We all have irrational fears of some kind, whether it’s mild or extreme to the point of sweating and causing us to have full-blown panic attacks. A fear of heights and spiders are probably the most common phobias (who doesn’t shiver at the sight of eight-legged crawlies?). But while we can all agree that spiders probably freak out half the Earth’s population, we’re well aware that the majority of spiders can’t harm us – so why the irrational fear?
Because phobias are just that – irrational – and somewhere along the line, we might attach a fearful response to something odd and harmless. Phobias often have their origins in childhood trauma or they can be attached to a traumatic incident we experience as adults, which makes us curious as to how the following crazy phobias got started. By the looks of things, some fears can be even more irrational than others. (How many people do you know with an overwhelming fear of being watched by a duck?)
A phobia is a phobia though and we’re sure these poor people have their reasons. Still, it’s pretty funny to imagine being counselled for harboring a deep-seated fear of the Pope! Some of the following fears might sound fake, but they’re genuine bonafide phobias. From being afraid of cheese and long words to feeling terrified at the prospect of sitting down, these are probably the weirdest phobias you’ll ever come across. Here are 15 fears that are so surreal, you’ll question whether they actually exist.
15. Fear Of Mother-In-Law
It might sound like an April Fools joke, but this is for real – people can actually have a phobia of their mother-in-law. If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you might be a little wary of your partner’s mom and do what you can to stay in her good books, but for people who suffer from Pentheraphobia – to give it its medical term – this relationship can have a crippling impact on their health.
When the mother-in-law is the butt of so many jokes in film and TV, it may be hard to take this phobia seriously, but it is just a very specific kind of anxiety disorder and is actually more common than we realize. Sufferers of Pentheraphobia can experience sweaty palms, nausea and even panic attacks because of the mother of their spouse. This could be linked to some embarrassing or traumatic incident involving your mother-in-law, or she may just be impossible to live with. In which case, the phobia is pretty understandable!
14. Fear Of Being Without Your Phone
Just to avoid any confusion here, this isn’t a fear of losing your phone and having to replace it (which sounds pretty rational to me), this is simply a phobia of not being able to have your phone by your side or losing battery. As phobias go, this one is pretty pathetic but unsurprising nonetheless. Studies into Nomophobia in the US have shown that 1 in 5 people would rather go without shoes for a week than live without their phone. Another 34% of sufferers even admitted to answering their phone during intimacy!
Across the pond, a UK study found that as high as 53% of mobile phone users in Britain suffered from extreme anxiety when their phone loses credit, loses battery, or has no network coverage. Wow. If most of us were to lose phone signal when lost, this might be kinda worrying, but to have this kind of anxiety 24/7? People need to reacquaint themselves with a little thing called nature.
13. Fear Of Developing A Phobia
This may be the weirdest of the lot. In a cruel kind of irony, people with Phobophobia have a deep fear…of developing a phobia. Harsh. Some sufferers may already have one or two existing phobias and are afraid of developing another. Others may only have phobophobia, which basically manifests itself in a vicious circle of anxiety. Phonophobes may worry that they will attach a fear to something they love or become fearful of getting an illness.
Because phobophobia has many similarities with general anxiety disorder, it can often be hard to diagnose and treat. All phobias are based on something called anticipatory anxiety, which increases your awareness and causes you to put limitations on your life to protect yourself from being exposed to your fear. Now imagine you don’t know what you’re afraid of, but you feel an urge to do whatever it takes to make sure it won’t happen. I suddenly feel lucky just having two phobias.
12. Fear Of Chins
Phobias get a little extra weird when they involve our own body parts. Those with Geniophobia can’t stand the sight of chins. Yep, you read right. We can only assume these people grow thick long beards and never shave (and female sufferers buy a joke shop beard and glue it on permanently?). Maybe geniophobes had a traumatic incident that somehow involved Jay Leno and now chins are forever associated with pure evil.
Joking aside, prominent or jutting chins sported by the likes Jay Leno and Reese Witherspoon can be a common reason behind this phobia. When chins are obviously pointed or deviate from the norm of chin and jaw sizes, this can trigger anxiety in some people and even cause them to break off all social interaction. For those with extreme geniophobia, continual behavioural therapy and medication is necessary since they need to accept that they themselves own a chin.
