“The world has its dangers and we need to be careful but the earth is an amazing and wonderful place with so much to experience and explore.”

We all have some form of irrational fear, a fear of something that actually does not pose any real threat or danger. This may include spiders, heights, small spaces, or even dogs. We know that the fear is not necessarily logical yet that does not remove the fear and its impact on us. When these fears are so severe that they interfere with our daily lives they are referred to as a phobia. In some cases phobias can be debilitating and seriously hamper people’s lives.

Here is a list of phobias. Can you guess which one is not a phobia documented by science?

  • Xanthophobia: The fear of the color yellow.
  • Turophobia: The fear of cheese.
  • Frigophobia: The fear of becoming too cold.
  • Aibohphobia: The fear of palindromes (words that are the same backwards and forwards).
  • Nomophobia: The fear of losing cell connection or your cell phone.

It might have actually been hard to figure out which one is made up because as we read through them we may struggle to imagine being afraid of these very common things. The actual made-up phobia in this list was “aibohphobia” as there is no documented case of someone being afraid of a palindrome (hope you saw the subtle humor in it though). Oh, and yes, you can develop a phobia of phobias which is simply called phobophobia.

Fear can be healthy if it cautions a person to stay safe around something that is dangerous. But fears can also be unhealthy and limit us in many different ways. If allowed to, a fear can turn into a phobia which then can be destructive.

There are numerous theories about how people get phobias but the most accepted one is that it is learned. A phobia can develop because of a traumatic event but in most cases phobias are not started in this way. There is evidence that lifelong fears can be transmitted to children by their parents. Some phobias can develop in the adult years with no apparent connection to family life so science is still inconclusive at this point.

The good news is that almost all phobias can be treated successfully. The most effective way to overcome a phobia is to gradually and repeatedly expose yourself to the fear in a safe and controlled way. The problem is most people avoid their strong fears and that often reinforces and makes them even worse.

Because of the pandemic, we are living in a time of heightened anxiety and fear. It will be important that we as parents help our children not turn these fears and anxieties into lifelong fears and even accidentally set them on the course of developing phobias. The world has its dangers and we need to be careful but the earth is an amazing and wonderful place with so much to experience and explore. It would be a shame for us to create a generation that sees it through the lens of fear.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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