The World of Fear - Strange & Rare Phobias
What are phobias?
"No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear".
Edmund Burke, "On the Sublime and Beautiful."
Most of us can cope well with our odd fears and they don't usually have any major impact on our daily lives. Other people are not quite so lucky.
In addition to suffering from phobias, many also have to contend with other anxiety issues. Thankfully most phobias are well known to the medical profession and treatment can be given.
However, what happens when your phobia is rare? When your own doctor had never heard of it?
Frequently, people who suffer from any type of phobia – common or rare – feel so ridiculous that they avoid seeking any form of help. In addition, there are a higher percentage of people with rare phobias who avoid telling anyone and so often suffer alone.
A couple of basic definitions will give a little more understanding about the nature of phobias and fear.
‘Anxiety disorders in which the essential feature is a persistent and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that the individual feels compelled to avoid. The individual recognises the fear as excessive or unreasonable’. (Medical Dictionary Online)
‘The unpleasant emotional state consisting of psychological and psychophysiological responses to a real external threat or danger, including agitation, alertness, tension, and mobilisation of the alarm reaction’. (Medical Dictionary Online)
Fears Associated with thought processes and the body
Phobias can be divided into two main types - simple and complex.
A simple phobia for example might be having a fear of the dentist. Simple phobias tend to come from childhood experiences and can fade with time.
Complex phobias tend to develop later on in life - late teens/early twenties. These tend to be much more difficult to treat and frequently develop with other psychological issues. An example of a complex phobia would be Agoraphobia (a fear of going outside and public places).
Phobias take many forms and the triggers are not always clearly defined - especially with the less common forms that are described in this hub.
There are many phobias associated with both our physical bodies and our thought processes. Here are just a few examples:
- Urophobia - the fear of urine. This phobia is thought to be a disruption in thought based patterns where anxiety and stress levels increase at the thought of touching or being near urine. Often people will clean their bathrooms excessively. Any accidents where urine is spilt will result in the person insisting it be removed but cannot do the cleaning themselves. This fear very often goes hand in hand with a fear of germs.
- Ablutophobia - Is a fear of cleaning or washing yourself. This phobia is usually found in both women and children who have unstable emotional conditions. Similar to other phobias, this psychological state may have arisen because of an incident in childhood. Children can also develop phobias by observing an adult who has a specific fear. Research also shows that a number of people developed a fear of showering after watching the Alfred Hitchcock's film 'Psycho'.
- Scopophobia - the fear of being looked at. This particular fear often leads to social isolation. This type of phobia is frequently experienced by people suffering from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. It often presents itself by the sufferer covering their face with their hands in order to hide from the gaze of other people.
- Euphobia - the fear of receiving good news in the context that the person always feels that good news will be followed by bad news. Therefore on receipt of good news the person will often go into a severe anxiety state, waiting for bad news to follow.
- Phobophobia - the fear of developing a phobia. This is classed more of a psychological disorder as there is no specific 'phobia' that the person has a problem with.
Phobias About Objects and People
As with all phobias in the 'specific phobia' category, the following fears usually surface from the sub-conscious due to incidents in childhood.
The event has to be powerful enough to deeply impact on the mind, so creating the seed of fear. This seed is then buried deep within the sub-conscious.
Interestingly, this ‘seed’ is a safety mechanism. The subconscious is creating a 'fear' to alert the individual the next time that a similar danger is encountered.
Often as adults we have forgotten what the initial trigger was and so our phobias often don't make sense. In addition the fear seed may be created by unreal experiences.
Research has shown that movies, nightmares and stories can also create a seed that is then planted into the sub-conscious. As adults we may not think that a particular movie or book is scary, but to a young, impressionable mind, it can be terrifying.
Phobias develop when, in some way, the sub-conscious links fear with a particular image, object, scenario or person.
- Pediophobia - the fear of dolls - can also include dummies, mannequins or even children. Many of us might well identify with a fear of dolls or dummies. There are a large number of people who find these objects unsettling and creepy. Eisoptrophobia* - the fear of mirrors. The fear of mirrors can take a number of forms. This can range from a fear of looking at your reflection, to a feeling that the mirror itself is in someway a threat to you. People also develop severe anxieties about breaking a mirror and although just a superstition, they feel compelled to avoid such an incident at all costs.
- Sciophobia/Sciaphobia - is the fear of shadows. The name for this phobia is taken from the Greek - Scio - meaning fear. People suffering from this phobia can feel anything from dread to absolute terror. Again if we think about how shadows make us feel at times - in horror movies for example. Then the associations are not always nice. Shadows can be an indicator of the unknown or danger and to a child's mind a terrifying image.
- Coulropobia - the fear of clowns. This phobia is probably one that again many of us can identify with. However, bear in mind that we're not talking about something that creeps us out for a few minutes then we get on with life. Having a phobia such as this can lead to severe anxiety and panic attacks.
*Footnote - I've used the term 'Eisoptrophobia for the fear of mirrors. However, I do realise that there is some debate on whether the term 'spectrophobia' should be used instead. Most of the medical definitions I have looked at state the term ‘Eisoptrophobia’ for a phobia about mirrors but many do not have the term 'spectrophobia' anywhere. Spectrophobia is more commonly used to mean a fear of ghosts. Nevertheless it’s also used to refer to a fear of looking at your own.
Have you ever suffered from severe anxiety or a phobia?
Otherworldly phobias probably stem from the same childhood experiences as other phobias do.
However, there can be a problem when people go for therapy to their doctors/psychologists. The reason is that many of these professionals will regard such phobias as 'magical thinking'.
This term is used by psychology to define a mode of irrational fear. Difficulties will arise when the patient has a belief in the people, entities or objects associated with their anxiety, whereas the professionals will frequently dismiss them as fantasy.
This is the extreme fear of god or gods. This phobia is often connected to associated images - such as crucifixes and possibly other holy icons.
This is the fear of ghosts and spirits. It may be related to a general fear of death or dying called Thanatophobia.
However, phasmophobia may primarily just be a fear of the unknown. These phobias are very hard to pin down to a specific trigger or cause. Because of this, some experts believe it is a symptom of a much more serious disorder of anxiety and thought processes.
These phobias relate to the fear of the number 13 and Friday the 13th/Black Friday.
This is one of those superstitions and fears that can be found in almost every corner of the world. It’s also interesting to note that although phobias and superstitions are generally regarded as irrational, the following evidence has been gathered by researchers for Friday 13th.
As well as the awesome word for this phobia it's also a number phobia and this time the fear is based on the number '666'.
As with fears of the number 13 the 666 phobia probably has its origins in both superstition and religious beliefs.
The triggers could be the frightening Biblical book of Revelations. Alternatively, modern pop culture, books and movies have focused on this number as a symbol for the manifestation of evil. Related to this phobia is Demonophobia – the fear of demons.
It has to be remembered that although many of us can claim to have a fear of some of the above, with a phobia it goes beyond a general fear.
A true phobia is so powerful that it can literally affect every aspect of a person to the degree that they cannot live a normal life. Therefore, remember to have compassion for anyone suffering from a phobia.
I hope you've enjoyed this article on phobias and if you have experiences to share then please let us know in the comments section.
© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell