Ten Phobias That Destroy Social Lives

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Phobias cause fear, anxiety and depression

We all seem to have a fascination with phobias, especially the more unusual ones. However, people living with phobias can find life threatening and exhausting. This is a list of phobias of everyday objects or events. Fears that people either cannot avoid or can expect to face in social gatherings. The anxiety caused by these phobias can have a big impact socially, leaving sufferers to retreat to a solitary place of safety.

First, though, what differentiates phobias from normal fear? Nearly everyone has an irrational fear of something. An irrational fear is a fear that causes anxiety when the risk of danger is relatively small. I have a fear of heights, which is rational enough when I’m teetering on the edge of a precipice, but not so much when I’m two steps up a stepladder! A phobia is an irrational fear that causes so much anxiety that it can overwhelm the sufferer. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, sweating profusely, light-headedness, gasping for breath, a tightening of the chest, churning stomach and so on. People may go to extreme lengths to avoid the cause of the phobia and try to not even think about it.

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Humans have evolved to be highly sensitive to danger and our brains pay particular attention to objects, situations or activities that might threaten us. However, sometimes our fear response can go wrong. It can become over sensitive and can be triggered by everyday experiences. Phobias typically develop in childhood when we’re still learning about the world and its threat, but they can also develop in adults.

Some phobias can be avoided relatively easily. Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) tends not to impact highly on people who live in a city or even a country without snakes. But what if you cannot avoid the source of your fears? And what if your phobia also runs the risk of making you isolated and alone? Here are ten phobias that can limit social interaction.

1. Panphobia – the fear of everything

Also known as Omniphobia, sufferers experience a vague dread continuously. This dread can be focused for a time or not. For example the anxiety can fix on an object, like a door and the feeling that someone or something bad is going to open it. It may then focus on something else or it may just stay as a vague feeling that something bad is going to happen, leaving the sufferer constantly anxious.

Living in a state of constant anxiety tends to limit new experiences for Panphobes. It can also lead to depression, which itself can isolate people.

2. Hypnophobia a.k.a. Somniphobia – the fear of sleeping

Sometimes just talking or thinking about sleep can induce anxiety in a Hypnophobe. It can arise from having a lot of nightmares or from dreading the loss of hours while asleep. Some people associate it with death. As sleep is an essential function of life, sufferers cannot avoid it! Lack of sleep can lead to depression and loneliness with sufferers withdrawing into themselves. For more information on Sleep Deprivation, check out the post “Perchance To Dream”.

3. Chromophobia – the fear of colours

This is an umbrella term  for a number of individual colour phobias. For example, Xanthophobia can develop from a traumatic experience with something coloured yellow –  being stung by a bee or wasp for example,  particularly when young. The sufferer’s  brain goes overboard and associates danger with an otherwise irrelevant attribute. So instead of quite rationally fearing stinging insects the Xanthophobe fears everything yellow. Some poor people even close their eyes and hold their breath while urinating!

While you can control colours in your own home and dress you cannot control what happens outside your front door.

4. Ablutophobia – the fear of washing

The fear of washing, bathing and cleaning is most likely to affect women and children. I bet that surprised you. Needless to say sufferers can endanger their health through poor hygiene and may be at a higher risk of isolation.

5. Geniophobia – the fear of chins

A lot of geniophobes have an obsessive personality and they fixate on people’s chins, especially chins that they consider to be imperfect. Sufferers cannot avoid staring at these chins and may go out of their way to avoid people with these chin “imperfections”.

A loosely related condition is Pogonophobia, the fear of beards. As beards are in fashion now, pogonophobes cannot easily avoid the source of their anxieties.

6. Agoraphobia – the fear of open spaces

Despite the headline, agoraphobia is not restricted to open spaces. It can also include  a fear of situations that the agoraphobe feels unsafe in. These could include new or unfamiliar places and social gatherings. Many agoraphobes run the risk of being house bound to avoid the anxiety triggered by the condition.

7. Heliophobia – the fear of sunlight

Heliophobes fear sunlight, often due to an overblown fear of contracting cancer. While too much sun can indeed lead to skin cancer, Heliophobes can instead run the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Sufferers often forgo fun activities outside, instead isolating themselves within their homes.

8. Philophobia – the fear of love

Philophobia is the fear of being or falling in love. Philophobes tend to avoid situations which involve interacting with people of the gender of their sexual orientation. Often this progresses to the sufferer avoiding any and all social events. Typically the Philophobe has suffered emotional distress from a previous relationship that develops into this anxiety.

9. Coulrophobia and Globophobia – fear of clowns and balloons

I’ve loosely grouped these two together as a fear of kids’ parties. Being afraid of the entertainment or decorations at a party can cause children to avoid these important social events. Socializing is particularly important for children as they need to learn to interact with their peers.

10. Social Phobia a.k.a. Social Anxiety Disorder

This anxiety specifically involves social interaction. Sufferers are afraid to go to parties or any social gathering due to an intense fear that people will think them stupid or weird. It’s a feeling that many people can identify with, especially those who have to speak in public, but for Social phobics the symptoms can be debilitating. Even worse, the symptoms of the syndrome actually intensify the fear of future social interactions as they can include stuttering, sweating and blushing.

Anxiety isolates

Phobias can turn people into introverts.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat phobias, although it does need facing one’s fears in a safe and progressive way. This can be done with a specialized therapist or in some cases with the help of an understanding loved-one. Relaxation techniques are also very important for the sufferer. In the short-term, medication may be helpful in dealing with some of the symptoms, but phobias are not conditions that can be prescribed away.

While phobias can be treated with self-help and without specialists it is always advisable to discuss the options with your doctor or a medical professional first.

Must read: Has Science found a “cure” for phobias? The Astonishing Two Minute “Cure” For Phobia

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Images by moni158 and tetsuyayamatashi.

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