Phobias can be debilitating. Some people are so afraid of encountering their fear that they lock themselves at home, refusing to engage in everyday life activities.
Here are the strangest things people admit they’re truly afraid of.
Understanding Weird Phobias
Christina Bradley, MS. Ed., DBT, REBT, Senior Associate Therapist at Gateway to Solutions in New York, says, “Phobias are extreme anxiety-based fears that lead people to avoid objects, places, or situations.” She adds weird phobias tend to negatively impact people’s lives because it’s nearly impossible to predict when something that triggers the phobia will arise.
It’s relatively easy to avoid heights and crowds in everyday life, but a strange phobia, like fear of plastic wrappers (a phobia Bradley has helped treat), is nearly impossible to avoid.
Eric Patterson, LPC with Choosing Therapy, says the weirdest phobia he encountered in his career was the fear of baby carrots.
“The seemingly harmless orange bites gave my client tremendous levels of stress, fear, and anxiety,” related Patterson. He added that his client tried to avoid their phobia by avoiding the produce aisle at grocery stores, but that wasn’t always enough.
“Every so often, a gathering or family party would feature a baby carrot, which would induce a panic attack.”
Patterson treated the client with systematic desensitization through exposure.
Bradley said that outside plastic wrappers, an intense fear of coins was the strangest phobia she had to treat. Like the wrappers, coins are everywhere and difficult to avoid. The phobia can have massive impacts on someone’s life.
She adds that to treat a phobia, you first must understand the root cause. Some are associated with trauma; to treat that fear, patients must first complete trauma work.
However, Bradley says that not all phobias are rooted in trauma. If she can’t find a rational cause for the fear, she treats patients with exposure therapy, gradually exposing them to their phobia over time so they learn to handle being in its presence.
“He was scared to even look at his own eyes in the mirror,” He recounted. Dr. Jacob added that the phobia greatly impacted the patient’s life, as he struggled to make eye contact and lacked confidence.
Dr. Jacob helped him via exposure therapy. “I started by gradually introducing him to different types of eyewear, such as sunglasses, spectacles, and other protective eyewear, so that he could become comfortable around them. Secondly, I used guided imagery techniques which included having him imagine himself wearing different types of eyewear in familiar places like home or office and slowly introduced images of people’s eyes one at a time. Eventually, he was able to look into the mirror and see his own eyes without having any fear.”
Some psychologists work with phobias so regularly they develop a favorite. Psychologist and author Dr. Ashely Smith says emetophobia, or the fear of vomiting, is surprisingly common and more debilitating than you would imagine.
“At its worst, people may avoid eating because the sensations of fullness trigger an intense fear response for them,” she explained.
Dr. Smith adds that many of the fears occur within other disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), so treating that will ultimately help with the phobia.
No Mobile Phone
A relatively new phobia sees patients terrified of being without their cell phones. Dr. Jason Shiers, a psychotherapist at Wide World Coaching, says nomophobia, or the fear of being separated from your mobile phone, is one of the most unusual phobias he’s seen.
He says patients with this phobia “suffer from anxiety, restlessness, and irritability whenever they are deprived of their phones. As a result, patients may become socially isolated because they shun contact with others.”
Dr. Shiers uses various treatment methods to help patients overcome this fear, including cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy, and mindfulness-based therapy.
Dr. Katie Adam, Psychologist at Skills Training Group, encountered a bizarre and specific phobia.
Arachibutyrophobia is not just the fear of peanut butter but the specific fear that peanut butter will stick to the roof of your mouth.
Although Dr. Adam admits this phobia isn’t as life-altering as others because it’s easier to avoid eating peanut butter than eyeballs or coins, it’s bizarre enough to warrant inclusion.
Self-Proclaimed Weird Phobias from Around the Web
Many people claim to have strange phobias but lack the funds or desire to get a proper diagnosis.
These 16 weird phobias were sourced from various Reddit threads. Users say they suffer from these phobias, but we don’t know how much they might impact their lives.
Some people are terrified of nature’s most beautiful insect. One user agreed they are beautiful from a distance but said, “If one of those gross little things [flies] near me, I’m crying and panicking.”
Another said a good friend suffers the same phobia, which started after a childhood nightmare and continued for over 30 years.
Megalophobia is the fear of big things, and one user said it’s enough to make them feel sick and dizzy.
It’s not just any big things, but specifically things bigger than they should be. Tall buildings are fine because they’re supposed to be big, but a giant pencil balloon would be terrifying.
Lots of people are scared of clowns, but it’s a real phobia for some. One user said their aversion developed after watching the horror film Poltergeist.
“If you haven’t seen it, there is a moment in the movie where the souls possess a clown doll owned by one of the kids. And in the night, it comes to life, leading to one of the worst **** jump scares I’ve ever seen as it tries to murder this child,” they explained.
Small Round Food
One user said they’re repulsed by small round food.
“Doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about peas or capers or those horrifying Sixlets candies. If it’s small and round, it creeps me all the way,” they shared.
