12 Of The Most Bizarre Phobias People Suffer From

By: Jonny Hughes
A girl in distress
A phobia is an irrational or extreme fear of something, and to the point where it impacts your life. Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Phobias are common afflictions that affect the lives of millions of people around the world. A phobia is an irrational or extreme fear of something, and to the point where it impacts your life. Typically, these phobias are understandable, and a few of the more common ones include claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights), nyctophobia (fear of the dark) or aerophobia (fear of flying). There are then some truly bizarre phobias out there which may provide the majority of us with a good laugh, but for some people it is a daily struggle with these irrational fears.


12. Koumpounophobia – Fear of Buttons

One of the more famous bizarre phobias, koumpounophobia is the fear of buttons. Some people are scared of seeing or the thought of buttons, whilst some are only afraid of the texture of particular buttons and are able to wear them themselves. Traumatic experiences such as abuse or neglect by someone wearing buttons could trigger the phobia, but many also claim that it is an intense disgust and they find them dirty and a horrible texture. Steve Jobs famously had a phobia of buttons, which is perhaps why cell phones and tablets today are primarily touchscreen and button-free. Seeing as they are so common on men and women’s clothing, it can make daily life and interactions with others challenging and full of anxiety. Therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy have proven to help, although many sufferers are too embarrassed to seek professional help and instead avoid buttons at all costs.


11. Genuphobia – Fear of Knees

Some people around the world suffer from an irrational fear of knees and/or kneeling, including their own knees as well as the knees of others. The symptoms of this phobia include feeling sick, excessive sweating, dry mouth and anxiety whenever they see knees or somebody kneeling. Although it is an uncommon and strange phobia (which must be particularly challenging to manage during the summer months), there are a few different causes for the phobia. It is thought that some sufferers previously were not familiar with seeing knees, likely due to an upbringing where clothing was always worn that covered them. In addition to this, the phobia could stem from a traumatic injury to their knees or the knees of somebody else. In some cases, genuphobia in terms of a fear of kneeling is due to it being a form of submission.


10. Ergophobia – Fear of Working

A great one to try on your boss the next time can’t face a day at the office, ergophobia is the fear of working. This may sound like something made up by somebody one Monday morning in the middle of winter, but ergophobia actually affects millions of people around the world. It is often part of a much larger problem, often a social phobia or performance anxiety where the sufferer feels extreme anxiety about being in the workplace where there will be plenty of socializing, performing in front of people and high pressure situations. This is different from work aversion, where people avoid employment due to laziness or boredom. This fear of working or finding employment is obviously difficult to avoid due to the need to work, but through professional help many people are able to identify the root of the problem and overcome their fear.


9. Sesquipedalophobia – Fear of Long Words

They were clearly having some fun when they came up with the term for this phobia, as sesquipedalophobia is the fear of long words. Cruelly, it is also known as hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. Initially it may be difficult to understand, but it can be more relatable when you think back to school days where you were reading aloud to the class and you suddenly found a word that you did not know how to say. Sesquipedalophobia often stems from a lack of education, and the sufferer will find themselves avoiding reading, avoiding social interactions with people who use long words, struggling in restaurants with dishes that have long names, and having difficulty interacting with people from different cultures. Seeing or hearing long words may result in nausea, dry mouth, panic attacks, trembling and sweating. Many people find online dictionaries a useful tool, as they also provide an audio pronunciation and a simplified meaning.


8. Turophobia – Fear of Cheese

For many of us, cheese is one of the greatest foods on the planet and something that can improve most meals. Some unfortunate souls not only do not like cheese, but actually have a fear of it. This is called turophobia, and sufferers can have a fear of all cheese, or just one in particular. It is thought that this fear can stem from a negative experience with cheese when young, such as being sick from consuming too much cheese, or having an intense dislike for the texture, look, or taste of a particular cheese. Additionally, those that are lactose intolerant are more likely to have some form of turophobia. Seeing as it is such a bizarre phobia, many sufferers are also teased and have people deliberately brandish cheese or eat it in front of them to see if their fear is in fact true (which it is).


