Where would we be without the Greeks and their keen understanding of human nature? To this day, odds and ends from their language beautifully convey a vision of humanity ruled not only by reason but also by the irrational. Phobia, for instance, is taken from the Greek word ‘phobos’ meaning morbid fear and suggests an awareness that the human mind sometimes unaccountably resists facts and figures, mathematical explanations, charts, graphs... and even common sense. A phobia is a fear that is as overwhelming as it is illogical. Not the brief anxiety someone may feel before taking a test, say, or giving a speech, a phobia is a deep and abiding dread of a situation that poses little real danger, often causing someone to also suffer physical and psychological reactions, including heart palpitations, rashes, and avoidance. There may be no discernible cause for such a fear, no memory that can be resurrected from childhood and re-confronted, nothing that can be systematically explained and then tucked in a box. For these reasons, a phobia can make it near impossible for a person to function normally in the world and may even alter the course of a life.

Considering phobia, what may come to mind for some might be the old standard, a fear of flying, or perhaps a fear of needles, or, at the comic end of the spectrum, a fear of clowns. Truth is, an endless number of frights have been recorded by psychological professionals, though most are uncommon. Below, in no particular order, are 10 of the most unusual phobias conjured in the hearts of man.

Nomophobia is a fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

Turophobia applies to those who feel a dread of cheese.

Phobophobia may be the simplest of all: it is a fear of fear.

Uranophobia, sometimes spelled ouranophobia, is the irrational fear of Heaven.

Xanthophobia is a dread of the color yellow.

Koumpounophobia means a person suffers from an unaccountable dread of buttons.

Ergophobia may not be uncommon even if it is rarely heard. This is a fear of work.

Ablutophobia is the psychological avoidance of bathing, washing, and cleaning. (Stand back!)

Kenophobia can be felt with each glance up into the sky: It is the overwhelming dread of empty spaces.

Finally, Haphephobia is the fear of being touched.

A Bonus Four

For your added delight, we have four phobias all invented in the minds of writers. Be especially careful of these, as it is often the case that what is most dangerous in life has been conjured by the mind.

Anachrophobia is a fear of temporal displacement and occured in the imagination of Jonathan Morris, author of the Doctor Who novels.

Arachibutyrophobia, an invention from the mind of Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts fame, is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. (Not sure this one is irrational.)

Anatidaephobia is the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you. Thanks go to Gary Larson who dreamed up this one for his comic strip, The Far Side.

Finally, there is Keanuphobia: a deep-seated fear of Keanu Reeves. This is taken from a Dean Koontz novel, False Memory, which features a psychiatrist who implants this unusual dread, via hypnotic suggestion, in one of his women patients just to amuse himself. Sounds like a severe case of psychiatristphobia might help balance things out for this hapless female character.

Anatidaephobia Courtesy of Nalin Kaul