I recently discovered that I have a crippling fear of leeches. 70km from civilisation was hardly the best place to discover this, however, leaving me almost exclusively restricted to the room in the lodge we were staying in for 3 days. I knew I didn’t like leeches before we went – who does? They suck blood, they’re worm-like and slimy, and notorious for getting in any openings they can find in clothing. I certainly wasn’t expecting to react to seeing one clamped to our guide’s hand on the first day of trekking by almost having a panic attack and checking the floor more often than a teenage girl checks Facebook.
I had no idea my fear was so bad until it was there staring me in the face, man versus oligochaete. Before any bright spark decides to point this out in the comments, I am aware that being petrified of what is essentially a clingy earthworm with an attitude problem is laughable. But when you stop to think about it, most other phobias are too. There’s no logical reason why I should be afraid of them, but there’s no logic behind a lot of phobias. So next time you vertigo sufferers are standing on the edge of a structurally-unsound skyscraper, take a break from shitting your collective pants and spare a thought for the people who suffer from…
#6: PAPAPHOBIA – Fear of the Pope
If robes and fancy hats make you sweaty and nervous, you probably suffer from papaphobia. Or you really don’t like Medieval costume parties. Papaphobia extends to fear of the papacy and Roman Catholicism in general. Presumably sufferers have nightmares about being run down by the Popemobile.
Despite an intensive five minutes of research into the subject, there’s no info on what exactly it is about the Pope that puts the willies up the sufferer – is it just the IDEA of the Pope, or do different incarnations of the man inspire different levels of fear? I guess the current Pope must rank pretty low, what with his vaguely-Nazish background and stretched-skin-corpse-of-David-Attenborough appearance.
#5: COULROPHOBIA – Fear of clowns
Another phobia that I suffer from personally. Wikipedia helpfully points out that this fear is ‘not restricted to Evil Clowns’. Thank god Wikipedia, there was me thinking that people could only reasonably be afraid of clowns if it was Pennywise from the movie ‘IT’.
The fear of clowns is slightly more understandable: they have an inhuman appearance, fixed expressions, and I doubt you could find one child who genuinely found them funny when they were younger. It’s the sort of phobia where running away to join the circus becomes a threat, rather than an exotic way of leaving home. Though only a recognised phobia in the scientific community since the 1980s, coulrophobia is widespread enough that Bestival, the annual festival on the Isle of Wight, had to ban attendees from coming dressed as clowns for fear of spreading panic among sufferers in 2006.
#4: XANTHOPHOBIA -Fear of the colour yellow
Wikipedia again proves startlingly helpful with it’s entry on this phobia, stating that this fear includes ‘sun, daffodils, yellow paint, and the Yellow Pages’. Congratulations! This is about as insightful as writing ‘big ones, small ones, brown ones’ in an entry for Types of Dog, or including the Kardashian family on a list of unwanted kinds of Fungus: it goes without saying.
No other colours appear to inspire such hatred as yellow, thus far being the only one I can find that inspires a phobia, but Wikipedia flags up an interesting theory. It points out that in Ancient China, the colour yellow was feared, especially in the case of a yellow scarf, which was indicative of an Imperial order to commit suicide. Ergo, if you believe everything Wikipedia says (and my god, life will be more interesting if you do), xanthophobia is actually a result of your oriental ancestors warning you that the banana in front of you is telling you to kill yourself.
#3: PHOBOPHOBIA – Fear of having a phobia
This one just seems unfair. Presumably people who suffer from this live in an unrelenting cycle of never-ending terror: could the next thing they look at be that elusive phobia they’ve always been dreading? How can they ever try anything new? DO PHOBIAS SPREAD?!?!
About.com points out that this is one of the only disease fears that can increase chances of the feared outcome: fear of getting a phobia can lead to agoraphobia from constantly staying indoors to avoid the countless dangers of the outside world.
#2: GEPHYROPHOBIA – Fear of bridges
Another phobia that’s more widespread than it first appears: the New York Thruway Authority runs a service where one of its members will lead sufferers over the Tappan Zee Bridge, including getting someone to drive the sufferer’s car for them, a service that is performed as much as 6 times a year. Fear of bridges could stem from a traumatic experience involving one or a crossing area, a reluctance to go to new places, or an unquestioning acceptance of the events shown in Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus.
Reports failed to indicate whether the phobia stretches to building bridges in relationships, the popular card game among people who don’t have a pulse of the same name, or popular actor Jeff Bridges.
#1: NOMOPHOBIA – Fear of being out of mobile phone contact
If ever there was a phobia that best reflected the age we live in, this is it. I accept that after years of pretty constant use, nobody likes being without their phone. I can even see how it would become a little worrying if you were waiting for an important call, say, or needed to ring your parents with pretence of wanting a chat but really just asking for a lift.
But the notion of a lack of a phone raising stress to a level that studies have found to be on a par with ‘wedding-day jitters’ seems insane. What’s equally staggering is how widespread this fear is: it is estimated that 48% of women are sufferers to a certain extent, and a whopping 58% of men. More than half of serious nomophobes never even switch off their mobiles.
It’s depressing to think that people could be in some of the most beautiful, remote places on Earth – the Amazon rainforest, the Sahara desert, the Himalayas – and still be more concerned with why nobody’s texting them to say how jealous they are.