Being a freelance writer for 6+ years, Billy has interest and knowledge in a wide range of topics.
A World of Phobias
Did you know there are many types of phobias? If you can think of it, there is probably a person who has, or had a fear of it and along with it a proper term. Some popular examples of these types of fears include:
- Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders
- Acrophobia – The fear of heights
- Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces
- Coulrophobia – The fear of clowns
- Aquaphobia – The fear of water
However, there are fears and phobias that the majority of us would consider to be weird. After looking over various lists of phobias I created a list of the weird, strange, and surprising fears I found.
I have personally experienced a couple of the phobias on this list to some extent in my past, and I didn't even know they existed! They are thalassophobia & telephonophobia.
If you know of a strange phobia not mentioned, but worthy of being on this list let me know in the comments below.
1. Phobia of Long Words (Hippopotomonstrosesquppedaliophobia)
Remember the song from Mary Poppins ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’? For many children and adults, it was a fun word to try saying and singing. However, for many who suffer from this phobia of long words, the 34-letter word is intimidating and avoided at all costs.
The technical term is 35 letters long: Hippopotomonstrosesquppedaliophobia
Although there seems to be no statistical estimate of how many people have this phobia, it’s believed that many do. Studies believe this fear is developed when a person makes an attempt to pronounce longer words, but have a hard time with them. This results in their subconscious considering the long word, and others to be negative.
Therefore, the more times a long word is attempted and failed, the more negativity creates anxiety and develops into fear.
Famous People with a Fear of Long Words
At the time of writing, I could not locate any famous people or celebrities with this particular phobia.
Although, I did learn that Oprah Winfrey developed a phobia of gum as a child when her grandmother stuck chewed gum around the house, apparently even lining them in cabinets for later. Her TV audience was even instructed not to chew gum.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Long Word Phobia
Triggers can depend on the person's degree of phobia. They may simply get nervous when asked to pronounce long words, while others have intense reactions from simply seeing one. It is suggested by anecdotal evidence that it triggers the thought and feeling of mocking and embarrassment.
Symptoms may include:
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- Avoidance of reading
- Breathing changes
- In some cases, a full panic attack and nausea
2. The Phobia of Holes (Trypophobia)
This is the term for people who develop anxiety, fear, and in some cases a full-blown phobia of holes. However, it is not just any regular hole, but irregular patterns of holes, including ant hills, strawberries, honeycomb, and so on.
The first documented use occurred in 2005 by Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins, British researchers. Although Dr. Geoff Cole studied Trypophobia, he also suffers from the disorder and referred to it as being “the most common phobia, no one has heard of”.
These researchers claimed to have been the first to study this phobia. Because Cole suffered from it, I could see why he was curious about what caused the disorder. Rather than being a learned cultural fear, they believe it may be an adverse reaction of biological revulsion.
Famous People with a Fear of Holes
The common term for those with this fear is Trypophobes, and it affects famous people too. Naturally, this helps shine more light on this rare disorder. Below are some of the celebrities who’ve talked about their condition:
- Kendall Jenner—She went public about being a trypophobe, stating “I cannot even look at small holes without getting anxiety.”
- Sarah Paulson—This actress’ real fear was written into her role in American Horror Story. That’s one way to face your fears.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Trypophobia
Triggers can include swiss cheese, sponges, hair follicles, honeycombs, and even skin pores.
Still being a new area of study, this phobia is still being studied and has not been recognized or listed in any scientific literature.
3. Fear of Public Speaking (Glossophobia)
The term refers to those who suffer from a fear of speaking in public. Also, commonly diagnosed as “social anxiety disorder”, similar to telephonophobia (see Telephone Phobia later in the list). From speaking in front of a small group to a large auditorium of people, this phobia has a wide wide range. It could present itself in childhood when being requested to answer a question or read aloud in front of the class. Other times it can develop later in life, such as in college or at a job when you may be required to speak in front of a much larger group.
According to glossophobia.com, the fear of public speaking affects an estimated 75% of people to some degree. For some, it can be scarier than death. It often creates enough fear that a person will avoid public speaking, some to the point of dropping out of college or quitting a job to avoid the event.
Those suffering from glossophobia to a higher degree may even freeze up, begin shaking and have weakness in their voice, even in front of one or two people. These types are often referred to as ‘shy’.
Famous People with a Fear of Public Speaking
Do you have a fear of public speaking and think you’re alone, or that it will hold you back from your dreams? Did you know there are/were many celebrities and famous names in history who felt the same way about speaking in public?
