6 Mysterious Phobias That Actually Exist


The Latin word phobia is directly descendent of the Greek word phobos, which means panic or fear. 

According to the American Psychological Association, a phobia is a persistent and irrational fear of a specific situation, object, or activity, which is consequently avoided or endured with great distress. 

Phobias usually fall into three categories: specific phobias, environmental phobias, and situational phobias. Phobias like hemophobia (fear of blood) and arachnophobia( fear of spiders) are considered specific phobias. Dendrophoia (fear of trees) and acrophobia (fear of heights) are environmental phobias. However, some phobias, such as agoraphobia and claustrophobia, can interfere with your day-to-day. 

But, there are some other less common phobias that you might not be familiar with. Below are just seven.  

Anthropophobia

 If anthropology is the study of human societies, then anthropophobia is the fear of them. Well, to be clear anthropophobia is the fear of people. This term is not widely used, and it has no classification in the DSM-5. Instead, the National Institute of Mental Health classifies it as a social anxiety disorder. 

Perhaps it is seen this way because it shares vague similarities with agoraphobia and sociophobia. However, some researchers claim that this kind of phobia is different. Someone with sociophobia might feel comfortable in an anonymous setting, but someone with anthropophobia may feel anxious in the same situation. 

This type of phobia may make it difficult to form and sustain relationships, hence getting in the way of work, school, and other types of social activity. Because humans are hardwired to be social creatures, this type of phobia can make you feel conflicted. You may crave to be around others but still fear it. 

A common symptom of anthropophobia is anticipatory anxiety. This preemptive anxiety can cause you to avoid triggering situations. Other symptoms common in anxiety disorders can also be present.  

Treatment for anthropophobia varies from person to person. For some, talking to a therapist may help. 

Ataxophobia

Ataxophobia is the fear of disorder or untidiness. Many people misinterpret ataxophobia as obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, they could not be more different. According to the International OCD Foundation and the American Psychological AssociationOCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by a pattern of obsessions and compulsions that prompt a performance of neutralizing rituals. These rituals serve as a coping mechanism. 

However, the image that we associate with OCD is one of someone who obsessively cleans and washes their hands. But, that image is more aligned to a different phobia.

The word ataxia is the Greek word to define lack of order or mess. So, those with this phobia experience distress by even thinking or mess. They may become obsessed with symmetry and cleanliness and make concerted efforts to avoid mess. 

Though the symptoms of ataxophobia seem debilitating, some tools can help. Therapy is a great tool. With a therapist, you can learn tools that can help you manage your fears. 

Achluophobia

Achluophobia also referred to as nyctophobia, is the fear of the dark. This fear is common in children, but it can affect adults too. This phobia is not as uncommon as you think. A 2012 U.K. survey showed that approximately 40% of the adult participants were afraid to walk around in the dark. The reasons behind the development of this phobia are not certain, but some researchers believe that it is an evolutionary vestige–darkness makes us more susceptible to danger. However, others believe that it may be related to separation anxiety from a primary attachment figure

Though achluophobia may seem innocuous, it can be debilitating. It may get in the way of creating evening plans or feeling safe in dark places such as movie theatres. However, some things can help. 

Goal therapy coupled with controlled exposure therapy can help you overcome this fear. Reach out to a therapist for more information on these techniques and various others that can help.

Catoptrophobia

Catoptrophobia is the fear of mirrors or one’s reflection. Because of the nature of this phobia, it is considered a specific phobia. 

Catoptrophobia, also known as spectrophobia or eissoptrophobia, may be concurrent with other disorders such as body dysmorphia, PTSD, or anxiety disorders. Hence, during the diagnostic, a clinician will run a thorough examination before diagnosing. 

Although some research suggests traumatic events may result in the development of specific phobias, that may not be the case for this phobia. In a 2017 paper, Rene Garcia suggests that some specific phobias may be caused by genetic or environmental factors. 

The causes of spectrophobia are varied. You can experience fear of your reflection as a result of an eating disorder, a general fear of mirrors, or spiritual-borne fear of mirrors. 

