Most people have at least one thing they’re afraid of, whether it be spiders or heights. But even still, not everyone has an actual phobia, which is an intense, excessive fear of a particular thing, place, or situation. According to MedlinePlus, “A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.”
If a person cannot avoid what they’re fearful of, they may go into panic mode, experiencing rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and trembling. Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are 15 of the weirdest phobias you never knew existed.
1. Fear of work
At first glance, ergophobia, which is the fear of work, might seem like the perfect sick-day excuse. But upon closer examination, it goes much deeper than that, as it’s often part of social anxiety disorder. According to FearOf.net, “The individuals suffering from it are afraid to seek employment from fear of being yelled at by superiors, or, in general, due to performance or social anxiety.” People who truly have this phobia could be hindering their chances at a rewarding career, not to mention consistent paychecks.
2. Fear of love
If you thought your aversion to commitment was bad, just wait until you hear about this. Philophobia is the abnormal and persistent fear of falling in love. And according to Philophobia.info, this fear comes with a wide array of physical symptoms as well.
“Philophobia symptoms can range from nervousness or restlessness in the presence of the opposite sex, to feelings of absolute dread at the prospect of meeting someone,” the site says. “In its most extreme cases, philophobia can cause full-blown panic attacks: sweating, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea and an intense need to escape from the presence of the potential lover.”
3. Fear of holes
The fear of clustered holes or bumps isn’t all that uncommon. And if you can’t stand looking at close-up images of things like a lotus flower or honeycomb, you may be one of the many people swith trypophobia. And trust us, if you’ve never googled this before, yet think you couldn’t possibly have this, you’d be surprised. After staring at some of the images, such as those featured in a Business Insider article, we got creeped out, too.
4. Fear of falling asleep
Could the fear of falling asleep really exist? Most people have no problem falling asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. But for others, it’s not that simple. In fact, it can be a debilitating condition. “Somniphobia is a nighttime problem, and a good example is a young child who is scared of going to sleep because [of] bad dreams and, now, is afraid of having another bad dream,” Kenneth C. Anderson, M.D., explained to The Huffington Post. “I’ve seen it in [adults] with sleep apnea who wake up gasping for breath, so they don’t want to go to sleep again.” Unfortunately, this phobia could seriously impact your overall health.
5. Fear of being without your phone
If you’ve never heard of nomophobia, that’s because it’s only been brought to light in recent years. Think about it — no-mobile-phone-phobia. Psychology Today reports this term, which was coined during a 2010 study by the UK Post Office, found about 50% of people in Britain who used mobile phones became anxious when they lost their phone, it died, or they were in a dead zone.
As the story says, this is certainly a growing trend in developed countries all over the world. “Among today’s high school and college students, it’s on the rise,” the publication writes. “An increasing number of college students now shower with their cell phone. The average adolescent would rather lose a pinky-finger than a cell phone. A growing percentage text or tweet instead of actually talking to others.” When you think about it, it’s not surprising this is becoming more prevalent.
6. Fear of hair
People who cringe at the mere thought of hair likely have this rare fear. Chaetophobia, which causes an irrational, abnormal, and persistent fear of hair, doesn’t seem to affect a huge percentage of people. But those who do have it can have a hard time both mentally and socially.
“While a vast majority of the population spends a lot of money and time in grooming and looking after their hair, [c]haetophobic individuals want to have nothing to do with hair,” FearOf.net explains. “Most are afraid of other people’s hair and, in some cases, even animal hair. Many [c]haetophobes try to avoid people with thick, dense and curly or Afro style hair.”
7. Fear of household items
For most people, home is a safe place. You look forward to cozy winter nights in, and are thrilled to open the windows to let fresh air through the house. But for people dealing with oikophobia, these feelings don’t resonate. According to Common Phobias, “Oikophobia is the fear of houses, being in a house, home surroundings and certain items in a house. The types of items people fear in a house vary, but can be such things as bedrooms, bathrooms, appliances, electrical items, etc.” Imagine a world where you were scared of the kitchen toaster. Not easy.
8. Fear of clowns
You may have heard of people who don’t like clowns, but what you may be surprised to hear is that yes, a true phobia for them exists. Thoughts of grown men in face paint, oversize shoes, and a squirting flower pin tend to make some people more than just a bit uneasy.
