The Weirdest Phobias And Why People Have Them

Anatidaephobia is a very real fear that somewhere in the world a duck or a goose is watching you.

Phobias are a common type of anxiety disorder where people often go to extreme lengths to avoid a particular object or situation that they are very afraid of.

While most phobias are common, such as fear of spiders, snakes, flights or confined spaced, there are some rare ones out there many people may not even have heard of.

  • Ablutophobia is a fear of bathing, which can sometimes stem from a traumatic past experience.
  • Anatidaephobia is the fear that somewhere in the world a duck or a goose is watching you.
  • Ergophobia is a fear of work or the workplace which often stems from social anxiety.

Source: Getty Images

  • Somniphobia is the fear of falling asleep.
  • Arithmophobia is the fear of numbers or arithmetic which can sometimes be linked to triskaidekaphobia which is a fear, often superstitious, of the number 13.
  • Coulrophobia is considered informally as a fear of clowns, which has seen a spate of discussion with the rise of the bizarre 'killer clown craze' stemming from Steven King's famous 'It' novel.
Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Photo Credit: AAP
  • Philophobia, the fear of falling in love or forming emotional connections can be linked to past emotional trauma or turmoil.
  • Ephebiphobia is also arguably on the rise with people fearing youth and young people (millennials, am I right)
  • Nomophobia is a relatively new disorder where sufferers are afraid of being without their phones or feel extremely lonely without their devices even for short periods of time.

With reliance on our digital devices increasing, nomophobia has sparked a string of global studies dedicated to determining how many people suffer from the phobia. Several surveys are even available for people to self-assess their mobile phone habits.

An example of a nomophobia survey developed by Caglar Yildirim in 2014.

While the list of phobias appears to be never-ending and continues to grow, it's important to note that many phobias are considered diagnosable, and more importantly, treatable, mental disorder.

Professor of clinical psychology and Director of Monash University's FEAR clinic, Peter Norton told 10 daily that phobias are very common. Estimates of people who meet the standard criteria for phobia diagnosis between are five to seven percent of the population.

READ MORE: What Is Nomophobia And How Do you Know If You Have It

Norton said the most common trigger for phobias is usually a prior bad experience, adding that for example, people who were barked at by a dog when they were younger are much likelier to develop a phobia of them later in late.

"But sometimes people don’t have to have had a direct experience, there's a lot of times when people may have just heard negative things about a particular animal for example and develop a fear."

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Norton, who has worked in the field for close to two decades said there's a lot of cases where there's no "obvious cue" why someone isn't comfortable with particular situations, for example people who have a fear of heights.

He added that while there is a hereditary component for emotional disorders, anxiety and depression for example, there hasn't been a direct link to passing down phobias through generations.

Are Phobias Treatable?

Norton, said research at the FEAR clinic focuses on looking beyond the "arbitrary divisions between different diagnoses" and closer at the  biological, physical and psychological symptoms behind people's experiences.

He said while there isn't a "magical defining line" as to what symptoms cross the threshold of becoming phobias, diagnosis often comes down to the extent the fear interferes with the people's lives and their ability to do what they want to be doing.

READ MORE: What Is The Actual Difference Between Stress And Anxiety?

READ MORE: Why Mental Health Should Be A Dinner-Table Conversation

He added that success of phobia treatment is "extremely high" for people who commit themselves to cognitive behavioral therapy.

"It works as long as they're willing to commit themselves to it," Norton said.

Cognitive BEHAVIOuR Therapy

The first step is to help the person identify some of the assumptions they have about the things that cause them emotional distress.

"We help people come to a more realistic and balanced view of these assumptions," Norton said.

Step two then involves helping people re-evaluate their fears to feel comfortable knowing that it is unlikely the thing will harm them if they take the necessary precautions and "don't do anything stupid."

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Using the fear of heights as an example, Norton said CBT would often involve having the person stand on a stool or chair and continue doing that action over and over again until they feel comfortable.

Eventually this would allow the person to progress to standing on a ladder, followed by a balcony and other higher places, continuing the repetitive step at each level to ensure they remain comfortable.

Norton said in this way people "very gradually confront the situations that provoke [their] fear or anxiety."

"There's no rhyme or reason," Norton said of the standard time it takes people to progress through the steps, "some people it just takes a little bit longer... others feel comfortable quite quickly."

For further information about anxiety contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

Featured Image: Getty