A common treatment for specific phobias is exposure therapy. Please seek the assistance of a licensed clinician. 

Hypochondria

 You might have heard the term hypochondria before. Some people use it, albeit negatively and with much stigma, to describe someone afraid of illnesses. Despite the stigma, hypochondria is more than a phobia. It is an anxiety disorder that affects approximately 0.1% of Americans. Unfortunately, illness anxiety can cause you to either seek constant medical attention or actively ignore it. 

Health experts do not know why this disorder develops, but they suggest that childhood trauma, extreme stress, or family history can contribute to its development. Hypochondria is often confused for h somatic symptom disorder because they share similar symptoms. Yet, someone with somatic symptom disorder physically experiences the symptoms of an illness, but medical exams fail to provide a cause. 

Some symptoms of illness anxiety are constantly researching diseases and their symptoms, avoiding people or places due to worry about possibly catching an illness, or repeatedly checking yourself for signs of an illness. Unfortunately, having a medical condition can exacerbate your illness anxiety, and it may make your medical symptoms seem more severe. 

Illness anxiety coupled with iatrophobia (fear of doctors) or nosocomephobia (fear of hospitals) can make it difficult to receive adequate medical care. 

Illness anxieties not only affect your wellbeing, but they also affect your relationships. You may miss out on time with friends or loved ones because you are concerned about your health. It also makes you more prone to depression, financial struggles, other possible health complications due to frequent medical testing. 

 For treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy can work. Talk to a therapist for more information.

Mysophobia

Mysophobia, colloquially known as germaphobia, is the fear of dirt and germs. Though it is prudent to exercise good hygiene in situations where contamination may occur, now more so than before, mysophobia exaggerates your concerns.  

Many misconstrue mysophobia as a symptom of OCD. While some of their symptoms overlap, such as hand washing, mysophobia and OCD are different in this regard. Some with OCD can use hand washing as a ritual, and the act is motivated to appease distressing thoughts. Someone with mysophobia may frequently wash their hands for the sole purpose of removing germs. 

If you have mysophobia, you may experience heart palpitations, crying, or shaking when exposed to dirt or bacteria. These symptoms typically occur when the perceived threat of contamination is visible, for example, touching doorknobs or gardening. As a result, you may frequently shower, always use hand sanitizer, or avoid public restrooms or transportation. In some cases, it can lead you to avoid people altogether. 

Fortunately, there are treatment options available. A common form of treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy but discuss with a therapist your symptoms so they can create a plan that will work for you. 

COVID-19 has brought on changes. For some, the sudden change may have caused new fears to develop or old fears to reemerge. However, if we are brave enough, we can rise above them. 

With proper care and guidance, your phobias will be manageable. Please reach out to a licensed medical professional for help. 

Take care! 

Sources

Avenasa, C. (2020, August 12). 7 Rarest Phobia You’ve Probably Never Heard Of. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwb1bfmDqOA. 

Cherry, K. (2020, August 13). A to Z: List of Phobias, From the Strange to the Common. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/list-of-phobias-2795453. 

Cleveland Clinic. (2021, February 2). Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondria): Symptoms & Treatments. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9886-illness-anxiety-disorder-hypochondria-hypochondriasis. 

Hansen, I. (2017, September 25). 10 strange phobias you might not have known existed. The Courier Mail. https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/fraser-coast/10-strange-phobias-you-might-not-have-known-existed/news-story/d767ae733a47a37ae66f741c1f765853. 

Harvard. (2018, December 18). Phobia. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/phobia-a-to-z. 

Hull, M., & Sippel, T. (2021, April 14). Weird Phobias You’ve Likely Never Heard Of: The Recovery Village. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/phobias/related/weird-phobias/. 

Laliberte, M. (2020, November 4). 30 Unusual Phobias You Never Knew Existed. The Healthy. https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/strange-phobias/. 

O’ Keefe Osborn, C., & Legg, T. J. (2019, February 27). Common and Unique Fears Explained. healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/list-of-phobias#common-fears. 

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