Luckily there aren’t a lot of foods that meet the criteria, but the user should probably avoid Italian restaurants.
Most people afraid of boats are actually scared of water or drowning, two reasonable fears.
But one user said that’s not the case. “I’m deadly afraid of boats. Not the water, not drowning, not sea monsters – boats,” they stressed.
It might not be such a weird phobia. Another user shared it, saying, “I can’t even look at a boat without freaking out.”
Credit Card Declinations
It’s reasonable to feel stressed that your credit card won’t work, but one user said the fear causes undue anxiety.
“I don’t spend it on expensive things, but I do use it often, and I’m always afraid I’ll over do it,” they shared.
It may not meet the criteria of phobia, as the commenter still uses the card regularly, but we’ve all felt the little rush of anxiety when swiping, so it’s easy to see how it could develop into a full-blown phobia.
Tokophobia is the intense fear of pregnancy and pregnant bellies.
“I have vivid horrifying nightmares about getting pregnant,” shared one user.
Another said their phobia developed from trauma. “I have this fear because I never want to lose autonomy over my body again. Someone took it from me once and never again,” they said.
The weird phobia inhibits participating in humanity’s natural reproductive process.
How Others Perceive You
We all have a little anxiety about how people view us, but for some, it develops into a full-blown phobia called gelotophobia.
Gelotophobia is specifically the fear of being laughed at or ridiculed. One user described how it negatively affects their life.
“It’s an overriding concern in almost every interaction I have with people unless I’m confident that they won’t do that (not many have reached that status),” they shared. “I’m incredibly self-conscious when I walk in public, and laughter around me puts me on edge.”
Moths are similar to butterflies, so finding both insects on the list of weird phobias is unsurprising.
However, some said they suffer from Mottephobia but are okay with butterflies. “They’re more floaty and less frantic,” said one user, describing their differences.
Another user described the intense fear of moths that disrupts their sleep. “I have waking dreams that there are moths hovering above my bed or crawling around in my sheets. It always seems so realistic, and when I fully wake up, I’ll lay there literally frozen in terror, afraid to even turn my head in case I look over and see that there really is a moth in my bed,” they shared.
Internet users expressed fear of a variety of different insects. Butterflies, moths, carpenter ants, cockroaches, and crane flies were all mentioned online.
Crane flies are harmless giant flies that resemble mosquitos, but some folks fear them more than their bloodsucking relatives.
“It’s the weird spasmodic way they fly and the way their creepy legs hang down as they do so,” shared one user.
“It’s how disgusting they are, like the noise when they fly into walls and how their legs just dangle when they fly. They are truly horrible creatures,” added another.
Trypophobia is an irrational fear of patterned holes one user suffers.
However, when you dig deep, it’s not as weird as it sounds. “Scientists believe it exists due to the instinctual fear of the grotesque or fear of unknown creatures living in such holes,” they explained.
It’s not unusual to be afraid of the unknown. However, the user said they couldn’t even look at a photo without trembling.
One user said they suffered from carpophobia, a fear of wrists, but overcame it via exposure therapy.
“I was afraid of other people’s wrists and my own as well. I couldn’t stand seeing people touch their wrists, especially scratching them, and would never look at or touch my own wrists. I would freak out if someone else touched my wrist,” they shared.
They added that even they think it’s a weird phobia and didn’t think it existed until it affected them, showcasing the need to raise awareness.
One user said they start vomiting if they think about mold too much, even when on foods that are supposed to be moldy, like blue cheese.
“Once I accidentally ate a sandwich with Camembert cheese, and after realising I was feeling sick and queasy for two days,” they shared.
A mold phobia can be debilitating because the fungus can grow anywhere, anytime.
Fanaphobia is the irrational fear of ceiling fans, but one user has a rational reason for their anxiety.
They shared a story of a terrifying encounter with a ceiling fan positioned near them while they slept on the top bunk of a bunk bed.
They said one hot night, they were sleeping with the fan on and leaned over the bed to see something. “Got hit right in the forehead with the fan, then fell off of the bunk and onto my back,” they shared, explaining the origin of their fear.
One user shared a particular phobia of not crabs but pregnant crabs.
“Their pregnant bellies are these giant orange growths that look like a sponge is mutating off them. It just makes me think of the zombies from The Last of Us or some foreign entity taking over another body. Gives me the shivers thinking about it,” they said.
Another user looked up pregnant crabs upon hearing the story. “Now I have a new fear, too,” they joked.
One user developed icythtyophobia after encountering the aftermath of a horrendous plant spill as a child.
“There piles and piles of dead fish along the shore. I was very curious about the dead fish and wouldn’t listen when told to no go near the fish. To teach me a lesson, a family member kicked me into a pile of the dead fish. It was horrible. Rolling in a pile of slimy, bloated white-eyed fish was awful,” they shared.
Another said they had a panic attack while swimming with dolphins, but it wasn’t the dolphins that scared them; it was the tiny fish swimming around them.
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Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.