Natalie Frank, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, specializes in pediatric psychology and behavioral health.
Everyone is afraid of something. Yet for most people, their fear doesn’t get in the way of them living their lives. For those with serious phobias however, this is not the cases. Phobias are defined as an extreme, irrational fear of or aversion to an object or situation. Many people know about the more common phobias such as fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia). But most people aren’t aware that there are phobias that involve a fear of idleness, Chinese people and comets.
In recent years, there have been a number of fake phobias that have been created by writers for internet lists, cartoons and other sources. Fictional phobias are often constructed using a traditional Latin word for the object or situation and appending the word for fear to the end. Sometimes an English syllable is added to create a made up, humorous but non existent phobia.They are created to entertain or sometimes to make a statement about society or cultural views.
Of course, a real phobia is a serious condition and shouldn’t be taken lightly. These fictional phobias are intended for entertainment only and are sometimes an attempt to normalize real phobias by pointing out that under the right conditions almost anything can become a phobia. Some of the funniest fictional phobias are presented below.
This is one of the more existential phobias. It comes from the Latin root for nothing and is literally the fear of nothingness. It originated in a 1998 episode of the t.v. show Star Trek: Voyager called Night. In the show one of the Voyager’s officers begins having panic attacks when the ship was traveling through a part of space known as the Void which was characterized by the nothingness of space.
This is the fear of reality. While we all like to shut off the phone and hide from reality every now and again, pragmatophobia causes a person to develop a type of Don Quxote syndrome, taking reality avoidance quite seriously. While pragmatophobia may seem like a delusional syndrome, the immersion in fantasy and avoidance of reality is said to be caused by intense fear.
Luposlipaphobia combines the Latin term for wolf along with a fear of slipping. This phobia is a fear of being chased by timber wolves while wearing socks on a recently waxed floor. The term was also created by Gary Larson for his Far Side comic.
This is a made up word intended to signal what it is based on it’s construction. Aibohphobia is a fear of palindromes or words that read the same forward and backward. Notice that the word is actually a palindrome.
This phobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. It was first seen in the comic Peanuts written by Charles M. Schulz. The phobia was later referred to in the spy novel Dead Man’s Handle by Peter O’Donnell published in 1985.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words. The term sesquippedalio refers to lengthy words. It comes from the Latin word sesquipedalis meaning a foot and a half long. Whoever came up with the term appeared to be going for irony as they purposely added hippopoto and monstro, short for hippopotamus and monster respectively to lengthen the word used to refer to a fear of long words. Often the word is spelled with a extra”p” to lengthen it further, making it Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.
“Hey, remember that song in Mary Poppins when she sang, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?"
“AAAUUGGGHH! I hate that song!”
"It’s really a fun song - let’s sing it together. . . Supercalifragilistic. . ."
"Stop! I can’t stand it!"
"What’s wrong? You don’t have Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, do you?"
"Stop with the long words! You’re making me crazy!"
"Oh, come on. It’s not as if I uttered that word that takes three and a half hours to pronounce with almost 190,000 letters. What is it again? Methionylalanylthreonylseryl. . ."
"That’s it! I’m locking myself in my room and not coming out until there is an abbreviation for every word over two syllables!"
Listen to the hilarious Long Word Song
This is a fear of pickles. Tales of this fictional phobia began making the rounds when a girl who was interviewed on the a talk show said she was deathly afraid of the presence of pickles. Evidently, those with pickle phobias are fine with cucumbers just not when they are pickled. It was later determined that the girl with the pickle phobia was faking the alleged disorder and that pickle phobia is non existent.
Someone who suffers from this phobia believes that somewhere a duck or goose is watching them. They aren’t fearful the duck or goose will attack them or find them or that other fowl might take up the surveillance, just that an individual bird is watching them. The word anatidaephobia comes from the Greek word anatidae which means duck, geese or other waterfowl. This phobia was created by Gary Larson for his Far Side comic strip.
Weird Phobias That Sound Fake But Are Real
There are so many phobias that have been defined that it is clear that almost anything can become feared. While many are familiar to us, or make sense, some phobias that are real and create distress impacting quality of life sound fictional and at times, bizarre. Some of the stranger phobias that sound fake are listed below.
People with xanthophobia fear anything yellow. This can include flowers, the sun, paint, clothing, wallpaper and furniture among others. Sometimes the phobia can be so severe that the person can’t even tolerate the word yellow.
Nomophobia is the fear of being somewhere where there isn’t cell phone coverage or they don’t have their cell phone with them. The term is different from many others as it is based on abbreviations of English words. The term is constructed from shortened versions of the words no + mobile + phone + phobia. In 2008 research found that 53 percent of those with cell phones felt anxiety when they couldn’t use their cell phones for any reason. Over half reported they never shut their phones off. These rates have been steadily increasing in the past 10 years.
