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Irrational Fears

by Barbara Markley

Lightening and rain from cloud


Barbara is a practicing family law attorney and mediator in Fort Lauderdale where she finds plenty of material for her writing in the quirky people she meets everyday. She is the author of “I’m Not Talking About You, Of Course,” a collection of humorous essays, and “The Fight for Magicallus,” a children’s book. Both of these e-books are available on Amazon.


Even if you are the most well-adjusted person alive today, somewhere buried deep in your psyche lives an annoying little kid who looks a lot like you and has an irrational fear of….something. Who knows how it started. Maybe you read a scary story once, or maybe you were hurt or almost hurt doing something, but now it is forever imprinted in your brain…to be afraid. 

My own fear of lightning (Keraunophobia) is just one of my mother’s many fears, handed down at a susceptible point in my childhood. I know for a fact that my mother was never struck by lightning, nor did she know anyone who even came close, but the minute she heard thunder, she tore out of the house, stopped our game of “kick the can” (even if we were winning!) and herded us into the house so fast we didn’t know how we got there.

And she was “the lightning police” for the entire neighborhood. One day, the kids across the street were swimming in their above-ground pool while their parents weren’t home (!) and it started thundering.  With nary a thought for her own safety, my mother dashed over there and made them get out of the pool NOW. While she did not enjoy other people’s misfortune, quite the contrary in fact, she still felt compelled to tell you whenever some unfortunate soul, often on a golf course or a baseball field, had been struck dead by lightning, usually out of the clear blue sky.

Living in Florida, the lightning capital of the country, helps to keep my fear alive and well and I’m quite sure I’ll never shake that one off. I am also afraid of bears but it’s only a problem when we visit a National Park where they happen to live, so that fear doesn’t limit me so much.  But, as I grow older, I am developing some new fears including: Catoptrophobia (fear of mirrors), Barophobia (fear of gravity) and Geniophobia (a fear of chins).

My friend’s mother was afraid of riding in elevators, (a combination of acrophobia and claustrophobia) which was quite a manageable fear, and my younger son was afraid of clowns (Coulrophobia) for quite a while after seeing the movie “It.”  As long as he never joins the circus, he should be alright.  My older son suffered from Lachanophobia (a fear of vegetables), but he is slowly outgrowing it.

I know many people who suffer from Ergophobia (a fear of work), Phronemophobia (a fear of thinking) and Gnosiophobia (a fear of knowledge), but they don’t find it debilitating in the least. Thankfully, I don’t know anyone who suffers from Ablutophobia (fear of washing or bathing) and I personally could never associate with people who had Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (a fear of long words, of course). 

Luckily, people with Paraskavedekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) only have to freak out three times a year, at most, and sometimes only once a year, but the ones I feel most sorry for are those who suffer from Panophobia (fear of everything) and Phobophobia (fear of fear). Is that what FDR meant when he said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

Even if your particular fear doesn’t have an official name, don’t feel bad, I’m sure there is someone who feels the same way you do. You could probably even find a support group online, unless of course you suffer from Cyberphobia (a fear of computers) or Anthropophobia (a fear of meeting new people). Then maybe you should just go lie down until you feel better, but don’t look under the bed, just in case.


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