10 ordinary things that can cause mental disorders (+1 related to over 100 misconceptions!)

All people fear things and circumstances. In fact, fear is inseparable from human nature [1], especially when it comes to the “unknown.” As kids, we tend to fear silly stuff such as the dark or a bogy, but as we grow up, our fears are much more related to our way of living and our experiences. According to scientific researches, there are certain ordinary things that normally grownups do not fear, but under certain circumstances, they can provoke us certain mental disorders [2], known as phobias [3] or specific phobias. [4]
There is a significant difference between a fear and a phobia. Fear is a natural, life-saving response when facing a real danger, also known as the “fight or flight” response [5]. This means that our body is programmed to react instinctively to a threat to survival. Thus, when fearing, our central nervous and endocrine system put into operation a complicated mechanism, resulting in an increased heartbeat, more blood flowing to the brain, accelerating respiration, eye iris dilatation, and increased sweating [6]. Phobia, on the other hand, is an excessive and illogical fear that still exists when there is no real danger [7]. In the last few years, psychologists have paid great attention to phobias, as they have been classified as anxiety disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [8]. Here is a weird and funny list of ten common things, officially recorded by scientists as causing phobias.

10. A cat

Many legendary historical personalities, such as Napoleon and Alexander the Great are believed to fear expressively the felines. Although there’s no significant historical evidence that this is true, this belief is based on the fact that cats have such a great instinct that they own the power to detect one’s ambitions and thoughts [9]. According to scientists, cats can provoke a human mental disorder called ailurophobia. The term ailurophobia origins from the Greek word ailouros (which means cat) and phobos (which means fear or dread) and we use it to describe the irrational fear of cats and other felines [10]. There is a combination of factors that can turn us to become ailurophobic, from superstitions to real traumatic experiences. Most of the women with ailurophobia, for example, even though they are not pregnant, fear cats in advance because cats could infect a woman with Toxoplasma during pregnancy [11]. Superstitious men and children, on the other hand, tend to fear cats since those furry little mammals have been associated with folklore and evil in many cultures in the past. Above all, a common trigger for ailurophobia in adults is traumatic experiences during their childhood, such as a scratch or a big bite while playing with a cat [12].

9. A hole

For some people, holes, are just holes, while for others, holes can hide unknown dangers in them. The term Trypophobia origins from the Greek words trypa (which means hole) and phobos (which, as above mentioned, means fear or dread) and it is
a mental disorder, not officially mentioned at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [13]. Still, nowadays scientists do significant research about it [14], as demographically [15], many people suffer from trypophobia [16] [17]. Sufferers of trypophobia get nauseous or even experience panic attacks when seeing objects with small holes on them, including honeycombs, plants, sponges, coffee babbles and skin pores. Scientists believe that this strange “hole” fear hides a “disease avoidance response.” As we all know, discuss is the human natural mechanism that prevents us from infectious diseases and microbes. Thus, people with trypophobia do not actually fear holes [18], but they have excessive anxiety about parasites [19][20].

8. A clown

We all have childhood memories from our birthday parties when we were having a birthday cake and a clown, along with our friends to have fun with. Normally clowns are supposed to be harmless creatures that make us laugh. However, many people and especially children do not find clowns funny anymore. In fact, sometimes, they even experience panic attacks when viewing one. This new type of phobia is known by the term coulrophobia and it has occurred by the fact that back in the ’90s, clowns have been portrayed as evil creatures rather than funny in media content. Stephen King’s “it” movie is one of the most legendary ones with a spooky clown that managed to terrorize many Americans and changed the way many people feel about clowns [21][22]. Hopefully, doctors are still using clowns in pediatric hospitals to encourage children to deal their therapies, as clinical researches and demographics over coulrophobia have shown that clowns have a positive impact on pediatric patients and that less than 2% of them experience coulrophobia [23], with a significant predominance of girls [24][25].

7. A smartphone

Nowadays, smartphones have become our personal assistant in many ways, that we sometimes totally depend on it. We count on its functions to work, communicate, keep in touch with friends, learn, have fun, navigate, keep our notes. This dependence [LINK26] has led us to experience many psychological consequences [27]. Nomophobia [28], is one of them and it is considered to be the “21st century’s mental disease”. The term derives from the abbreviation of the phrase “no mobile phone phobia” and we use it to describe all those stressful feelings we usually have when our mobile phone is out of order for some reason [29]. Apart from the psychological effects, there is evidence that this addiction [30] to smartphones is generally harmful to human health, as it can also have many pathological consequences [31]. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS) does not mention officially nomophobia as a specific phobia, still, scientists have done a lot of research on the issue and strictly recommend that it is critical for nomophobia to be included on DMS [32].

