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Phobias, fears and ‘flooding’ them away

In Features this week, Angharad Tye-Reeve talks phobias, weird and wonderful

We all feel anxious from time to time – it’s a part of normal life. As a student, some of our biggest anxieties are meeting deadlines, the dreaded (dare I say the word) exams, and then once we graduate, the stress of trying to figure out what we want to do with our lives! As this is being printed in the gloomiest time of the year (post mince pie season and exams), I will not harp on about the stress of work and give you tips to ‘de-stress’ because lets be honest, they don’t work! Instead, I will attempt to keep it light hearted and divert your eyes from the endless revision notes.

A phobia is defined as experiencing strong feelings of anxiety about a thing or situation that frightens you. Approximately 1 in 23 people suffer from a phobia; about 2.5 million people in the UK are sufferers. Statistics have shown that twice as many women suffer from irrational fears as men. Upon seeing a rat, I am reduced to a snivelling mess, rocking in a corner, and the presence of a spider in my house is always heard before it is seen, follow the shrieks and you will surely be lead to a creepy crawly!

Some of the most common phobias are:

Arachnophobia – a fear of spiders, it is estimated that half the women suffering with phobias have this one and a quarter of men with phobias do too.

Pteromerhanophobia – The fear of flying.

Sociophobia – a fear of being evaluated/ judged negatively in social situations. Approximately 13% of the general population will experience this phobia at some point in their life (personally I would be surprised if there was someone who hadn’t experienced this!).

And some of the most obscure phobias are (yes, these really are diagnosed phobias):

Anthophobia – a fear of flowers.

Aulophobia – this refers to the fear of flutes.

Cathisophobia – a fear of sitting down.

Arachibutyrophobia – this is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

Optophobia – a fear of opening your eyes.

Koumpounophobia – a fear of buttons. According to the National Phobic’s Society, one in every 75,000 people is affected by this bizarre fear.

Peladophobia – a fear of bald people.

Even celebrities suffer from unusual phobias:

Johnny Depp suffers from Clourophobia, a fear of clowns. He said its “something about the painted face, the fake smile […] There always seemed to be a darkness lurking just under the surface, a potential for real evil.”

Sigmund Freud suffered from Siderodromophobia, fear of train travel. On the trip from Freiberg the train passed through Breslau, where Freud saw gas jets for the first time; they made him think of souls burning in hell.

Howard Hughes had a fear of germs, the technical term for which is Mysophobia. Towards the end of his life, he lay naked in bed in darkened hotel rooms in what he considered a germ-free zone. He wore tissue boxes on his feet to protect them.

Billie Bob Thorton has Panophobia, a fear of antique furniture. “Maybe it’s a past-life thing and I got beat to death with some old chair,” Thornton told Oprah Winfrey. “I don’t really know. But anyway… I’m totally serious. And I can’t eat around antiques.”

Famous director, Alfred Hitchcock, suffered with Ovophobia, a fear of eggs. While filming The Birds, actress Susan Pleshette was chastised by Hitchcock’s assistant: She said, “Don’t put your cigarette out in your eggs,” Pleshette said. “He hates eggs, he hates cigarettes, and frankly, he hates you.”

Actress Christina Ricci has a fear of indoor houseplants, known as Botanophobia.“They are dirty,” she said. “If I have to touch one, after already being repulsed by the fact that there is a plant indoors, then it just freaks me out.”

Whether you suffer from a common phobia or share Hitchcock’s fear of eggs, treatment is available to help you overcome your fear. The best way to do this is to expose yourself to the feared object or situation and tolerate the anxiety until it starts to decrease. Talking to a GP or psychiatrist is the best way to determine the right treatment plan for you. Just talking through your fear is a huge help but if you require more intense treatment then flooding is perhaps the most extreme option.

Flooding is when you expose yourself to the object or situation for a prolonged amount of time. Research has proven that 40 minutes is about the maximum your body will stay in an anxious state. If you can bear this, at the end of it you may well be able to see that you have survived unharmed and the basis of your phobia is unfounded. Dinner in the Sky may be the perfect flooding experience if you suffer from a fear of heights. It involves you and your table being suspended fifty metres above the ground whilst you enjoy your dinner (just don’t look down!)

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