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Anne Diamond: A closer look at the world of phobias

PUBLISHED: 15:45 03 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:45 03 February 2016

Leporiphobia: the fear of rabbits. Where will they hop next? Photo by William Warby

Leporiphobia: the fear of rabbits. Where will they hop next? Photo by William Warby

Archant

From cooked vegetables to having no phone signal, some people develop phobias of more than the likely suspects of spiders and other creepy crawlies

You might smugly feel you aren’t phobic about anything, but I’ll bet you probably just don’t want to own up to an irrational fear, lest you be thought weak or just plain barking. Every time that TV programme ‘I’m A Celebrity’ comes around in the annual schedules, I’m always asked why I’m not on it. And the real reason is plain. Not even if they offered me a million pounds could I agree to it.

I am phobic about bugs of the six-legged and particularly the eight legged variety. I could never ever survive. I’d be a snivelling quivering wreck on the outward flight, I’d be sick at first sight of those wobbly tree bridges and the very thought of having to nibble at cockroaches, caterpillars and kangaroo testicles would have me backing out in tears, never mind the humiliation.

Phobias take all sorts of forms and of course, by their very nature, they are irrational and disproportionate. Like the man I recently interviewed who had a dread of mashed potato. Just the thought or sight of it made him feel sick and anxious which meant he had to give up his job as a barman since he was so often called upon to serve lunches of Shepherd’s Pie or bangers and mash!

Hearing that on my radio show, a woman called in to tell me she was terrified of dogs - to the point of never going outdoors except inside her car, lest she see someone walking their harmless pooch. Phobias are worst when they affect your everyday actions, and cripple your chance of leading a normal life.

What’s more, they can affect your family and friends and that’s where they can also appear to be unreasonably selfish. Take the recent case of the man who went into a total panic when his wife declared she was pregnant. He’d always been terrified of the thought of childbirth and now he knew he’d have to be there, at his wife’s side on delivery day. I guess half a century ago he’d never have had to own up. His place could have been quite happily outside the delivery room, pacing up and down the hospital corridor armed with a bunch of flowers and a tube of cigars.

Apparently 13% of dads-to-be suffer with tokophobia - the fear of pregnancy, birth and becoming a parent. Some are so anxious they can’t even attend ante-natal classes without passing out. And their panic can damage their relationship with their partner as well as their child. Although 97 per cent of dads are at the births of their babies — higher than ever before — a number faint at the mere thought. Diddums, say I. Get over it. We women don’t have a choice - we HAVE to be there, tokophobic or not. (And yes, women suffer from it too. A little more justifiably!) I do wonder whether those rather graphic childbirth videos we were all shown at school don’t have an awful lot to answer for…

This particular man managed to overcome his fear in the end through an intensive course of hypnotic suggestion - and he survived the birth! Good for him - he found a way. But I’ve heard of other phobics who let their fears become an excuse for just plain bad manners or selfishness. I had one aunt who moaned that she had a fear of hospitals and so never ever visited friends or even loved ones when they were at their most needy and vulnerable. Excusable? I reckon not. Especially given the help available nowadays.

Meanwhile, more and more people are reporting phobias of the strangest kind - like Omphalophobia - which is the fear of bellybuttons. Or Nomophobia - fear of being without mobile phone coverage, a very first world complaint indeed. 


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