- Abraham Lincoln is well-known for his fear of speaking to groups of people, but he tackled his fear to become President of the United States, as did Thomas Jefferson.
- Joel Osteen—yes, the religious guy who now speaks to a football stadium full of people has been reported to have glossophobia too.
- Warren Buffet is a major success story, going from a fear of public speaking to one of the world’s richest persons.
- It has even been documented that Mahatma Gandhi was not a fan of public speaking.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Glossophobia
Triggers include speaking in front of people, from a single person to large groups. There can be several signs a person may be suffering from this fear, including:
- Being shy—when public speaking is uncomfortable or scarier than death, avoiding people is common.
- Increased heartbeat and blood pressure, dry mouth, sweating, and stiffening muscles.
- Mild to intense anxiety can occur just before, during, or even from simply thinking about having to communicate verbally to others. This comes with weakness in the voice, shaking, and freezing up.
- In more extreme cases, it could result in physical distress, such as panic attacks and nausea.
4. Fear of Trees (Dendrophobia)
The term Dendrophobia refers to a fear of trees, mainly the surrounding concept that they could fall at any time and cause harm. It is believed that this phobia is developed from traumatic experiences at some point, such as witnessing a tree fall or damaging property or a person.
It is in a category of specific phobias related to trees and wood, including Hylophobia (fear of forests), Xylophobia (fear of wooden objects), and Nyctohylophobia (fear of dark wooded areas).
Home Owners with a Fear of Trees
Because of this fear, there are many homeowners that make sure removing any trees is a top priority of a new property. This may not sound unusual, many people have old, unhealthy trees removed. However, we’re talking fully healthy trees too.
It is often questioned if this could have a long-term effect on the environment as trees help create oxygen, living things need oxygen to survive.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Dendrophobia
Like with other phobias on the list, some people can have milder symptoms, while others experience intense reactions. If your new neighbor immediately has their surrounding trees all removed, this could be a potential sign.
Symptoms include a range of things, from the usual nausea, nightmares, and sweating to intense panic attacks, high levels of anxiety, and avoiding trees like the plaque.
5. Fear of Otters (Lutraphobia)
Considered an isolated or specific phobia, Lutraphobia is the fear of otters. While many people would consider otters to be cute or adorable, it is believed the isolated or specific fears originate from a prior traumatic event, commonly during childhood. Thus, creating a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.
The person may consider otters to be unclean and diseased, or aggressive and harmful. Some may avoid locations containing otters, but be able to look at images of them. Others may go into a panic at the site of an image.
Generally, those suffering from this phobia will avoid areas that could contain otters, including rivers and wooded areas.
Famous People with a Fear of Otters
Again, I was unable to pinpoint famous people with this particular fear. However, below are some celebrities with other animal-based fears:
Did you know:
- Walt Disney—had a fear of mice (Musophobia)
- Eminem—has a fear of owls (Ornithophobia)
- Jake Gyllenhaal—has a fear of ostriches (term unknown)
- Woody Allen—well-known for having more fears than any other Hollywood star (deer, dogs, sunshine, insects, kids, small spaces, cancer . . . )
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Lutraphobia
If you are with someone who begins showing these at the sight or sound of an otter being in the area, they may be suffering from Lutraphobia:
- Panic attack
- Trouble speaking, weak voice
- Uncontrollable reactions (freaking out)
6. Fear of the Sea (Thalassophobia)
This is the first phobia I can relate to personally. I cannot swim, and nearly drown as a child so I've always been weary of areas over my head, or unable to determine depth.
Even with a life jacket, I've only been in a boat once since my near-drowning experience.
The term thalassophobia refers to people who have a fear of the sea. We all know the ocean is massive, and even science states there is more we don’t know about the ocean world than what we do know. Therefore, unlike Aquaphobia (fear of water), this fear stems from not knowing what else could be lurking around beneath the surface.
From swimming in the sea to just looking at an underwater image of a massive, dark body of water can give those with thalassophobia a dreaded sinking feeling. However, it does not have to be the ocean or sea to become anxious, with some people it can be any deep body of water where you cannot see the bottom.
When a person has thalassophobia, they can experience physical symptoms, but mainly they get very scared when encountering large bodies of water, as thoughts come to mind such as sharks, weird and creepy sea creatures, the abyss, or even sea monsters.
Famous People with a Fear of the Sea
I was unable to find names specifically for thalassophobia, but here are some other related fears:
Taylor Swift (Fear of Sea Urchins)—Although not a fear of the sea or water, it would keep us out of the water.