“By definition, an irrational fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia, with the prefix “coulro” coming from the ancient Greek word for ‘one who goes on stilts’,” NBC News reports. “Symptoms of coulrophobia can include sweating, nausea, feelings of dread, fast heartbeat, crying or screaming, and anger at being placed in a situation where a clown is present.” If you can relate, be sure to skip the next children’s birthday party you’re invited to.
9. Fear of forests
Anyone who lives in the woods probably wouldn’t fare well if they had hylophobia. While it’s specifically related to forests, Phobia Source mentions it “can be related to [d]endrophobia (fear of trees), [n]yctohylophobia (fear of darkish wooded areas or of forests at night), and [x]ylophobia (fear of wooden objects and/or forests).” No late night flashlight tag for you, hylophobes.
10. Fear of making decisions
Lots of folks struggle with the decision-making process. After all, there are more than enough memes floating around the internet that show a woman struggling to make a decision about what to have for dinner as her partner asks her the direct, seemingly easy-to-answer question. But all jokes aside, decidophobia is a real thing. Coined by Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann in his book Without Guilt and Justice, this phobia is a dreaded fear of making decisions.
According to Amazon’s description, Kaufmann’s book talks about how this phobia “drives people to seek refuge in conformity, religion, political movements, and marriage.” People gravitating toward a group with already-formed opinions? Hmm, it really makes you think.
11. Fear of bridges
You may not like driving across a long bridge, but you’re probably able to make it happen. For people with gephyrophobia, on the other hand, their fear is so intense, they’ll often do anything to avoid driving over a dreaded bridge. The mere thought of it could trigger a panic attack, prompting the need to find any other way possible to get to where they’re going, without having to actually cross a bridge.
Just take a look at the stories mentioned in The New York Times. In fact, the fear can be so paralyzing, some states have alternative options for those who have this phobia. “The Tappan Zee Bridge, rising more than 150 feet over the Hudson River, appears to inspire particular panic — so much so that New York State offers the skittish a chauffeur who will transport them across the span.” Well, that sure sounds mighty nice of the the Big Apple.
12. Fear of time passing
To some extent, most people can relate to the feeling of wanting time to slow down. Certain situations evoke a sense of sadness once a special moment in time has passed. You’ve probably heard parents of toddlers say they wish time would stand still, because their baby is growing up too fast. That’s pretty normal. Or, perhaps you’re absolutely dreading getting any older, and hate celebrating birthdays. Again, not a totally ridiculous sentiment. But people who truly have a fear of the passing of time are considered to have chronophobia.
“Sufferers may be aware of a vague feeling that events are moving too fast and running away with themselves, and that it is difficult to make sense of the way events are unfolding,” Exactly What Is Time? explains. “Chronophobia is often marked by a sense of derealization in which time seems to speed up or slow down, and some people may develop circular thought patterns, racing thought and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.” If time travel were a real thing, maybe there’d be a cure for this phobia by now.
13. Fear of belly buttons
Which is better, an innie or an outie? While you may or may not have a slight preference one way or the other, people who have omphalophobia can’t stand either. That’s right, this phobia is all about fearing the belly button. And while it might seem silly to some, others actually do suffer from the condition. Just take a look at this list from Buzzfeed. If you can relate, you just may have omphalophobia.
14. Fear of swallowing
No ones likes choking on a piece of food, but yet, those who have just choked are able to continue eating. But phagophobia, which is the fear of swallowing, strips a person of the joys of eating. More importantly, it can cause a person to lose an unhealthy amount of weight.
According to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, “Patients may avoid certain types of food or textures, hyper-masticate (over-chew) their food, complain of food sticking, exhibit difficulty getting the swallow ‘started’ and lose weight. All of these symptoms can create elevated levels of anxiety and cause patients to socially isolate themselves during mealtimes.” If you deal with this, you’re not alone. There’s help out there.
15. Fear of phobias
It’s called phobophobia, and there are some people who have it. According to FearOf.net, “In some individuals, [fearing fear itself] actually rings true: they fear becoming anxious or get extremely overwhelmed at the thought of allowing themselves to become afraid of an object or situation.” Furthermore, regardless of whether a person already has another phobia, they fear developing additional fears. Sounds like quite the brain cluster.