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From pogonophobia to selenophobia: Ten unusual phobias you might not have heard of

by Sarah Graham
Monday 27 October 2014
416 4543

As Halloween approaches, we're thinking about phobias. This time of year is full of films and costumes to trigger your anxieties, whichever spooky phobia you're affected by.

Perhaps you have selenophobia, arachnophobia or chiroptophobia (phobias of the moon, spiders, and bats respectively), or wiccaphobia, spectrophobia or  haemophobia (phobias of witches, ghosts and blood). If the number 666 gives you goose bumps, you may have the impossible to pronounce hexakosioihexekontahexphobia, or perhaps you're even affected by samhainophobia (a phobia of Halloween itself).

But beyond ghosts and ghouls, we took a look at some of the more unusual phobias that can strike all year round and asked two RSCPP therapists to explain how therapy can help, whatever your phobia.

How many from our list have you heard of?


1. Coulrophobia

For many of us they're harmless figures of childhood fun, reminiscent of birthday parties with friends, or family trips to the circus. But, for people with coulrophobia, clowns are a major source of anxiety and distress.  


2. Pogonophobia

If Russell Brand or Johnny Depp bring you out in a cold sweat for all the wrong reasons, you may be affected by pogonophobia - an anxiety about beards. At the other end of the hairiness spectrum is peladophobia, a phobia of bald people.


3. Euphobia

Sometimes it can seem there's nothing but bad news going on in the world. That may come as a relief for people affected by euphobia, an anxiety about good news.  


4. Hellenologophobia

Rather cruelly, hellenologophobia is the Greek-derived scientific terminology for a phobia of Greek, Latin or scientific terminology. Similarly, 18-letter sesquipedalophobia is an anxiety about long words.


5. Genuphobia

Are there any body parts that you really can't stand? Genuphobia is a phobia of knees, which goes way beyond a simple dislike. Similar phobias include chirophobia, an anxiety about hands, and omphalophobia, a phobia of bellybuttons.


6. Porphyrophobia 

Lavender, aubergines and Cadbury's chocolates are amongst the things off limits for those with porphyrophobia, an anxiety about the colour purple. 


7. Phobophobia

This seemingly paradoxical term means a phobia of phobias. Similarly, panophoia means either a non-specific phobia or a phobia of everything, which can manifest itself as a generalised anxiety.


8. Pentheraphobia

Mothers-in-law are used to being the butt of the jokes, but they're also the cause ofpentheraphobia - mother-in-law phobia.  


9. Lachanophobia

Your child may pleadlachanophobia as an excuse to get out of eating their greens at mealtimes, but an anxiety about vegetables is a genuine phobia.  


10.  Philophobia

Perhaps more relevant to Valentine's Day than Halloween, philophobia is a phobia of being in love or falling in love. No doubt philophobia could, in some cases, trigger venustraphobia - an anxiety about beautiful women. And, at the other end of the scale, anuptaphobia is an anxiety about remaining unmarried or being married to the wrong person.


What's your phobia?

If your phobia isn't listed here, you can find a more comprehensive, alphabetical list of phobias by name or definition on our website.


Understanding phobias and how therapy can help

A phobia is an intense emotional and psychological response to a place or object which causes extreme fear and anxiety in an individual. This response can vary depending on the individual and his or her proximity to the cause. For some individuals, if the feared object, place or activity is infrequently experienced then the phobia stays in place but doesn't necessarily intrude on the person's life, i.e. a spider or wasp phobia. If, on the other hand, a businessman has a crash phobia with regards to flying, then it could be a major problem to try and live with.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you deal with phobias by teaching you coping techniques to help manage your anxiety symptoms, and then supporting you to gradually expose yourself to the feared object or situation, whilst using the new techniques to manage your anxiety. In this way, you can stay in the presence of the trigger long enough to wait for your anxiety to subside. A process called desensitisation may then take place, which is where your brain stops reacting with fear to something that has repeatedly proved to be non-threatening. You can then unlearn the belief that the object or situation is dangerous and can stop avoiding it.

Finding support

If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 27 October 2014