Actors with Aquaphobia:
- Eva Mendes
- Will Smith
- Snoop Dog
- Carmen Electra
All the above fear the water due to not being able to swim. That would keep me out of the deep end too!
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Thalassophobia
The most common symptom is simply fear and being scared to be near these large bodies of water. There are people who feel uneasy just looking at photos of the abyss, or people near the edge of underwater cliffs.
Other symptoms can include:
7. Fear of Nudity (Gymnophobia)
The term gymnophobia refers to the fear of nudity that many people suffer from a young age. It can occur from the thought of being seen naked or seeing other people naked, even both can result in experiencing anxiety.
Although many who suffer from gymnophobia realize it is an irrational fear, they often cannot help their physical and/or emotional state in these situations. For example, group showers after gym class can be easy for most, but impossible for a person with a fear of nudity.
Communal showers are one situation, but there are those who are afraid to be naked in front of a partner, even seeing themselves in the nude. Because of this, it can result in being unable to participate in sexual activities. Furthermore, other issues can develop, including a fear of sex, and a phobia of bathing and showering.
Famous People with a Fear of Nudity
No luck finding celebrities with gymnophobia (yet), but here are some who have refused to be naked on screen.
- Megan Fox
- Hilary Duff
- Mandy Moore
- Sarah Jessica Parker
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Gymnophobia
Triggers include being naked in front of themselves, others or other people being naked in front of them. There can be various reasons this fear is developed, from vulnerabilities, and sexual trauma, to being raised with specific religious or cultural beliefs.
If you noticed your friend always avoids shopping in stores with communal dressing rooms, avoids showering at the gym, or if your partner insists on having sex with the lights off every time—they may be a gymnophobe.
Generally, there are many coping techniques for this phobia, however, when it prevents a person from bathing and maintaining hygiene it can become a health concern that should be discussed with a doctor.
8. Fear of Walking (Ambulophobia)
The term ambulophobia refers to the fear of walking, which is believed to develop out of a fear of potential injury or harm. For instance, a person suffering from long-term vertigo may develop a phobia of standing/walking if they have been repeatedly injured from the combination.
However, it can also be caused or increased by other fears and anxiety disorders. If one fears being embarrassed and has vertigo or other conditions that may cause them to fall in public, a person can develop ambulophobia.
It is estimated that 12% of people with diagnosed phobias have ambulophobia with an inability to function normally.
Famous People with a Fear of Walking
I have yet to find reports or documented celebrities with ambulophobia. If you know of any, please leave a comment.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Ambulophobia
A person with this condition will avoid walking by doing anything possible. In the worst cases, simply thinking or being exposed to situations where the person must walk can cause uncontrollable anxiety.
This is a complex phobia that presents symptoms that are emotional, mental, and physical. Including:
- Constant worry
- Intense desire to flee a situation
- Trouble concentrating on anything else
- Increased anxiety from images or video
- Fear of losing control
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Full panic attacks
9. Fear of Ghosts (Phasmophobia)
According to VeryWellMind.com, diagnosing the fear of ghosts (phasmophobia) can be complex because it is normal to have some level of anxiety from a ghost story or a horror movie about the supernatural. While the majority of us are able to control this fear, it can cause life-limiting emotions for others.
Ever been asked if you would sleep in a graveyard? Those suffering from Phasmophobia would do everything possible to avoid a graveyard at all. There are some experts who believe the fear of ghosts is only an underlying symptom of another disorder—the fear of death (Thanatopia).
It is common to find a person with both Thanatopia and Phasmophobia because symbols and locations, such as graveyards, funeral homes, and tombstones reflect death.
Famous People with a Fear of Ghosts
Sharon Stone (actress)—Reportedly had a fear of death, until she died briefly from a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage in 2001.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Phasmophobia
Those suffering from Phasmophobia commonly avoid areas they consider could be haunted by spirits in fear of ghosts being there. When finding themselves in or near these types of places they can experience higher levels of anxiety with mild symptoms of fear, to full panic attacks with shaking, fainting, and vomiting.
The same can be said for those with a fear of death (Thanatopia), who may experience these symptoms simply from an image or movie featuring symbols that signify death.
10. Fear of Telephones (Telephonophobia)
I can personally relate to this phobia, as I do not like making phone calls myself. Although not as bad now, I will still avoid making a call if possible. While researching phobias, I was surprised to find this was a real fear and it wasn’t just me.
Telephonophobia may sound like a weird phobia to most that use the phone daily, or never get off it. However, the fear of talking on the phone is a condition many worldwide live with. The majority of ‘Telephonophobes’ will often desire to send an email or text. Are they ordering pizza? You better believe these people are thankful for online ordering!
