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Fear Of Friday The 13th: Paraskevidekatriaphobia, Explained

Friday the 13th
Paraskevidekatriaphobia: the fear of Friday the 13th. Dennis Skley CC BY-ND 2.0

Today, Nov. 13, 2015 is the third Friday the 13th of 2015 and the first one in eight months. As any fan of superstitions will know, there is some bad karma surrounding any Friday that lands on the 13th day of the month. There’s even a name for the irrational fear of Friday the 13th: paraskevidekatriaphobia. The joke is that if you can pronounce the name, you’re cured of the phobia. Let’s take a look at what exactly paraskevidekatriaphobia is, why people suffer from it, and if they can be cured.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia Defined

Paraskevidekatriaphobia goes by another, equally hard to say name, friggatriskaidekaphobia. The origins of friggatriskaidekaphobia can be traced back to Nordic myth. Frigg, the goddess of wisdom, is where we get Friday from. Atriskaideka is derived from Greek meaning three and 10, equaling 13. Paraskevidekatriaphobia, on the other hand, is derived from Greek with the first half, paraskevi, relating to Friday, and dekatria relating to the number 13.

Why People Suffer From Paraskevidekatriaphobia

To find out why people suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia we have to look at phobias themselves. Phobias are irrational fears of any activity, situation, or thing. It’s estimated six million people suffer from different phobias in the United States alone. Phobias can alter a person’s ability to function and enjoy life. Fear of Friday the 13th might have to do with the fear of the number 13, which has been called an unlucky number for hundreds of years. Some point to the number 12 for blame.

The number 12 is a complete number and has various implications: There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus. As for Friday, some believe that because Christ was crucified on that day, it is unlucky, and some biblical scholars, according to National Geographic, believe that Eve was tempted by the forbidden fruit on Friday.

These religious and number implications lead many people to do their best to avoid the date whenever it appears on the calendar. This leads to drops in business transactions, flights, hotel bookings, stock market buyings or sellings, and much more.

Can People With Paraskevidekatriaphobia Be Cured?

Like the many phobias you’ve probably heard of — arachnophobia, agoraphobia, or claustrophobia, to name a few — paraskevidekatriaphobia is something that can be treated. Both physical symptoms (panic, terror, rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating and trembling) and psychological symptoms (being afraid even if you know it’s irrational, doing whatever you can to avoid doing what you’re afraid of, running away from a phobic situation) can all be diagnosed by a medical professional.

With many phobias, desensitization therapy — exposing the person slowly to the thing they’re afraid of until they aren’t anymore — is used, but with Friday the 13th, that’s not really applicable. Instead, one might try cognitive behavioral therapy, which examines and changes thoughts and behaviors that contribute to the phobia symptoms. Doctors might also prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants) or beta-blockers, which slow the production of adrenaline, one of the key components of fear, along with treatment to get you over your phobia.

If you or someone you know is affected by paraskevidekatriaphobia, the National Alliance of Mental Illness or MentalHealth.gov are both valuable resources to learn more about phobias and to find help.

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