A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. If you have a phobia, you may experience a deep sense of dread or panic when you encounter the source of your fear. The fear can be of a certain place, situation, or object. Unlike general anxiety disorders, a phobia is usually connected to something specific.
The impact of a phobia can range from annoying to severely disabling. People with phobias often realize their fear is irrational, but they’re unable to do anything about it. Such fears can interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
An estimated 19 million Americans have a phobia that causes difficulty in some area of their lives. Seek the help of your doctor if you have a fear that prevents you from leading your fullest life.
Genetic and environmental factors can cause phobias. Children who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are at risk of developing a phobia. Distressing events, such as nearly drowning, can bring on a phobia. Exposure to confined spaces, extreme heights, and animal or insect bites can all be sources of phobias.
People with ongoing medical conditions or health concerns often have phobias. There’s a high incidence of people developing phobias after traumatic brain injuries. Substance abuse and depression are also connected to phobias.
Phobias have different symptoms from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. In schizophrenia, people have visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, negative symptoms such as anhedonia, and disorganized symptoms. Phobias may be irrational, but people with phobias do not fail reality testing.
Here are some types of phobias that you need to look out for:
Somniphobia: Fear of sleep
Somniphobia often involves an irrational and excessive fear of sleep. People who have this phobia associate falling asleep with dying. They also fear losing time while sleeping. Since sleep is essential to humans and has many health benefits, a lack of adequate sleep on a long-term basis increases the risk of colds, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Caligynephobia: Fear of beautiful women
Caligynephobia is also known as Venustraphobia. It is one of the weird phobias that comprises an abnormal fear of beautiful women. Even though it may be common for men to get intimidated by someone pretty, those who suffer from this condition take it to the extreme. They get numbness in the extremities, feel chest pain, or faint around an attractive woman.
Kathisophobia: Fear of sitting down
Kathisophobia is a specific phobia related to the fear of sitting down. It is related to Thassophobia, which is the fear of sitting or idleness. People who have this phobia typically experience dread, extreme anxiety, and anything associated with panic such as excessive sweating, rapid breathing, nausea, irregular heartbeat, dry mouth, shaking, and inability to articulate words and sentences.
Chaetophobia: Fear of hair
Chaetophobia is one of the weird phobias involving a part of the human body. This phobia includes a person’s fear of hair – whether it is their own, other people’s, or even animal hair. People who suffer from Chaetophobia often avoid touching their hair or other people doing so. They may also be immobilized by seeing a clump of hair on the floor, thus finding it extremely difficult to get a haircut. This condition may arise from a traumatic experience like a bad haircut, losing large amounts of hair or going bald.
Omphalophobia: Fear of belly buttons
Omphalophobia is the fear of belly buttons or navel. This phobia is linked with the association of the belly button to the umbilical cord and a mother’s womb. People who suffer from Omphalophobia avoid seeing or afraid of touching belly buttons, even their own. They might cover their navels by putting a bandage over it and avoiding places full of exposed belly buttons such as the beach.
Geliophobia: Fear of laughter
People with Geliophobia have the fear of laughter. They also hate the sound of other people chuckling or giggling if they have one of these weird phobias. Some people just feel slightly uncomfortable, while others could also start hyperventilating. It may be caused by laughing at an inappropriate time and experiencing embarrassment and humiliation as a result. A Geliophobic person may also be laughed at for different reasons beyond their control.
Plutophobia: Fear of money
Plutophobia involves the fear of money or wealth. This is one of those weird phobias that can manifest as dread on money itself, getting wealthy, or rich people. People suffering from Plutophobia often have a fear of making more money, becoming rich or afraid of wealthy people. They dread money itself and having to deal with it. This phobia may stem from being afraid of pressures and responsibilities that come with wealth or the fear of getting robbed.
Dextrophobia: Fear of having objects to your right
Dextrophobia is a specific or isolated fear of having objects to your right. It is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that is centered on non-social key factors. This phobia often tends to spring from previous trauma (usually physically injurious) experienced in childhood. People with Dextrophobia cannot stand to have objects on the right side of their bodies. In extreme cases, they will rearrange their surroundings to reflect this compulsive need.
