat and have a hard time breathing. I have to pull over.”
“As a kid, I would get so grossed out at summer camp when I’d see dirty bandages left around the pool,” Rebecca Rubin said. “I don’t know why, but they make me really uncomfortable. Even the sight makes me want to throw up. I’ve avoided certain shower stalls in communal bathrooms because people left dirty bandages on the floor. Now, whenever I see one, my natural reaction is to jump back a little.”
“Everything about them scares me — from their color to their texture, the way they move, how they hide in places and the fact that they can jump on you,” Margot DeConna said of her phobia of frogs and toads. “I remember playing with tadpoles and baby frogs as a kid. So, sometime in my adolescence, I must have acquired this fear. If there was some traumatic event, I have definitely blocked it out. Now, I get a chill down my spine even from a picture, and if I see one in person, I usually scream, use every curse word I know and run away. One time, I called a researcher at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Science to find out if there was anything I could do or buy that would work as frog repellent.”
Glossary of Phobias
- Aulophobia: fear of flutes
- Barophobia: fear of gravity
- Consecotaleophobia: fear of chopsticks
- Dendrophobia: fear of trees
- Ephebiphobia: fear of teenagers
- Frigophobia: fear of cold things
- Genuphobia: fear of knees
- Homilophobia: fear of sermons
- Ideophobia: fear of ideas
- Japanophobia: fear of Japan
- Katagelophobia: fear of ridicule
- Lachanophobia: fear of vegetables
- Megalohydrothalassophobia: fear of large things underwater
- Microphobia: fear of small things
- Nephophobia: fear of clouds
- Oenophobia: fear of wines
- Papyrophobia: fear of paper
- Quadraphobia: fear of the number four
- Rupophobia: fear of dirt
- Syngenesophobia: fear of relatives
- Thaasophobia: fear of sitting
- Trypophobia: fear of clusters of small holes
- Urophobia: fear of urine
- Vestiphobia: fear of clothing
- Wiccaphobia: fear of witches and witchcraft
- Xanthophobia: fear of the color yellow
- Zelophobia: fear of jealousy
And while it is certainly not easy to overcome such a strong aversion to something, it can be possible. Many people believe that repeated exposure could gradually lessen a person’s phobia. That age-old saying rings true: face your fears head on. Learn more about phobias so you can better face them.