Fearing Fear Itself and Other Phobias

It’s time for the night of fright – Halloween – and although many people get a little thrill out of being scared, there are certain people whose fear can be debilitating.

Almost everyone claims one type of phobia or another. Are you afraid of spiders, flying, or confined spaces? These are common fears that many people around the world share.

Then there are other phobias that are quite unconventional, such as Anablephobia, the fear of looking up, or perhaps the new popular phobia emerging on social media, Trypophobia, the fear of holes. Strange and unusual phobias have always captivated people, and the lists of phobias will only grow with time.

The science of fear

Phobias are irrational and excessive fear reactions. They are very common and more than 19 million (as of 2017) Americans have a phobia that causes some sort of difficulty in their lives. Psychiatrists consider them a type of anxiety disorder. People with phobias have a high level of anxiety and dread, and sometimes even terror, when they come into contact with the object of their phobia.

Dr. Nicole Mavrides, a specialist in childhood and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Health System, explains that phobias activate the “fight or flight” response and create feelings of imminent danger that are out of proportion to the reality. They are thought to be due to biologic factors, such as serotonin and dopamine increases which can lead to anxiety.

“Phobias can also be due to family/genetic factors – where the anxiety can be both learned from seeing others with the same phobia as well as passed genetically,” she adds. “Anywhere between 25-65 percent of phobias can be genetically passed down.”

Peculiar phobias

The more common phobias often include bugs, blood, heights, and rodents, but psychologists recognize (so far) more than 400 phobias. Some of the more interesting and abnormal phobias are:

  • Phobophobia – The fear of developing a phobia
  • Nomophobia – The fear of being without your cell phone
  • Papaphobia – The fear of the Pope
  • Cherophobia – The fear of being happy
  • Turophobia – The fear of cheese
  • Ephebiphobia – The fear of teenagers
  • Samhainophobia – The fear of Halloween
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – The fear of long words
  • Chronophobia – The fear of the future
  • Kinemortophobia – The fear of zombies
  • Paraskevidekatriaphobia – The fear of Friday the 13th
  • Allodoxaphobia – The fear of opinions
  • Genuphobia – The fear of knees
  • Panophobia – The fear of everything

“Although a lot of these phobias sound silly, one of the worst things you can do for a person suffering from them is to belittle their fear,” cautions Dr. Mavrides. “It is extremely real for them.”

She advises that anyone who has a phobia should seek the assistance of a trained mental health professional at the first sign or symptom. “The sooner that one gets help, the better the chances of successfully overcoming the phobia,” she adds.

 


By Natasha Bright, contributing writer for UMiami Health News.