Phobias are real, diverse and bizarre

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 20:00

According to the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education (APIRE), phobia is a strong, persistent, and irrational fear elicited by a specific stimulus or situation. About one out of 10 people suffer a severe fear of specific objects, activities, or settings. However, phobias can be overcome through quick and effective help (coaching, counseling, or therapy).

Phobias include abnormal fear of death or dying, bridges, heights, closed spaces, open spaces, crowds, animals, public speaking, commitment, intimacy, success as well as failure, change and even fear of fear.

Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the country. APIRE has reported that in any given year, 7.8 percent of American adults have phobias, and says they are the most common psychiatric illness among women of all ages and are the second most common illness among men older than 25.

Phobias are serious, and sometimes require professional attention. But I can’t help but find some humor in some of these. It’s almost as if people at APIRE sat around one day, cackling and chortling like Mad Magazine writers, as they merrily conjured up an endless list of bizarre phobias.

Apeirophobia, for example, is fear of infinity. I would think that it would be the worst phobia possible for high-level government officials who work on the federal budget.

Automatonophobia is fear of ventriloquist’s dummies, animatronic creatures, wax statues — anything that falsely represents a sentient being. I could mention some individuals in government by name, but won’t. Other phobias possibly related to politicians include Ideophobia, which is fear of ideas, or Phronemophobia, which is fear of thinking and Decidophobia, or fear of making decisions.

Levophobia is a fear of things to the left side of the body. I wonder if this affliction dooms people into walking in right-hand circles for the rest of their lives.

Ataxophobia is fear of disorder or untidiness. When they were teenagers, my children definitely did not have this phobia.

You shouldn’t live in Alaska if you have Chionophobia, which is fear of snow; Hoplophobia, fear of firearms; Ichthyophobia, fear of fish; Agrizoophobia, fear of wild animals; and Ombrophobia, fear of rain.

Some fears might be impossible to overcome. They include Myxophobia, or fear of slime; Nephophobia, fear of clouds, or Pteronophobia, the fear of being tickled by feathers.

Some members of Alaska’s legislature might have this phobia: Allodoxaphobia, or fear of opinions.

The worst one on the list, I think, is Panophobia, which is fear of everything.

Again, phobias are a debilitating condition and there is no intention here to minimize their seriousness. But the list of phobias provided by APIRE, if you ever have an opportunity to peruse it, is quite staggering. I must confess that among the more than 520 phobias listed, I found myself symptomatic of several, including Arithmophobia, or fear of numbers.

Not on the list was the very strange phobia that I possessed as a child: fear of major league baseball umpires. Hunched over behind the catcher with the face mask and black chest protector, they always looked dark and menacing to me. I guess that one would be called Umpirephobia.

And after last summer’s infestation, I think I might be developing Mottephobia, a fear of moths.


Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.

Facebook comments