Turophobia is a fear of cheese. Some people with this phobia may fear just one type of cheese while others may fear all cheese. However, the fear of one type can generalize to others until the person develops a fear of all varieties of cheese. Often this fear is related to a traumatic event such as choking and those with the disorder will avoid even being in the same room with the cheese that they fear.
Coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, is one of the more common phobias and research shows it is generally seen in children. The scary clown has often been used in movies such as the Joker in Batman, and the Clown in IT. When severe, this type of phobia often continues into adulthood and it is not unusual for adults to be frightened by circus clowns.
Hylophobia is another phobia frequently seen in children as well as adults. It involves an irrational fear of the woods, forests, or trees. It can often be linked to films and fairy tails seen in childhood which include scary woods and trees that come to life. A good example of this are the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz.
Genuphobia is a fear of knees. There is a range of what triggers the panic in people with this phobia. For some it may be seeing only their knees, while other's may fear seeing anyone's uncovered knees. Some experience panic only seeing knees in person, though others may panic even from seeing them in a movie or a picture. Some people may be fine seeing knees but be terrified of kneeling. This phobia may be the result of a traumatic knee injury, observing someone receiving such an injury in person or on film, or a religious upbringing involving conservative clothing or possibly the act of kneeling when praying.
Although quite rare, there are those individuals who have an extreme fear of the Pope or the authority of the papacy. The world Papaphobia comes from the Greek word for father, pappas. This type of phobia is closely related to several others including hierophobia or the fear of sacred objects or holy people, hagiophobia or the fear of saints and holy things, and ecclesiophobia or the fear of church. Papaphobia is thought to be the result of a real or imagined trauma associated with the Pope. While this phobia doesn’t usually interfere with an adults daily life, it can be a problem in observant Catholics. For others with the phobia, even if they are estranged from the Catholic Church, having thoughts of the Pope or even hearing his name mentioned can be enough to cause a panic attack.
Omphalophobia is the irrational fear of the navel. People experiencing this phobia fear having their navels touched and will not touch another person’s navel. The fear can often be traced to an association with the umbilical cord.
A convenient phobia to have, Ergophobia is the fear of work or the workplace. Experts believe that the phobia is a combination of the fear of failing at work related tasks, social anxiety and fear of public speaking.
Phronemophobia is the fear of thinking. This may seem like an impossibility since phobias involve an attempt to completely avoid what is feared and you can’t avoid thinking completely. The disorder is related to mnemophobia which is the fear of memories. One cause of this problem may be thoughts and ideas that the person finds unacceptable and abhorrent and would never act upon, but the person can’t get the thoughts out of their head. The more the person has these types of thoughts the more they become convinced that they may act upon them and do something unforgivable.
New Fake Phobias - Join in the Fun
After reading the ones others have created, I wanted to join in the fun, so I created some of my own fictional and humorous phobias. If you’d like to add to the list with your own creations please list them in the comments.
This phobia was originally named for Captain Hook of Peter Pan fame. It was originally just called herpetophobia for fear of crocodiles. However, I feel this name was misleading since it wasn't all crocodiles he was afraid of, only a specific one. So I renamed the phobia horologiuminmedioherpetophobia, which is more accurate. It translates roughly as, "fear of crocodiles with a clock inside".
This is the fear of the clock saying 5:58 when you never eat after 6:00.
Fear of your child being silent for more than a minute, knowing this means something bad has happened or they’ve done something they shouldn’t have.
Fear of a blacking out awarding likes to every pornographic site on Facebook then sending an invite to your boss and work colleagues to follow your page.
Final Thoughts and Cautions
There are many humorous and fictional phobias that have been invented and which can be found on the internet. New ones are always being created by writers, comedians and others. However, while these made up, fake phobias are funny they can be a problem as well. Part of the problem is some of these fictional constructions sound quite similar to real phobias and can cause real phobias to be seen as less serious and less important conditions.
When there are multiple fake phobias circulating that are not recognized as fictional, this can affect the understanding of the nature of real phobias such that those who have them feel they are making a big deal out of nothing. Minimizing the fear can lead to a failure to view treatment as a viable option.
When those with phobias involving objects or situations that can’t be completely avoided don’t get treatment their life can be significantly impacted. Phobias often get worse without treatment and the problem can become so severe that the person may alter their life in a major way to avoid the feared object or situation.
People with real phobias already know that their fear is irrational and that most others don’t react the same way which can affect their self esteem. It is important to recognize phobias that are created for the purpose of comedic relief and differentiate them from real phobias. Being aware of the severity of phobias and how they can impact quality of life can lead to empathy and the ability to help someone seek intervention by making them feel accepted and understood.
If you have a fear or phobia that is serious enough to affect your life and your happiness there are treatment options available to help you get rid of this problem. Choose a mental health practitioner who specializes in phobias and anxiety disorders who is well versed in cognitive behavioral therapy and applied behavior analysis. Techniques from these therapeutic approaches have been shown to be the most effective for treating phobias.
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© 2018 Natalie Frank