Weird Phobias You've Never Heard Of

If you admit to having a phobia, you’re not alone: about 11 percent of people have felt irrational fears at some point in their lives. Some phobias are so bizarre, triggered by harmless situations like sitting down (kathisophobia), trees (dendrophobia) or the color yellow (xanthophobia), that it’s difficult to imagine anyone feeling frightened when they encounter them. For some individuals, just thinking about the objects they fear can bring on severe anxiety.

We tease each other about our phobias, but the symptoms are no joke. People with phobias can experience feelings of choking, chest pains, heart pounding, nausea or trembling. Sufferers can feel out of control and overwhelmed by their symptoms, to the extent that they plan their lives around avoiding phobia triggers.

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Experts agree that most phobias are caused by some event we may not even remember, sometimes as minor as a scary TV show we watched as a child. Here are a few of the weirdest phobias we found:

  • Fear of chewing gum (chiclephobia). If you feel a fear or extreme disdain for gum, you share a phobia with Oprah Winfrey. While some chiclephobes fear that gooey gum might invade any crack, lying in wait to spring out and trap you when your guard is down, others see it as a filthy, gross substance. Oprah traces her contempt for gum to her grandmother, who would “save” her gum in kitchen cabinets, or even on the bottom of dinner plates. Chewing gum so disgusts Oprah that she forbids it in her studio.
  • Fear of needles (beloneophobia). This is a phobia that actually can harm its sufferers if it keeps them from getting healthcare treatments or blood tests they may need. It’s a common fear: researchers found that more than 20 million adults and kids in the US experience extreme fear or pain when getting jabbed with a needle. About 3.5 million adults say they’ve skipped medically-prescribed tests or injections—and half had to forfeit necessary healthcare as a result of needle fears.
  • Fear of buttons (koumpounophobia). Most people don’t give a thought to buttons, but they send one British mother into a panic. Louisa Francis remembers being frightened by a childhood game involving buttons; today she fears any contact with them and won’t buy buttoned clothing for herself or her daughter. “I obviously know a button can’t hurt me, or even move,” she says, “but there’s just something about the shape and texture that really freaks me out.” One positive outcome of her strange fear: Ms. Francis is training to become a counselor to help others with their unusual phobias.
  • Fear of wet wood (oneirogmophobia). Another rare phobia, the mere sight of wet wood can cause its victims to break out into a sweat and feel nauseous, one sufferer told a CNN reporter. She couldn’t stand to see someone lick a wooden spoon or even put a toothpick into their mouths, and she never ate Popsicles down to the wood. People with this fear own no wooden utensils because they fear having to wash them.
  • Fear of chins (geniophobia). It’s not unusual for people to wish their chin were more attractive, but actually fearing chins—their own or someone else’s—is rare. People who fear chins may think their own is too large or unpleasant, and their dislike can get amplified to dreading being around other people because they all have chins, a constant reminder of the phobic’s own perceived flaws.
  • Fear of paper (papyrophobia). This phobia manifests in different ways. Some sufferers are afraid of torn paper, while others fear wet paper, blank paper, or touching paper in any form. Actress Megan Fox is afraid of dry paper. Papyrophobia can be especially debilitating because paper is everywhere; those who fear it must encounter their demons many times each day.
  • Fear of bald people (peladophobia). With any phobia the cause can be partly hereditary, but fearing bald people often can be linked to a childhood trauma involving someone with no hair. The source isn’t necessarily someone who abused the phobic person; it can be anyone who gave them a scare. 

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How to overcome phobias

If you have a phobia, you can get help in easing your fears. For a mild phobia, sometimes all it takes to cope with fear is to take a deep breath and visualize the situation that scares you. As you practice mentally spending time with your phobia, calm yourself with soothing, positive statements such as, “I’m going to be just fine.”

For more serious anxiety, talk to a counselor or therapist about undergoing Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). With CBT, the therapist guides you to learning a new, healthier thought pattern that will replace the anxiety-causing thoughts of your phobia. In some instances, hypnotherapy and exposure therapy—exposing the patient, in tiny increments, to the source of the anxiety—are part of the treatment plan.

Celebrities with unusual phobias:

  • Tyra Banks, fear of dolphins.
  • Madonna, fear of thunder.
  • Billy Bob Thornton, fear of antique furniture.
  • Johnny Depp, fear of clowns.
  • Nicole Kidman, fear of butterflies.
  • Christina Ricci, fear of indoor plants.

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