11. Fear Of The Number 13
Fearing the number 13 is also known as Triskaidekaphobia (I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve just developed a phobia of being asked to repeat that in a spelling bee!). Famously, the number 13 is considered pretty unlucky, so this might explain it for some people. There is even a horror movie franchise named Friday The 13th. What’s worse, Hitler supposedly had Triskaidekaphobia. Okay, that’s all the proof we need that this is one hell of a creepy and justified phobia!
Fearing the number 13 would suck if this were also your birth date (although, for every year you’ve survived you can probably count the curse lifted). Historically, the number 13 doesn’t exactly help the case for phobics – according to folklore, there were apparently 13 steps leading to the gallows. Also, there’s a chance Jesus may have been crucified on the 13th. Plus, it’s an odd number so we’re betting a few OCD sufferers have this phobia too.
10. Fear Of Teenagers
I’m long past being a teenager, but neither am I at an age where they frighten me. We were all teenagers once (or still are), so how can anyone really be afraid of them? A phobia of teenagers – Ephebiphobia – actually has less to do with actually fearing teens and more to do with feeling like they’re completely alien from you. (Put this way, it kinda sounds like ephebiphobes hate teens more than fear them!).
This is the common misconception among people with ephebiphobia in society. The sociologist Ray Oldenburg claims the vast generation gap is to blame – “There is an increasing separation between the youth and adults in American society.” Oldenburg puts this down to an “inaccurate, exaggerated and sensational characterization of young people.” Adults fear being “rejected” by teens because they won’t be understood by them…this just happens to come out in a “Get off my lawn!” kinda way.
9. Fear That Peanut Butter Might Stick To The Roof Of Your Mouth
This is an oddly specific fear and exactly why it found its way onto this list. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear that peanut butter will get stuck on the roof of your mouth. This is an incredibly rare disorder but is pretty well-known thanks to the Internet memes and such. Most of us can agree that food sticking to the roof our mouth is not a pleasant feeling, but it can very quickly be remedied using our tongue and/or a hot drink.
The poor souls with this phobia don’t see any solution in sight – other than the horrid thought that peanut butter will probably remain there forever! Very little is known about the cause of this phobia other than the obvious unpleasant sensation. Some sufferers have reported that the prospect of peanut butter coating their mouth makes them feel “suffocated” as if they can’t breathe normally. So long as you never buy PB again, your phobia is cured.
8. Fear Of Sitting
Health experts warn that sitting down for long periods can be pretty damaging, so this particular phobic group may outlive us all. Of course, people with Cathisophobia are not constantly standing up all the time. Sooner or later they have to sit down, but not without pushing through some degree of anxiety first. Cathisophobes can be terrified of sitting down either because of past abuse or it can be more closely related to social anxiety.
Often, Cathisophobia might occur following a nasty case of hemorrhoids. In extreme cases, phobics may be avoiding sitting down because they have endured some physical abuse in their past. This might have involved being forced to sit on sharp objects or something that caused discomfort. On the flip-side, a fear of sitting can be a social issue – such as feeling self-conscious about sitting down to dine with influential people (although, maybe this is out of fear that someone has secretly snuck a whoopee cushion onto your chair).
7. Fear Of Cooking
I’d imagine that none of us feel like a world class chef when preparing a meal. Most days, we’d rather just order some Chinese food because who can be bothered to cook from scratch every day? Certainly not those who suffer from Mageirocophobia. These poor people are a lot harder on themselves than the rest of us when it comes to culinary efforts – they suffer from an irrational fear of cooking.
As you can imagine, this can be a pretty dangerous phobia for someone living alone. You can only live on so much takeaway food before your body probably starts rejecting it in search for something nutritious. This fear can stem from a bad experience while cooking for a large group or on your own, i.e. under-cooking meat and giving guests food poisoning. It doesn’t help that celebrity chefs are all over our TV, making us feel like cooking has never been simpler.
6. Fear Of The Pope
No disrespect to people who suffer from this, but we have to suppress a giggle at this one. Papaphobia aka a fear of the Pope may be one of the weirdest phobias ever. The current Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, is one of the most well-loved people on Earth. Tens of thousands of people flock to see him every year. So why should this man also cause nausea and palpitations in others? Could it be a case of never meeting your heroes?
