Who's afraid of... ?

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PHOBIAS It's a scary world
PHOBIAS It's a scary world

Pick from over five hundred fears. Having a phobia was never so much in vogue, says ANIMA BALAKRISHNAN

As a kid, I never understood how a{+2} + b{+2} added up to 2ab. The parents squirmed on seeing my Math marks while the sympathetic neighbour delicately suggested I was not cut out for jobs that need brains. More than my dismal marks, it was those "Poor kid! She's not great in Math" remarks that made me feel I suffered from not so glamorous a problem. Now, if they had said I had arithmophobia (fear of numbers), I would have felt more special.

Famous fears

After all, I'm in elite company. The man who flew around in the impressive Air Force One, Ronald Reagan, had aviophobia (fear of flying), and so did the legendary Muhammad Ali. All you need to do to throw Andre Agassi off his game is show him a spider. Alfred Hitchcock struck terror in the hearts of his audience but himself had ovophobia (fear of eggs).It is strange but true that the minute we give our fears, however fleeting they may be, a name, we are instantly at peace. So it is no surprise that new phobias, each one more exotic sounding than the last, are springing up by the minute. The more a name tests the tongue, the funkier the phobia is and you may even hanker after it! Try this - hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. It is the fear of long words! There are over 530 listed phobias. The Greek word "phobia" means an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something. Phobias are as old as mankind and some of the earliest known ones are febriphobia (fear of fever) or ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). Websites list new phobias every day, trying to keep abreast of the latest fears. Bloggers around the world login to discuss their special fears. At the turn of the 20th Century, electrophobia (fear of electricity), motorphobia (fear of automobiles) and aviophobia (fear of flying) made their debut. A brand new phobia was created post the World War-II - nucleomituphobia - fear of nuclear weapons. Now it is cyberphobia (fear of computers), that is all the rage. The day is not far when it will be `with it' to have fear of ATMs, credit cards or even Internet shopping!Withstanding the barrage of new phobias are a few standard ones. One of the most commonly found phobia is arachnophobia or the fear of spiders. Every time my roommate sees a spider inching up the wall, all hell breaks loose. "I imagine my bed has turned into a sheet of upturned spiders. Often I feel a spider has fallen on my back, and many times I have asked my sister to see if there is anything down my back," she says.For Dhanya, a journalist, it's heights (acrophobia). "Every time I climb up a building I develop cold feet and feel I am going to fall off. It has happened to me even as a child, when I froze in the middle of a narrow bridge and thought I would fall off and drown," she says.While it is not hard to find those with claustrophobia - fear of confined spaces, or necrophobia - fear of death or dead things, there are others who suffer from some weird ones.

Weird but true!

Like 73-year-old S.B. Prasad, who cannot bear the sight of matchsticks - burnt or unused. "I have hated matchsticks ever since I was seven years old. They make me uncomfortable and I hate travelling, especially in trains, since I am likely to find them strewn around," says Prasad and adds how he is constantly on the lookout for matchsticks lying around. There are others who cannot bear the sight of meat stalls or who expect things to come crashing down on them as they walk past multi-storeyed buildings. Te term "phobia" has often been used indiscriminately. "Coining new names have become another way for people to pander to their knowledge of Latin and Greek. There are around 15-16 commonly found phobias that are diagnosed and treated," says Dr. V. Ponni Muralidharan, a psychiatrist. According to Dr Ponni, in medical parlance, the term is used only when certain strict criteria are met. "Only if the irrational fear hinders the day-to-day activity of a person, is it called a phobia and warrants treatment," says the doctor. But doc, what about the one I am seized with at the moment - graphophobia - fear of writing!Pentheraphobia _ fear of one's mother in-law
Arachibutyrophobia _ fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
Cathisophobia _ fear of sitting
Dextrophobia _ fear of objects at the right side of the body
Caligynephobia _ fear of beautiful women
Didaskaleinophobia _ fear of school
Epistemophobia _ fear of knowledge
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia _ fear of long words
Metrophobia _ fear of poetry
Chronophobia _ fear of time
Paraskavedekatriaphobia _ fear of Friday the 13th
Websites to visit
(from the Internet)




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