Phobias – Common and Rare

Do you remember being embarrassed screeching “Spider!” and letting out a scream that rivalled a diesel locomotive? What is it that causes you to do unreasonable things like jumping onto chairs in the middle of a drawing room conversation or barricading yourself in your room at the sight of a lizard or a millipede? Do you find yourself doing everything in your power to avoid making that presentation because speaking in front of a crowd gives you the jitters? You could well be suffering from a phobia.

Phobias are anxiety disorders brought on by fear of things or situations. Usually the fear is so intense that it interferes with the person’s day to day life or prevents her from achieving life goals. Other common symptoms apart from fear could be

  1. The realisation that your fear is unreasonable.
  2. Increasing fear as the object or situation moves closer.
  3. Doing all possible things to avoid the thing or situation.
  4. Enduring the thing or situation with high levels of fear
  5. Rapid heartbeat, sweating, tightness in chest, nausea or dizziness.

Children with phobias may throw tantrums when close to the object or situation or may cry or cling to their parents and refuse to leave their side.  

It has become the norm to call all fears phobias but there is an essential difference. The difference is one of degree. If the fear is intense and unreasonable and starts affecting your daily life or routine, then maybe it is time you addressed it. However, most unreasonable fears don’t become full-blown phobias because the sufferer finds some effective way to deal with it.

Here are some common phobias:

Arachnophobia

People with arachnophobia have an excessive fear of spiders. They will refuse to go close to it even to kill it or remove it from their home. They may require other people to help them. Such persons will not participate in outdoor activities or go camping since they fear there might be spiders outdoors or at camping sites and they do not want to see them or get close to them.

Acrophobia

Fear of heights is fairly common among people. It seems reasonable to some extent too. All of us do have a fear of heights. But it becomes a phobia when the fear is extreme and triggers panic attacks and avoidance behaviour. People who fear heights often experience a feeling of spinning when they realise they are in high places. They often think they are at a greater height than they actually are. They may also freeze with fear and will be unable to move.

Claustrophobia

This is a fear of closed spaces. People with claustrophobia experience a feeling of difficulty in breathing when they are in small enclosed spaces such as lifts. You may find them climbing stairs instead of taking lifts or standing very close to exits when they are in similar enclosed areas.

Aerophobia

Fear of flying is fairly common among passengers. They experience extreme levels of anxiety while flying and are known to avoid flying at all costs. This phobia is usually the result of a traumatic experience during an earlier flight. It may be that the airplane went through some extreme turbulence. Sometimes the unpleasant experience may be forgotten but the fear remains.

Trypanophobia

This I feel is a fear that is injected into the child by parents. It is a fear of receiving injections! How often one hears parents threatening their children – “Behave, or I’ll get the doctor to give you an injection.” People who suffer from this phobia are known to faint at the prospect of receiving an injection.

Let’s look at some uncommon or weird phobias.

Spectrophobia or cataptrophobia is the fear of mirrors or rather the fear of seeing one’s own reflection in the mirror. Psychologists say that this may be triggered by a traumatic experience involving mirrors or may be a reflection of low self-esteem. The famous British mathematician G. H. Hardy who mentored Srinivasa Ramanujam was known to suffer from it.

Ablutophobia is the fear of cleaning or bathing and is supposed to be more common among women than men! Like all phobias this is also due to some traumatic experience with such activities earlier in life.

Chorophobia is the fear of dancing. Those having chorophobia will avoid all situations that may involve dancing such as social get-togethers or parties.

Didaskaleinophobia is the fear of schools. Though the very young might think of it as a fun reason to skip classes, this is a real fear of going to school. It is said to be triggered by the fear of being separated from parents. It could also be the fear of bullying in schools.

Ovaphobia is a fear of eggs. Interestingly, Alfred Hitchcock who made some of the scariest films was afraid of eggs. He said the sight of blood was “jolly” compared to the sight of egg yolk oozing out of an egg.

Here is a phobia that affects a very large percentage of the population and needs to be tackled head on.

Nomophobia

Nomophobia or no mobile phone phobia is the fear of losing one’s phone or the fear of being out of coverage, or not having enough credit on one’s phone or being far away from it. This is a fairly recent and a very common phenomenon in these highly connected times. So common, that some studies point to sixty five per cent of people suffering from it.

We know there are teenagers who take their phones into the bathroom while showering. There are people who wouldn’t mind losing a finger but they would not want to lose their cell phone. They feel unsafe if they lose connectivity. They fear being out of touch even for a few minutes. Many people nowadays sleep with their mobile phones next to them.

In restaurants and other public places it is common to see groups of young people together but far away in their own private worlds busily texting on their phones. Why bother to meet up at all, one wonders on seeing them. Even young parents out with their children are mostly half-attentive to what their children are up to as they are found checking their phones from time to time; responding to that message or liking this picture or watching that hilarious video.

Let’s tackle nomophobia first. Let’s undertake a technology fast – a fast from technology. Fasting has been used from ancient times with great effect to achieve certain specific goals. People gave up eating and drinking or both in order to keep religious vows or as therapy to cleanse their systems. Let us take a technology fast to cleanse our mind of this mindless addiction.

Start by giving yourself a screen-free time every day. It is best to start with a one hour period. Choose this one hour in such a manner that other members of your family are also around and you can badger them to give up their screens too and have some real face to face conversation. Lock up all your devices in a draw during this one hour. Shut down your laptops and put your mobile phones on airplane mode. Either talk to family and friends face to face or give yourself an hour of solitude and do nothing, nothing at all. If you feel like it read a real physical print book.

Do this every day and experience the rich benefits you reap. Then perhaps you can increase it to more than an hour a day. Finally maybe you can have a whole screen-free day every week. Probably during the weekend.

Let’s fight nomophobia actively. For technology like all other tools invented by humans should serve us; not master us.

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