Papaphobia is quite closely related to Heirophobia, which is a fear of all things sacred and holy. Religion can certainly be daunting sometimes, but we didn’t realize it was this daunting and in such a specific capacity. Sometimes, the phobia doesn’t deal with the Pope himself but is more of a general fear of the Roman Catholic Church. Papahobia can vary from person to person, but usually, it can stem from a combination of childhood trauma and inherited predispositions about Catholicism.
5. Fear Of Small Holes
It might make sense to have a fear of scary holes like black holes or ones formed by a deep, dark well, but teeny tiny holes? That’s where things start to get weird. Those with Trypophobia can’t bear the sight of any object with especially small holes in it. A sponge, a honeycomb, the air bubbles in certain candy bars – you name it, this will cause major anxiety for the sufferer.
Interestingly, a fear of small holes may be a sign of an overactive brain. Psychologists believe that those with the phobia could feel like the geometry of objects with small holes is taxing for the brain. Images that some Internet users may find soothing and visually satisfying can cause nausea and panic attacks in Trypophobics. Some experts believe that the phobia could be a hangover from ancient times where small holes were viewed as threatening in venomous plants and animals. Shame this fear denies people the joys of chocolate mousse.
4. Fear Of Cheese
Turophobia is an irrational fear of cheese. This can be one cheese type in particular or just cheese in general. We know some cheeses smell stronger than others – some can smell horrendous to the point of being nauseating, in fact. But this is a still a pretty bizarre phobia. Strange as it sounds, this is a very real phobia and can cause a great deal of anxiety and upset for its sufferers.
One cheese phobic from the UK has it so bad that she can’t walk past the supermarket cheese counter without bursting into tears or having a panic attack. Speaking about her fear, Melissa reveals that “It looks so gooey and disgusting – it makes me feel sick. Touching or eating cheese for me is like someone who is scared of spiders holding a tarantula.” Like many phobias, Melissa’s Turophobia began in childhood when trying cheese for the first time made her feel physically sick. Some lactose intolerant people can also have Turophobia.
3. Fear Of Dinner Conversation
The idea of making interesting chit chat at a posh dinner party scares me too, (although, probably not for the reasons you might expect). Deipnophobia is the official term for having a fear of “dinner conversation.” Admittedly, we might feel awkward if there is stony silence during a dinner party and we jump in with an ice-breaker that sounded better in our head, but not many people are so fearful to have an all-consuming fear about this kind of situation.
In the Jane Austen era of bonnets and delicate tea parties, social etiquette offered a kind of blueprint for who should speak, when, and for how long. Today, things are (thankfully) a lot more informal, but this probably plays to a disadvantage with Deipnophobics. These poor guys feel like the chances of slipping up and saying something they’ll later regret is inevitable. Because of it, some phobics even avoid eating out altogether.
2. Fear Of Long Words
Anyone with this bizarre phobia better look away now. A fear of long words comes with an ironically wordy name. Here goes – Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. Seriously. Whoever decided to name this phobia has to be making some kind of joke, right? It’s probably best that people with this phobia only hear the name out loud and not have to read it in a written note from their psychiatrist.
Not much is known about this incredibly odd phobia, but it’s a safe bet that sufferers steer clear from any reading material above a fourth-grade level. For people with this phobia, it may have all begun in the classroom. At some point, kids may need to memorize long words and terms to revise for a science exam or prepare for spelling tests. Sadly, in extreme cases, this unique phobia can impact a child’s grades and achievements in their academic life if left untreated.
1. Fear That You’re Being Watched By A Duck
You may have heard about this phobia after wandering on the weird side of the Internet and stumbling upon an image of a gigantic duck, with a caption explaining this “made-up” phobia. Except, it’s not a prank or a funny meme – this phobia is totally legit. Rare, but legit. Anitadaephobia is the chilling concern that no matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing, you are being watched by a duck.
How this kind of phobia comes about in the first place is the million dollar question. A possible cause for Anitadaephobia to develop could be down to a traumatic experience involving an enraged and overprotective duck. Ducks and geese are pretty vicious when they need to be and being the victim of a duck attack sure sounds scary, but how this evolves into the fear that the same duck is constantly staring at you is another thing altogether.