Are you deeply afraid of spiders, heights, clowns, tight spaces, elevators, or snakes?

If so, don’t be alarmed; these types of phobias (arachnophobia, acrophobia, coulrophobia, claustrophobia, elevatophobia, and ophidiophobia, respectively), along with many others, are fairly common.

Phobias are excessive and persistent fears that tend to fall into one of three general categories: social phobias, agoraphobias (fears of situations or places in which one could become trapped, embarrassed, or helpless), or specific phobias.

Approximately 18% of Americans have at least one phobia, the most common being specific phobias. Some of them, however, can be a bit abnormal and irrational; interestingly, science doesn’t have a sole explanation for their existence. Regardless, here are seven of the most unusual phobias that reveal the erratic tendencies of the human mind.

1. Alektorophobia

Alektorophobia is an intense fear of chickens, which may result from negative experiences with chickens or learned behaviors from a family member with this phobia. As an anonymous Reddit user with alektorophobia has written, “Ever since that dream, whenever I see a chicken, my mind flocks back to that traumatic dream… I think of their talons and their beaks, and my eyes being ripped out of their sockets.”

2. Porphyrophobia

Porphyrophobia refers to an acute aversion toward the color purple. As with most other phobias, it is characterized by anxiety, dread, sweating, rapid breathing, nausea, and shaking– in this case, related to the color purple.

3. Onomatophobia

Onomatophobia is the severe fear of specific names or words. This mental illness can usually be traced back to a specific triggering event which may be associated with the word or name.

4. Pogonophobia

The crippling fear of beards, known as pogonophobia, is one of the least understood phobias. However, it has been concluded that a combination of several factors likely contribute to this extreme dislike of beards, including having a traumatic past experience with a bearded person, associating facial hair with uncleanliness, and misunderstanding cultural norms that require people to grow facial hair.

5. Botanophobia

Botanophobia is the unwarranted fear of plants. It can manifest as either a fear of all plants, or only a few specific types. Another Reddit user claims that they have botanophobia, which they believe started when they were “a child and forced to plant some seedlings for a science project… I had nightmares for a few days about the plants becoming larger-than life- and surrounding me.”

6. Genuphobia

The irrational fear of knees or the act of kneeling is known as genuphobia. Individuals with this mental illness may dislike the “ugly” appearance of knees, or fear kneeling because it can be interpreted as a submissive and servile behavior.

7. Triskaidekaphobia

Those with triskaidekaphobia are thankful that this word contains seventeen letters. This phobia is the drastic fear and avoidance of the number or figure 13. Researchers estimate that at least 10% percent of the U.S. population has a fear of this number; but the percentage of these escalating to phobias is not available.

Phobias may appear to be foolish or ridiculous to those who aren’t affected, but they are real conditions that are made apparent through physical symptoms. For those who have phobias that hinder everyday life, therapies such as exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as medications, are available to help manage symptoms.

Photo: NHS/UK

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