Today is Friday the 13th, a bad day for busty coeds and triskadekaiphobics alike. By way of explanation, triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. This goes well beyond our culture’s normal aversion to the number, to the point where the sufferer will actively avoid coming into contact with the number. It may seem a bit silly that a number could have that much of an effect on someone, but I have seen it more than once in my own life. I had a customer once who freaked out when I tried to give her $.13 in change. She told me she couldn’t keep 13 of anything in her pocket because it caused her too much anxiety. She was the only triskadekaiphobic I’ve ever encountered – the number that most often freaked out my customers was when $6.66 popped up on the register.
Does it seem odd that something so seemingly harmless as a number could make an otherwise rational adult shiver in terror? Well, welcome to the weird world of the phobia. Phobias are anxiety disorders characterized by a strong, irrational fear of an object, creature, or situation that poses little or no actual threat. A person could literally be phobic of anything – I’ve heard of everything from spiders to mustard and anything in between. How a phobia develops is anyone’s guess. In some instances people have a traumatic experience with the object of fear, but others seem to develop seemingly at random.
The severity of a phobia can be as diverse as its objects. Some phobias can be comparatively mild, while others can be completely debilitating and require medication and therapy to overcome. The worse among these (from what I’ve seen – I’m not a psychologist though) can be agoraphobia, which is a fear of public places. Literally, fear can keep a person from leaving their home or experiencing a normal life. Phobics in contact with their object of fear can have a panic attack. Many times they will show trembling, shortness of breathe, rapid heartbeat, and a strong desire to escape from the situation.
Anxiety problems are very common, the most common psychological disorder in the world in fact. This may come as a surprise to some of my readers, but yours truly has anxiety issues. Also, I have something of a mild phobia myself. My object of anxiety may seem…odd. After all, I’m an adult male who is considered by most who know me to be a very rational person. I write, read, and watch horror, which you think would make me immune to all but the most horrific stuff.
So what is it that makes this guy twitchy? Possibly the cutest, cuddliest member of the insect family: the bumblebee. That’s right. Bumblebees get my anxiety pumping. It used to be that I wouldn’t even go outside when the little bastards were out in force. In recent years the anxiety has lessened extensively, but even now I hesitate when I see one of them hovering in the air like they do. When I was little I firmly believed they chased me around the yard. I called them “flying eyeballs” (after monsters you find in the Castlevania game series).
…okay bumble bees are objectively adorable. But still =P
Funny thing is I had an encounter with them earlier today. It turns out, I think that I’m not entirely certain which insect I’m afraid of because the things I traditionally thought were bumblebees apparently are not. The kind that continually hover around my shed (naturally when I have to mow of course!) are called wood-borers around here, and allegedly don’t sting. Bumblebees apparently look like these things but are smaller in body size. I don’t know – I haven’t done the research yet. Not so much out of fear but out of laziness. See, I can look at pictures of them, but when I hear them buzzing around and see them flying erratically like they do during their mating flights (well, that’s what I call them anyway) is when the old anxiety starts peaking.
Is it silly? Rationally, I know it is. Most animals (and insects) will leave you alone if you leave them alone. And even were I to get stung by one of them, likely it wouldn’t be that bad. I’m so pumped full of allergy medications that bee stings don’t do much to me. But the anxiety is still there despite all the rationalizations. Luckily for me, the phobia isn’t so bad that I can’t function. However, it does give me an insight into the lives of those who are not as fortunate as I am and find themselves crippled with anxiety. It may seem funny that people are afraid of spiders, or bumblebees, or the number 13, but for those who have a phobia it is certainly less than humorous. Have a bit of compassion for folks with these kinds of disorders. While the object might be silly, the fear it elicits is all too real.
What about you? Any odd quirks or phobias that you are willing to share?