Simply thinking about making a phone call can be enough to send a telephonophobe into panic or at the very least an irrational spike in anxiety. So, if you know someone who is always avoiding making phone calls, they may be a telephonophobe.
Famous People with a Fear of Talking on the Phone
At the time of writing, I could only find one celebrity who’s reported a case of telephonophobia.
Helen Mirren—This British actress has been quoted saying “telephones make me nervous, and I avoid answering when possible”. She also stated the answering machine is an amazing invention.
Signs, Symptoms & Triggers of Telephonophobia
Researchers believe this phobia stems from a previous event, likely during childhood. For example, being told it can be harmful and cause brain tumors because of electromagnetic waves.
When I was younger, my anxiety would flare up at the thought of making a call. Many times, I would find myself finding an excuse to avoid making a call, to anyone. For example, I always found someone else to order pizza, if someone called for me, I would answer to avoid being rude, but I was uncomfortable the whole time, etc.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started being able to make some calls without my anxiety issues winning. I still prefer ordering pizza online and texting, and emailing when possible.
I can say from experience symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable anxiety
- Voice cracking & shaking or ‘weak’
- Stomach pains
I have also suffered from social anxiety since childhood too, which didn’t help any. Even when talking to people I knew a while my anxiety would cause a weak voice and even trembling at times. I still get this feeling on occasion, but not as often as I used to.
Treatments of Phobia(s)
The majority of people tend to have at least one fear. It may not be a disabling or life-altering fear (phobia), but if it is there are various medical approaches available. It is always best to speak with a doctor to determine the best method. Below are some possible options:
- Cognitive Therapy (CT) or Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
- Response Prevention / Coping Techniques
- Relaxing Habit Strategies
In addition, as a last resort, there are medications that can treat anxiety-related symptoms caused by various phobias, such as:
Helps to reduce or eliminate performance anxiety by blocking adrenaline flow from being anxious. These help with physical symptoms: shaking, increased heart rate, sweating, shaky voice, etc.
This type of medication can help with the emotional symptoms of fears, often prescribed as AN attempt to control debilitating and severe conditions. There are three FDA-approved medications: Zoloft, Effexor, and Paxil.
When nothing else seems to work, this type of medication may be prescribed. It works rapidly but is highly addictive and sedating.
1. Coping With Gymnophobia or the Fear of Nudity. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/gymnophobia-fear-of-nudity-2671747
2. CTRN: Change That's Right Now | Symptoms. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.changethatsrightnow.com/ambulophobia/symptoms/
3. Lutraphobia | Fear of Otters - Massive Phobia. (2019). Retrieved from https://massivephobia.com/lutraphobia-fear-of-otters/
4. Olesen, J., Gruenig, R., E, D., Gutierrez, C., acres, s., & Santos, E. et al. (2019). Fear of Long Words Phobia - Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Retrieved from https://www.fearof.net/fear-of-long-words-phobia-hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia/
5. Olesen, J., Susan G Holland, A., Sawyer, R., Niranjanaa, S., Jones, J., Fisher, C., & Setala, V. (2019). Fear of Talking on the Phone Phobia - Telephonophobia. Retrieved from https://www.fearof.net/fear-of-talking-on-the-phone-phobia-telephonophobia/
6. Trees: Dendrophobia - The Fear of Trees | Urban Forest Initiative. (2019). Retrieved from https://ufi.ca.uky.edu/treetalk/trees-dendrophobia
7. What Is Thalassophobia And How Can You Cope with It? | Betterhelp. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/phobias/what-is-thalassophobia-and-how-can-you-cope-with-it/
8. What Is Trypophobia and Is There a Cure? | Everyday Health. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/trypophobia-101-beginners-guide/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Billy Haynes
Billy Haynes (author) from Paragould, AR on July 01, 2019:
I haven't personally met anyone afraid of patterns, just dislike certain ones. It was interesting to learn about, but would also give a good medical reason not to eat certain foods. Ha!
It's been so long since I've had time to play that one that I don't remember that one. Of course, it could be due to not making it that far.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on July 01, 2019:
What a fascinating article! How funny that some people are afraid of otters. I can't imagine anyone being scared of those cute little things. My husband actually suffers from Trypophobia; he'll feel sick if he sees anything with a recurring pattern like holes or bumps.
I don't like things that are pyramid-shaped, but I wouldn't say it's a phobia. I think it's because of that scary pyramid level in Super Mario 64. Well done on the well researched article; I enjoyed reading it.