Thursday, 9 April 2009


“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” - André Gide

Almost everyone in the world has a fear or two of one kind or another. However, it is relatively few that suffer from a true phobia, which is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. Some people really dread something so much that their whole life becomes a nightmare as they try to avoid confronting this phobia of theirs. Less common is the condition of polyphobia, which means to have more than one irrational fear. Extremely rare, but quite bizarre is the person who suffers from an antinomial phobia. For example, vestiophobia (fear of clothes) and gymnophobia (fear of nudity), or another example, scotophobia (fear of darkness) and photophobia (fear of light).

Some phobias have been with mankind ever since it evolved with a mind to become irrational. For example, brontophobia (fear of thunder), acrophobia (fear of heights), and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), ailurophobia (fear of cats), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), which must have haunted some people since the beginning of humankind’s history. On the other hand, new discoveries and technology bring about new phobias: Electrophobia (fear of electricity), motorphobia (fear of automobiles), and aviophobia (fear of flying). Nucleomituphobia (fear or nuclear weapons) developed quickly after the fateful detonations of the atomic bomb in Japan at the end of WWII, and proliferated during the cold war years. Cyberphobia (fear of computers) and technophobia (fear of technology) developed rapidly with the introduction of the personal computer and the plethora of devices that the new technology developed quickly afterward.

People have suffered through history from pathophobia (fear of disease), monophobia (fear of being alone), agoraphobia (fear of being in a crowd), and haemophobia (fear of blood). Some have been plagued through the ages by omiliophobia (fear of public speaking), algophobia (fear of pain), taphephobia (fear of being buried alive), or nebulophobia (fear of fog). Scholiophobia (fear of school), thalassophobia (fear of the sea) and triskaidekatophobia (fear of the number 13) have also been around for some time.

Pentherophobia (fear one’s mother-in-law), lachanophobia (fear of vegetables), arachidobutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter) and helminthophobia (fear of being infested with worms) are probably more of a worry than hippopotamonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words). Ichthyophobia (fear of fish) is probably more common than emmetrophobia (fear of poetry) and arithmophobia (fear of numbers) more of a problem than octophobia (fear of the number eight).

Phobias can seriously impact on a person’s life and cause great distress. Someone with chronophobia (fear of time) probably won’t be very punctual! A person with chaetophobia (fear of hair) is most likely bald, has no eyelashes, no eyebrows, and a well-shaved smooth body as well! Cibophobia (fear of food) could easily lead to anorexia. Clinophobia (fear of going to bed), scotophobia (fear of the dark) and oneirophobia (fear of dreams) may lead to problems with sleep, insomnia and psychological disturbances.

Psychological help is available to help people with all sorts of different phobias and psychiatric treatments may be needed, unless of course the person has iatrophobia (fear of doctors)…

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