Claustrophobia: The fear of closed spaces
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as an extreme fear of being in an enclosed place and traces its origin to the Latin term claustrum meaning lock. It is one of the most prominent fall-outs of a life spent in the confines of a concrete jungle. I grew up in a joint family with lots of cousins and have fond memories of playing hopscotch and blindfold in our open courtyard. Now I am confined to three rooms and my house looks like a matchbox. I often feel breathless, says Srijoni Chatterjee, 24, a resident of Tollygunge.
Malls and smoky nightclubs can induce (or aggravate) claustrophobia — as can journeying through a tunnel (the Metro Rail) or taking the elevator. The walls around you seem to be closing in. Many people suffer from a fear of lifts, especially the ones with doors. And space seems to be forever decreasing — Prithibita naaki chhoto hote hote… sang Mohiner Ghoraguli.
Swati Mehta, a web content writer, suffers from claustrophobia of a different kind. I dont drink and I dont dance because I dont want to make a fool of myself. So, when I go out to a party, I end up sitting alone and smoking, which makes me claustrophobic.
Kill Bill star Uma Thurman is claustrophobic.
Atychiphobia: The fear of failure
Cut-throat competition and increasing levels of stress have made atychiphobia one of the most rampant phobias. Widely considered as a paralysing phobia, fear of failure is deemed to be closely related to fear of criticism and fear of rejection. You think you have it? But every friend of yours has it, too.
Atychiphobia assumes alarming proportions in certain individuals, often linked to early life causes such as demeaning parents or siblings, or a traumatic event where a minor failure resulted in a major embarrassment. Societys emphasis on perfection — in academics, in looks, in relationships and in careers — further fuels the fear of failure. In Indian society where an individual is under a lot of pressure from parents and peers to excel, atychiphobia is on the rise. As failures build up, fear too builds up, says New Delhi-based psychologist Harish Agarwal.
Atychiphobia, then, forms the broader perspective of Taare Zameen Par, but Aamir Khan knew it sounded too pedantic.
Acousticophobia: The fear of noise
Every Calcuttan would suffer from this if he was not used to it. Though blaring horns and screaming loudspeakers make most of us want to tear our hair out in frustration, we give in. But some people cant, for their aversion towards noise is greater than normal. An extreme case is phonophobia, where a person may even fear the sound of his own voice. Can we wish it upon some of our television personalities?
Acousticophobia is largely witnessed in individuals who have been exposed to prolonged periods of middle- to high-decibel levels of noise. Such people can never go to a nightclub or hear Mamata Banerjee. But in some people, acousticophobia may result in a sense of detachment from reality or bring on a full-blown anxiety attack.
Social phobia: The fear of meeting people
Experiencing increased heartbeat levels, sweaty palms, or butterflies in the stomach during meeting someone important or making a presentation is normal. But for some, the anxiety that comes with feeling shy or self-conscious can be extreme. It can be unbearable. They may even fail to make eye contact with them. Superman when he is not Superman, could be an example. Meeting new people, talking in a group, or speaking in public (specifically known as glossophobia) can cause this phobia to kick in.
Social phobia ranks second among Americas top five phobias, as listed by James C. Gardner in his book Phobias And How To Overcome Them: Understanding And Beating Your Fears. A college mate makes it through classes sitting in the last bench, but never talks to anyone. Try and talk to him and he clams up, says 21-year-old Rajat Nandi (name changed on request).
Aerophobia or Aviatophobia: The fear of flying
A study by the Boeing Aircraft Corporation of America says more than 25 million Americans are victims of this phobia. In India, it is perhaps ignorance about the machine that leads to the birth of the phobia. Aerophobia may be a distinct phobia in itself or an indirect manifestation of other phobias, such as claustrophobia or acrophobia (fear of heights). I am terrified of flying. Whenever possible, I travel by train instead of boarding a flight, says corporate executive Sameer Bose. The rich and famous are not spared either. Actor Rishi Kapoor has confessed that he is unable to fly till he has downed a couple of drinks. Shahid Kapur and Karan Johar are other victims. Queen of soul Aretha Franklin and singer-actress Cher too. And Erica Jongs famous book is called Fear of Flying, though flying there means many other things.