6. The water

Although water is the “source of life” many people [33] are facing extreme fear with it. Of course, fearing of getting drown while swimming is very rational and happens to all of us under certain circumstances, but fearing of the water in a lake just by seeing it on a cart postal is another thing. Aquaphobia, [34] is the term that describes the persistent irrational fear of the water and people who suffer from it are trying to avoid water at all costs, as even the view of a full bathtub might be an anxiety factor. The causes of this specific social phobia are not only the instinct fear of drowning but also the fact that one might have an overprotective parent who was aquaphobic or that he lucks trust to water due to a post-traumatic stress disorder [35]

5. Food

There are many well-known disorders concerning food, such as anorexia, bulimia, night eating syndrome or polyphagia. All of them have a pathological and psychological background [36]. However, what most people are not aware of is that there is another weird mental disorder concerning food, known as Food Neophobia [37]. Scientists have used this term to describe people who fear trying new food and tastes and, according to researches, this type of disorder can lead to malnutrition or even more serious psychological issues [38]. Food neophobia is both an eating and a mental disorder that affects mainly children. Scientists [39] are studying[40][41] it for the last 25 years[42][43], and they even have created a novel tool to measure it [44]. What we know for sure, is that food neophobic sufferers will never be able to apply for a job as chefs, gourmets or food stylists, unless they find a way to get over it!

4. The bus

Being afraid to catch a flight is the most common phobia concerning traveling [45]. However, airplanes are not the only public transport that people fear. According to recent research, there is a clinical avoidance in taking the public transport such as buses, due to the terroristic attacks that took place the past years in several cities around the world. This social phenomenon first appeared in London after the 7th July bombing [46], nevertheless, demographics show that it exists in many Capitals in the world, with women [47][48] and juveniles [49] to be more influenced by it.

3. School

As adults, we all remember those stressful days of our childhood that we didn’t want to go to school [50], for several reasons each time [51]. In fact, “school refusal” [52] is a common children’s behavior [53] that all moms must deal with from time to time [54]. However, according to a recent study, an adult can experience irrational fear leading to nightmares or even panic attacks even by seeing a school or thinking on taking his child to school [55]. This can happen not only as a post-traumatic shock but also because of another mental disorder experienced in one’s early childhood, known as separation anxiety disorder [56].

2. A wall

Claustrophobia describes the abnormal dread one feels when being in narrow spaces [57], while agoraphobia is the illogical fear of being in public places or situations from which it is difficult to escape [58]. Concerning walls, rooms or other closed places, scientists have recently observed another type of anxiety disorder, named Space Phobia or pseudo agoraphobic syndrome [59]. Although it might seem similar to above-mentioned phobias, space phobia has its own unique symptoms, such as irrational fear accompanied with vertigo in the absence of visuospatial support, such as a wall, in open spaces and the illusion of falling when there is no physical support [60]. Scientists tend to believe that space phobia is age-related, as it appears mainly to elderly women, unlike agoraphobia which affects people of all ages [61].

1. A pill

A normal adult behavior concerning swallowing pills is that we are not thrilled about it, but if there is a necessity in taking one, we will conform. For some people swallowing pills or capsules is equal to a trip to hell, as they get nauseous only by thinking of it. This is an uncommon phobic disorder [62] described by the term Choking phobia [63]. In fact, people who suffer from it, usually turn up to face difficulties in swallowing liquids and food too, with women to be statistically more vulnerable [64]. In such cases, we say that these people suffer from psychogenic dysphagia [65] or phagophobia [66]. This mental disorder can end up being profoundly serious, as it might lead to anorexia nervosa [67], thus early diagnosis and therapeutic treatment are of high importance [68][69].

+1 a duck in the forest while raining!

Imagine being with friends on a relaxing picnic at a forest, feeding ducks and geese around, when suddenly it starts raining and somehow one of our friends is having a panic attack. In such a case, psychologists will have to use their diagnostic techniques to figure out whether our friend suffers from anatidaephobia [70], hylophobia [71], or ombrophobia [72]. Anatidaephobia is one’s irrational fear that a duck is watching him, while hylophobia is when someone gets stressed being around trees in a forest and ombrophobia is the illogical fear of the rain. If we search on the internet, we can easily discover the existence of over a hundred weird or funny phobias. There are so many, that we can easily get phobophobia, which is the dread [73] of having phobias! There is good news though, as the majority of those strange or funny phobias mentioned on the internet are fictional or misconceptions based on someone’s crazy idea that “anything can provoke a human phobia.” Anatidaephobia, for example, is created by the cartoonist Gary Larson for his comic “The Far Side.” [74] True phobias, as those mentioned above, from 10 to 1, are profoundly serious and certainly, there is a confirmation for their existence by demographics and clinical researches. [75][76]


Until the next article...

Read, learn and then learn more, cause this is your superpower!



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