Siderophobia: Fear of stars
People with Siderophobia do not enjoy stargazing at night like most of us do. They have a fear of stars, which is a very rare and weird phobia. Siderophobics often avoid staying outside at night and keep their curtains shut to avoid getting overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe. If they see stars, people who suffer from Siderophobia may faint, feel nauseous, lose control of their mind, have an increased heart rate, and suffer panic attacks.
Ablutophobia: Fear of bathing and cleaning
Ablutophobia is the fear of bathing and cleaning oneself. It is one of the weird phobias that occurs more in children, but still can be present in adults. People with Ablutophobia avoid taking a bath or showering which leads to unpleasant body odor and sometimes social isolation. It stems from a traumatic past event that involves water or being afraid of getting wet.
Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Even though it is an uncomfortable feeling for most of us, people with this phobia are anxious and afraid of it. They may avoid peanut-based products like peanut butter spread and ice cream. It can be rooted in a broader phobia such as the fear of sticky textures or choking.
Hylophobia: Fear of trees
Hylophobia is the irrational fear of trees, wood, or forest. This fear is often linked to exposure to childhood films and fairy tales involving the scary woods. People with Hylophobia do not grow out of this phobia. Their extreme anxiety can be triggered by walking in a wooded area or forest.
Optophobia: Fear of opening one’s eyes
Optophobia is the abnormal and persistent fear of opening one’s eyes. This unusual phobia can be extremely debilitating for people who suffer from it because they prefer to stay indoors or in dimly lit rooms. It is hard for them to carry out daily activities without seeing and opening their eyes. Optophobia is associated with generalized anxiety disorder and resulted from seeing or witnessing a traumatic incident.
Phagophobia: Fear of swallowing
Phagophobia is a rare and specific phobia that involves the fear of swallowing. It is sometimes confused with Pseudodysphagia or the fear of choking. Phagophobia is usually triggered by a negative experience while eating. People who suffer from this feel anxiety and tension causing their throat muscles to constrict. They may find themselves physically unable to swallow because they have become too anxious, in turn worsening their fear.
Nomophobia: Fear of not having access to one’s cellphone
Nomophobia is brought by the fear of not having access to one’s cellphone, losing signal, running out of battery, or even losing sight of one’s phone. People who have one of these weird phobias check their phones obsessively and suffer extreme anxiety if they are unable to use their mobile phones. This fear often stems from cellphone addiction.
From the most common to the most unusual, there are a lot of existing fears and phobias we are unaware of. It is more than just being afraid of something for most people suffering from this. If you know someone with any of the distinct or weird phobias listed above, encourage them to seek professional help.
People with a genetic predisposition to anxiety may be at high risk of developing a phobia. Age, socioeconomic status, and gender seem to be risk factors only for certain phobias. For example, women are more likely to have animal phobias. Children or people with a low socioeconomic status are more likely to have social phobias. Men make up the majority of those with dentist and doctor phobias.
Symptoms of phobias
The most common and disabling symptom of a phobia is a panic attack. Features of a panic attack include:
- pounding or racing heart
- shortness of breath
- rapid speech or inability to speak
- dry mouth
- upset stomach
- elevated blood pressure
- trembling or shaking
- chest pain or tightness
- a choking sensation
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- profuse sweating
- a sense of impending doom
A person with a phobia doesn’t have to have panic attacks for accurate diagnosis, however.
Treatment for phobias can involve therapeutic techniques, medications, or a combination of both.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used therapeutic treatment for phobias. It involves exposure to the source of the fear in a controlled setting. This treatment can decondition people and reduce anxiety.
The therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts, dysfunctional beliefs, and negative reactions to the phobic situation. New CBT techniques use virtual reality technology to expose people to the sources of their phobias safely.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help calm emotional and physical reactions to fear. Often, a combination of medication and professional therapy is the most helpful.
If you have a phobia, it’s critical that you seek treatment. Overcoming phobias can be difficult, but there’s hope. With the right treatment, you can learn to manage your fears and lead a productive, fulfilling life.