All of us have fears of some description and to some degree, a fear of spiders, a fear of going to the dentist, a fear of heights, making a speech and so on. For many though, these fears go far, far deeper and whilst they may seem completely irrational to others, to those suffering these obscure phobias are real fears that affect their lives . They develop from being a simple, manageable “concern” to a persistent and intense fear which can be in relation to a specific object, organism or situation.
The definition of the word phobia is “a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous” and that clearly explains the difference between a phobia and a general fear.
Phobias are very common in Western society with some estimates suggesting that up to as many as 1 in 5 people suffer at some stage in their lives but because many of these go untreated accurate figures are not possible. You only have to look at a list of official phobias though to realise the enormity of the problem. There are hundreds on the list and, apart from the phobias that everyone knows such as claustrophobia; the fear of enclosed places, arachnophobia; the fear of spiders, aquaphobia; the fear of water, acrophobia; the fear of heights and so on there are some obscure, unusual and downright amusing (perhaps not for those suffering though) phobias:
Arachibutyrophobia is a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth, a phobia believed to have been first “invented” by Charles Schulz in a 1982 Peanuts comic strip. There are a number of other phobias that also started life in such a fictional way; Keanuphobia; a fictional fear of Keanu Reeves, from the book False Memories by Dean Koontz, Monkeyphobia; the fear of monkeys, from the cartoon Kim Possible and Nihilophobia; the fear of nothingness from the Star Trek series to name but a few.
The sign of the devil is the number 666 and some people have a phobia of this number, a phobia called Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. You may think “that’s a long word” and yes, you’ve guessed it, there’s also a phobia of long words and that phobia is known as Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia which ironically is the longest named phobia of them all!
Some of the more obscure phobias relate to specific parts of the body, phobias such as Geniophobia; a fear of chins, Omphalophobia: the fear of belly buttons, Phalacrophobia, a fear of baldness, Apotemnophobia an irrational fear of amputees and, how about Ithyphallophobia; the fear of seeing, thinking about or having an erect penis!
Food phobias can also be a little random, there’s a specific fear of garlic called Alliumphobia, a fear of chickens under the name of Alektorophobia but this particularly relates to feathers and eggs and, if you’re thinking about going out for a Chinese spare a thought for those suffering from Consecotaleophobia – the morbid fear of chopsticks.
As life evolves so does the list of strange phobias; Nomophobia being one of the recent additions, a phobia which is described as a fear of being out of mobile phone contact and Cyberphobia describes a fear of computers being another.
Some really odd phobias to finish with: Pteronophobia; the fear of being tickled by feathers, Phronemophobia; a fear of thinking and, she may be the subject of many jokes but there’s actually a phobia called Pentheraphobia; a fear of the mother-in-law.
Finally, let’s not forget, a personal favourite that can’t be beaten: Phobophobia; a phobia of phobias!
Maybe some of these phobias have raised a smile but to anyone with any genuine phobia it can be life crippling. A phobia is persistent and extreme to the point that it significantly changes the lives of those affected who will often go out of their way to conceal their phobia or avoid the source of the phobia at all costs. This can lead to family, school and work problems and can lead to serious health problems and so, amusing or not, they need to be taken seriously.