Any development comes with its potentialities and predicaments, says Bula Bhadra. So true of the mobile phone revolution. The cellphone has brought in its wake the phobia of attending calls of tele-marketers — though perhaps it is yet to acquire a name. Things have come to such a pass that many cringe when their phones ring. I have tele-marketers offering credit cards, bank loans, insurance and special subscription offers through the day. I am now afraid of accepting calls from unknown numbers, says media professional Piya Ray.
Dromphobia: The fear of crossing roads
In the Nano age, more and more people are swapping their two-wheelers for four-wheelers. New roads are being built, but the arteries are choking with cars, buses and lorries. The fear of accidents, which are on the rise, probably contributes to the fear of crossing the road. Whenever I see a bus or a bike coming towards me, I freeze. I remember having stood in a Delhi street for a good 15 minutes, fearful of the cars zipping past, says 24-year-old Divya Kumar. For some, its the result of a trauma. A few years ago, while I was waiting in the car in a north Calcutta street, a bus hit the right side of our car. My feet got stuck and I managed to come out of the car in the nick of time. It has left me scarred, says college lecturer Sumana Chakraborty.
Technophobia: The fear of technology
While chances are that at least one member of the older generation in your family is technologically challenged, changing the television channel instead of increasing the volume or trying to use the TV remote for the music system, the extreme case, when an individual is repulsed by technology, is called technophobia. The term is also applied to certain businesses and environmentalist organisations that are against the spread of technology. With the world around moving ahead, the technophobe may also feel left behind and the idea of playing catch-up can lead to more frustration, anxiety, and despair. The bad news is, a technophobes nightmares have just begun. If Mary Shelleys Frankenstein was the earliest example of technophobia in fiction, Hollywood has been rabidly technophobic — from The Terminator franchise to The Matrix trilogy and from I, Robot to the latest Will Smith box-office money-spinner I Am Legend — where whether it is robots, computers or genetically-engineered beings, technology is shown as an evil entity out to get humanity. It has replaced aliens.
Anorexia and Bulimia: The fear of eating
Rampant in the West and no longer unknown in India, urban eating disorders in the form of anorexia nervosa and bulimia are claiming new victims every day. People with anorexia (of which fashion models form a sizeable population) have an extreme fear of weight gain. Anorexics restrict their food intake by dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise. They hardly eat — and the small amount they consume becomes an obsession. A bulimic, on the other hand, will go on an eating binge, be seized by guilt pangs, and then try and compensate through forced vomiting or rigorous exercise.
In 2007, the deaths of size-zero models suffering from anorexia sparked a worldwide debate on the ban of ultra-thin models. Princess Diana was known to be bulimic while supermodel Kate Moss calls herself Rexy — an acronym for anorexic and sexy. Nowadays kids as young as seven or eight skip breakfast. Models skip meals and instead survive on coffee and sugar supplements, says fashion designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh.
And the latest phobia to grip us? Alektorophobia — the fear of chickens!
The Bizarre Brigade
- Bambakomallophobia: Fear of cotton wool
- Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: Fear of long words (pronounce it)
- Paraskavedekatriaphobia: Fear of Friday the 13th
- Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia: Fear of the number 666
- Alliumphobia: Fear of garlic
- Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
- Aulophobia: Fear of flutes
- Chrometophobia or Chrematophobia: Fear of money (Does anyone really have it?)
- Coprastasophobia: Fear of constipation
- Syngenesophobia :Fear of relatives (widespread)
- Ablutophobia : Fear of bathing
- Pogonophobia : Fear of beards
- Woody Allen children, sunshine, bold colours, deer, dogs, insects, heights, cancer
- Lyle Lovett cows
- Billy Bob Thornton antique furniture
- Pamela Anderson mirrors (oops!)
- Sheryl Crow noise (oops! again)
- Christina Ricci indoor plants
- Andre Agassi spiders
- Matthew McConaughey revolving doors
- Thomas Alva Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Shah Rukh Khan social phobia. Et tu, SRK?