In Greek mythology, Deimos and Phobos were the gods of fear, or fear personified. Deimos represented creeping terror and dread (think the part of the horror movie when you realize you’re trapped in the house with a killer), and Phobos represented panic (the part of the horror movie where you’ve seen one friend killed and start to run).
And while fear has been around since the beginning, it wasn’t until around the 1700s that English speakers started adding “phobia” onto the end of nouns to mean “the fear of.”
Phobias are generally broken down into 3 categories. First, specific or simple phobias are the most common and are triggered by specific objects like spiders. Second, there are Agoraphobia phobias, which center the fear around being in a situation with no easy escape without embarrassment, like having a panic attack when you’re stuck in an airplane (been there, no shame) . The third type is Social phobia which can cause extreme anxiety in public or social situations and can lead to low self-esteem. This third type can cause many social issues such as dropping out of school and being unable to make friends.
Are you ready to see what some people are strangely petrified of? Here are the 25 Strangest Phobias You Could Have.
While personal hygiene may be something we joke about, some people have a fear of getting clean or bathing. Some people literally have panic attacks when faced with taking a shower or bath, and this leads to loneliness, isolation, and depression. So you know, maybe be kind to that coworker who always smells, they could be fighting a hidden battle. The word’s root word is Latin, with abluto meaning “a washing.”
A form of social anexity, ergophobia is from the Greek word ergo, which means “work.” This includes physical and non-physical work, so a cubicle farm could be as terrifying as say a landscaping job. Ergophobia is usually the result of some kind of trauma earlier in life. Luckily, it can be treated by a combination of therapy and medications to reduce anxiety. This is possibly one of the most frustrating phobias for those who don’t have it, as it’s often seen as laziness.
Perhaps the most widely relevant phobia (at least if you’ve been on the internet lately) is allodoxaphobia, which is the fear of opinions. Considered a social phobia, it’s derived from the Greek words for opinion (dox) and different (allo).
Although butterflies in the stomach are often associated with love, for someone with philophobia those butterflies are more like deadly scorpions as they are petrified of falling in love or having any close relationships. Unfortunately, many people in this category end up living a life of solitude. It’s suspected Elizabeth I suffered from this. From the Greek word philia, which means “Brotherly Love” but can also be translated as friendship or affection. (This is why Philadelphia is the city of Brotherly Love.)
Also known as hypnophobia, this is the abnormal fear of falling asleep or sleeping. Oftentimes, it can be the result of people feeling as though they are losing control. Nightmares have also been known to be the basis for this fear. The word comes from somini, the Latin word for sleep. Medications can be taken to help with sleep and anxiety around sleep, but these only address the symptoms. Counseling may be needed to address the root fear.
In a sort of modern day vampirism, heliophobia is actually defined as fear of the sun. Although it sounds harmless, it can actually be quite serious and lead to a vitamin D deficiency as a result of staying indoors. From helio, the Greek word for sun.
Taken from the Greek word khaite, meaning long or flowing hair, chaetophobia is the fear of hair. Although some people with chaetophobia only fear loose or detached hair, others can be terrified by the hair on their very own bodies.
Sometimes not wanting to eat your veggies goes beyond simple stubbornness and junk food cravings. Sometimes it’s lachanophobia, which is fear of vegetables (lachno being the Greek word for vegetable). While you might not tremble in fear at the sight of Bob the Tomato, for some people, this fear is very real, and the sight or smell of veggies can cause shortness of breath and nausea. We sincerely hope every lachanophobic takes their vitamins.
A very rare and specific phobia, haphepobia is the fear of being touched. It’s more than just not “liking” being touched, but an actual fear that can cause anxiety, nausea, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, and panic attacks. From the Greek haphe, meaning “touch.”
A fear of the kitchen or family sofa might sound amusing, but oikophobia is a fear of home surroundings. In the wake of hysteria following the 2016 election cycle, it’s also come to mean fear of one’s fellow countrymen. This is probably something we should really address as a nation. Seems unhealthy. From the Greek word oikos, meaning “home.”
The fear of clowns actually has a name – coulrophobia. And let’s be honest, most of us can probably thank Stephen King and all the weird sad clowns from the ’60s & ’70s for it. People who suffer from it have also claimed it comes from not really knowing who’s behind the face paint. Interestingly, the Greek word “coulro” means “one who goes on stilts” not “one who hides in storm drains.”
Xanthophobia is the fear of the color yellow. From the Greek word xanthos, which means yellow.
Neophbia is taken from the Greek word neos, which means “new” or “young.” It’s a literal fear of anything new, which honestly, makes sense, because new is unknown, and fearing the unknown is pretty common. Neophobia is most commonly seen in the elderly, but also in the very young, such as strong aversion or fear of new foods, places, or routines.
Hylophobia is the fear of forests. From the Greek word hylo, meaning forest. Look, camping just isn’t everyone’s thing, and that’s totally okay.
Turophobia is the fear of cheese. It’s usually believed to be associated with a traumatic incident earlier in life, but can also be from cheese’s texture. From the Greek word turi, meaning cheese.
Decidophobia is exactly what it sounds like: the fear of deciding or making choices. Its root is from the Latin de-cido, which means “to cut off” as in, you’re cutting off your options and making a decision.
Gephyrophobia comes from the Greek word gephura, meaning bridge, and as you’ve assumed by now, means the fear of bridges. Some people will even pay others to drive them across large bridges, such as the 4 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland.
Descendophobia & Ascendophobia
As the names may apply, these are the fears of descending (going down) and ascending (going up). This can apply to elevators, escalators, stairs, and even moderate inclines.
Trypophobia is a fear of small groups of holes, bumps, or even circles. People with this phobia have anxiety reactions to things like sponges, plants with spores/seeds, and even the pores on their own skin. Reactions vary from mildly uncomfortable to full on panic. While this is a weird phobia, it’s actually a very very common one. From the Greek word trypa, meaning hole.
“I’m only happy when it rains” doesn’t ring true for everyone. From the Greek word ombro which means rain, ombrophobia is a fear of rain, and people who suffer from it may have panic attacks when rain showers start.
Something every mother has experienced in some small way, chronophobia is the fear of time passing. Oddly enough, chronophobia is often found in prison inmates, and less surprisingly, in the elderly. From the Greek word kronos, meaning time.
Phagophobia is the fear of swallowing, and in some cases it can actually lead to weight loss and malnutrition from an involuntary inability to swallow. From the Greek word phago, which means “eat.”
Omphalophobia is a fear of belly buttons. Yep, that’s a thing. You can have cosmetic surgery to have yours removed, if you wish. From the Greek word omphalo, meaning navel.
Fear of the Pope or Papacy. This might seem weird, but we’d like to take this moment to remind you about the unexpected Spanish Inquisition. Closely related is hagiophobia, which is the fear of Saints and holy things.
Phobophobia is the fear of phobias. If you have this, you might be in good standing. As FDR famously said in his Inaugural Address in 1933, “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”