Last week, I read a story about a 34-year-old British woman who is extremely afraid of metal cutlery. She’s been using plastic utensils for 17 years because the sound of a fork scraping against a plate gives her a panic attack.
Bizarre, right? But she’s not alone. While popular phobias like snakes and spiders might get all of the attention, there are a wide variety of not-so-obvious horrors that give people the heebie-jeebies.
Uncommon fears range from the weird (genuphobia: Fear of knees) to the discriminatory (peladophobia: Fear of bald people) to the incredibly ironic (hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: Fear of long words).
While these phobias might seem a bit silly, they can cause serious emotional distress. My co-worker Magda, who is relatively sane for the most part, is terrified of pigeons, a phobia that is taking over her life. She won’t walk in certain parts of the city and runs shrieking from the subway when one of these “rats with wings” finds its way onto the platform.
Another friend has a bizarre aversion to cheese. I wouldn’t classify her as a full-blown turophobe, but I have seen her run away from a slice of cheddar.
So where does an irrational fear of fromage come from? Are phobias something we inherit from our genes or do we acquire these unusual anxieties over time?
Ever since I can remember I have been inexplicably frightened of elevators. There was no traumatic childhood experience and I am fine with confined spaces, but something about elevators makes me nervous. And so, when my boyfriend and I found ourselves trapped in an elevator last year — because these sorts of things always happen eventually — I was anticipating the worst.
While he gave me a suggestive eyebrow raise and proposed we “Take advantage of the situation,” (wink, wink) I began shrieking uncontrollably. I was far from turned on by the whole facing my worst nightmare thing
However, after the hyperventilating subsided I realized that, yes, this was my greatest fear come true, and yet — it wasn’t all that bad. Unnerving and inconvenient maybe, but terrifying? Not so much.
Liberating yourself from a deep-seated phobia can be a long and difficult process, but sometimes it can be as simple as confronting it head on.
I’m over my issues with elevators, but now I have developed a new affliction. It seems that February has brought on a serious case of chionophobia, fear of snow.