My Phobia of Bare Feet
As long as I can remember I have had a phobia of bare feet. There is no rational reason I can think of for this, but what I do know is that it does impact on my life in quite surprising ways that many without this phobia may not have considered.
When I was young my hatred of bare feet made me very uncomfortable doing sports in the gymnasium at school, not least because if using much of the gym equipment and the landing mats etc, we were required to go barefoot. I was very self conscious of my feet, even though they are perfectly normal and petite in size. When being bullied at school I desperately wanted to take up a martial art for self defence, but was put off after one Judo lesson, when I realised that going barefoot was going to be essential. I never went back, and the bullying continued.
As the years have gone on my foot phobia has not reduced, and even now I will never walk around the house in bare feet, always choosing to wear shoes or slippers. When in bed at night if my Husband has not been banished to the spare room for snoring too much, then I keep my own feet well away from his. Occasionally in the night his feet will accidentally touch mine, and I will flinch as if I have been stung, instinctively moving my feet to the opposite end of the bed. In many ways I am not sure if this reaction is because I can't stand the contact from his bare feet, or if it is because I can't bear him contacting my bare feet. Either way, I dislike the contact intensely.
Unfortunately for me my Husband has a bad habit of walking around the house with no socks or slippers on. This makes me cringe, and even though I have bought him slippers, I still find him walking barefoot in the home. It is frustrating because he knows I hate feet, and even when I point out to him there is no point in having a bath and then walking around with no socks on, because in a house with three cats who are in and out all day, his feet will quickly end up filthy from simply walking on the kitchen floor tiles, (even though we mop them regularly....... the tiles, not his feet!), he continues to walk around barefoot without wearing the new slippers I have bought for him.
I was even at my own Mother's house on one occasion when my Stepfather had to cut her toenails for her. Witnessing this made me feel quite nauseous, and there is no way I can imagine ever doing this service for her myself.
The very idea of bare feet just makes my nose wrinkle up in distaste and my whole body cringe. For the life of me I cannot understand how people enjoy foot fetishes, or can cope with foot massages. When I see a bare foot all I see are the most unattractive parts of the human body, with the potential to smell truly appalling, the ability to contract fungal type infections, a verruca haven and an ugly, knobbly pair of appendages in general. In fact on a personal level I won't even buy or wear open toed shoes or sandals of any kind, nor can I see why others choose to draw attention to their feet by painting their toenails.... Yuck!!
My recent online browsing has given me a lot more information on my phobia. In fact it is far more common than I realised. Apparently the phobia of feet is called Podophobia, Podiaphobia or Petaphelaphobia (latter the fear of people touching your feet), and can consist of a fear of not only your own feet, but also other people's. In extreme cases some sufferers of Podophobia or Podiaphobia, can't even go into a shoe or sock shop without a problem. This actually made me feel a little better, mainly because I am not literally scared of feet, I just find they make me cringe, but not in the same way as say a large house spider would if it touched me, in other words a bare foot would not send me rapidly to a state of clinging to the ceiling shaking like a leaf. I suppose I am more what I have seen described as a 'Foot-o-Phobe', i.e. I feel uncomfortable, even irritated when I look at feet. I hate people touching my feet and I don't like discussing feet or problems with feet, on a face to face basis. I certainly would not enjoy watching any kind of TV documentary on feet, and don't even like adverts on the television where they talk about 'Happy Feet' etc. I don't even find children's feet tolerable, so when I see a Mum playing with her baby's feet, possibly nuzzling them with her nose, blowing raspberries on them etc, I squirm totally.
Some of the Main Symptoms of Podophobia or Podiaphobia
- Sweating, breathlessness
- Change in body temperature
- Change in blood pressure
- Nausea, dry mouth
- Headache, dizziness
- Full blown panic attack
- Feeling exceedingly terrified and queasy
There are treatments available for this phobia if it has become a real problem in your life. Most of these appear to consist of either:
Psychological Therapy: especially suitable for people who suffer from panic disorders. The long term success of this kind of treatment is proven.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): Apparently this is one of the most effective methods of treatment for feet phobias. This greatly assists in dealing with difficult situations. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), have suggested 7-14 hours of CBT which a patient suffering from agoraphobia and panic disorders is supposed to complete within the period of four months.
Exposure therapy: In this kind of therapy, patients are gradually exposed to the element they fear. They are taught to control their reaction through deep breathing and positive thinking.
Hypnosis: For those capable of being hypnotised this is an option that could be very successful and is certainly worth considering.
Support groups: The main aim of support groups is to make people discuss and share the experiences which are unpleasant to them. This should help them to connect with others having similar feelings.
Medication: Podophobia or Podiaphobia is one of those which is difficult to cure only with counseling and behavioural therapies. Some medication is also frequently necessary in order to help the patient deal with their phobia.
- Antidepressants: These are used to treat depression and can take several weeks before they become effective
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are also a type of antidepressant that increases the level of serotonin in the brain.
- Tricyclic antidepressants: These also work as antidepressants, keeping the brain and mind calm.
- Beta –blockers: These can control anxiety and its symptoms such as sweating and trembling. Beta-blockers slow down the heart rate, which reduces the pressure at which the blood is pumped, resulting in reducing the chances of panic attack.
There is no guarantee these treatments will work, but until the sufferer tries them they won't know. Certainly it is worth persevering until your therapist concedes that the current choice of therapy is not succeeding.
Although my phobia of bare feet is annoying and at times frustrating, I was relieved to find out that I am not an extreme case. My advice to anyone who is suffering from this would be to judge carefully how much this impacts on your day to day life, and if the answer is 'too much' then seek out one of the therapies above, (or as many of them as necessary to cure the problem).
My advice to anyone who has a friend, partner or family member who suffers from this phobia, is to be considerate, don't play the fool and do idiotic things such as pinning the person down and rubbing your bare feet on them, or surprising them by draping your bare feet over their shoulders when they least expect it. Whilst these immature actions may seem funny to you, remember to them this is serious and very distressing. Try to consider how you would feel in they exploited a phobia of yours in a similar way, e.g. if you are scared of snakes, rats or spiders and they chose to plant one of these in your bed, your briefcase or elsewhere.