Five phobias you didn’t know existed

Warning: Phobia triggers are included in this article, including images and words.

Scared woman
The word phobia comes from the Ancient Greek god of fear, Phobos.

The unveiling of the new iPhone 11 Pro has apparently triggered some people’s fear of small holes.

If you’ve never heard of such a thing, this fear is called trypophobia. Coined in 2005 on Reddit, it manifests when trypophobics come across clusters of small holes, such as on a crumpet, or in this case, multiple cameras on the back of a smart phone.

Being afraid of something isn’t exactly uncommon, but for some people, what starts off as a slight fear can develop into a really debilitating anxiety called a phobia.

Phobias cause a lot of panic in situations where you perceive a high level of danger where there (usually) is little to none. It’s distinct from just a fear of something, in that it can prevent you from carrying out everyday tasks and just going about your life.

There are ways of treating phobias, such as gradually exposing yourself to the thing you’re afraid of, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and some methods even use video games.

While there are some quite common phobias that you’ve probably heard of (and may even suffer from) such as arachnophobia and claustrophobia, there are quite a few out there that are slightly more unique.

Sesquipedalophobia - fear of long words

Let’s start with why antidisestablishmentarianism might frighten you. Sesquipedalophobia is, ironically, the fear of long words. In a cruel twist of fate, there’s also hippopoto-monstro-sesquipedaliophobia, which some use to describe the fear of very long words.

You might think it’s a bit mean to name the phobia after the thing the person fears, and you might be right, but it’s certainly not the only one. Aibohphobia is the (unofficial) fear of palindromes, which are words that read the same front and back and, you guessed it, the word itself is a palindrome. There’s also dodecaphobia, which is the (again, unofficial) fear of the number 12 - can you see how many letters make up that one?

Nomophobia - fear of being without your mobile

Someone using a mobile phone
People's attachments to their smartphones can reach dizzying heights - in 2016 one man even married his.

This is a more recent phenomenon. Coined in 2010 by the UK Post Office and crowned the word of the year 2018 by Cambridge Dictionary, it is the fear of being without, or not being able to use one’s mobile phone.

Nomophobia isn’t a technical term (nomo is just an abbreviation of no mobile phone) but the use of the term rose rapidly as scientists conducted more research into technology addictions. As the addictions rose, the pain felt when without it did too - nomophobia has in fact been described as ‘phone separation anxiety’.

Scientists have also posited that because smartphones are so advanced and we use them for almost all parts of our life, being away from it or not being able to use it actually affects our sense of identity.

Omphalophobia - fear of belly buttons

Some people can’t even bear the thought of picking the fluff out of their bellybuttons - these people suffer from what is known as omphalophobia.

No one’s really sure how this fear may develop, beyond the standard cause of childhood trauma. Some people though have theorised that it could have something to do with the importance of the umbilical cord. It is the vehicle through which you receive all your nutrients in the womb, so it’s possible that you could develop an irrational fear that it might get damaged if your bellybutton is tampered with. There’s no proof behind this claim, though.

This phobia has one particularly famous sufferer - Khloé Kardashian tweeted in 2015 that touching even her own belly button makes her “so grossed out”.

Turophobia - fear of cheese

Brie afraid. Brie very afraid.

Cheese
You can develop this phobia at any age, no matter how mature you are.

For some people, the smell, sight, taste or even thought of cheese is enough to send them into a cold sweat. Some think that it can be related to a traumatic experience associated with cheese, although there are links with those who are lactose intolerant too.

The word comes from Ancient Greek - turi is the word for cheese.

Phobophobia - fear of having a phobia

Some people just can’t catch a break. The ‘fear of fear’, as it’s sometimes known, is when you’re petrified of developing a phobia, or the feeling of a phobia (for example the symptoms of a panic attack) fill you with dread.

You can have this whther you already have a phobia or not. In some cases, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that you can be so terrified of developing a fear of things you love doing that you’ll just stop doing them altogether, until you become afraid of it or develop an even more serious phobia such as agrophobia or social phobia.

Admitting that you’re not ok: Why it’s good to talk about anxiety
How reaching out helped me deal with my depression
Five times the world didn’t end