7. Dextrophobia – Fear of Objects to the Right

This may seem like a silly fear to the majority of us, but for many people around the world it is a problem that affects them every single day. Dextrophobia is the fear of right-sided things, and it stems from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People that suffer from this phobia will always keep objects to their left in the workplace and at home, but it can also make tasks such as driving a real problem. Symptoms include panic attacks, nausea, crying, trembling and becoming easily distracted. They will do everything in their power to fix what is out of place, but of course this is not always possible, and therefore it is a very challenging phobia to live with. Those that suffer from dextrophobia will usually seek professional help to overcome the phobia, and a therapist may be able to help work through the issue.


6. Xanthophobia – Fear of the Color Yellow

For the majority of people, thinking of the color yellow brings about thoughts of daffodils, sunshine, sunflowers, lemons, ducklings and, of course, cheese (not great for those with turophobia). Typically, it is a very happy color that is full of life, but some people have an intense fear or aversion to the color yellow. Those that have this fear will usually have had some kind of emotional or physical trauma in their past that involves something yellow, and now on an unconscious level a fear of the color has been developed. This could be something minor like being stung by a wasp, or a larger trauma such as being hit by a yellow car. Negative feelings are then attached to yellow objects (or even the word), and this results in panic and anxiety around yellow objects, or even the thought or mention of the color.


5. Arachibutyrophobia – Fear of Peanut Butter Sticking to the Roof of Your Mouth

A very particular and odd phobia, this is one which most people struggle to understand. Arachibutyrophobia is the irrational fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth. Due to the thickness and stickiness of peanut butter, this is something that does occur occasionally (and some people enjoy it). The fear is more rooted in the idea of choking and the peanut butter becoming stuck on the roof of the mouth, as well as feelings of disgust when they cannot remove the peanut butter. Being so particular, it is clearly something that can be easily avoided if you suffer from the phobia. Like all phobias, the severity of the fear varies from person to person, with the most severe sufferers finding themselves fearful of all peanut products. Most who suffer simply avoid peanut butter and peanut products, but it can also be treated by a therapist.


4. Anatidaephobia – Fear of Being Watched By a Duck

Everyone has experienced the feeling of being watched, but there are many people that have an irrational fear of being watched by a duck. A comical thought for most, but an intense fear for some. Sufferers do not have to be near ducks to have this fear (but this would make it more extreme), and they will have this feeling even when in the comfort of their own home. As with most phobias, this fear usually comes from a traumatic event involving ducks or geese, as they are known attack and act violently if you get too close (it could even come from stealing food out of your hand). These people now do not just have a fear of ducks, but the fear that there is one out there watching them. Although irrational, it can lead people to stay at home to avoid possibly encountering their stalking duck.


3. Panphobia – Fear of Everything

You can’t help but feel sorry for those that suffer from panphobia, as this is the fear of everything and nothing in particular, and even a fear or fear itself. This means that you are in a constant state of fear, and this makes day-to-day life extremely challenging. Due to the fact that is a non-specific fear, it is also one which can be particularly difficult to treat. It has famously been described as “a vague and persistent dread of some unknown evil,” which must make life feel like one long horror film. Panphobia is usually a part of some form of mental disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. This phobia is surely the worst of the bunch, as it is unavoidable and will impact every single aspect of your life. Therapy and medication is usually used to reduce anxiety and stress.

2. Anablephobia – Fear of Looking Up

Lots of people love to look up at the sky and watch the clouds or the stars, but this is a terrifying experience for some. Anablephobia is the fear of looking up, and this generally comes from the sheer vastness and feelings of insignificance you can get when gazing up at the heavens. There are then those that suffer from anablephobia that can relate to Chicken Little, who fear the sky falling and objects that come from above. Looking up at the sky is certainly a powerful experience and will make most contemplate the world and existence, but this can prove to be a little too much for those with this phobia, who will feel nauseas and extreme anxiety when they look up or think about the sky. Consequently, people with anablephobia will often try to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid large open spaces.

1. Ablutophibia – Fear of Washing

Some phobias are very easy to avoid and will not have a big impact on the person’s life, but this is not the case for ablutophobia. This is the irrational fear of bathing, washing and cleaning, and therefore it is not just the person with the phobia that suffers if they do not wash regularly. It is common in children, but the fear usually goes away once they realize that there is nothing to be scared of. It does not always go away, however, and there are many men and women around the world who panic at the thought of having to take a shower. There are then feelings of shame that are attached to this, as most cultures place heavy value on cleanliness and to not regularly wash can result in disgust and/or mocking. Often, this fear will have stemmed from a previous traumatic event (usually involving water).