In a word... Phobia

Don't you just love all the new phobias out there? There must be as many as new-fangled diets, and all as useless. But to begin. What is a phobia? The Oxford English Dictionary describes a phobia as "an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something".

Others say a phobia is “a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.”

Essentially a phobia is an irrational fear which is totally disproportionate to any real danger involved. My favourite among newer phobias has to be “nomophobia”. You may well ask, “wha?” It’s short for “no-mobile-phone phobia”, or the constant fear of not having service. Researchers in the UK found that 50 per cent of people suffer from it.

Then there is Oikophobia. Nothing to do with pigs, which might be oinkophobia anyhow. Oikophobia is a fear of household appliances such as toasters, ovens, fridges. Yep. And Aibohphobia, which is a fear of palindromes, words which are spelt the same way backwards as forwards. Like Navan, which of course inspires phobias of its very own. Ask Tommy Tiernan. And only an hour from Dublin. Aibohphobia itself is a palindrome. You couldn't make it up. It probably was.


Neophobia is the fear of new things, and hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, the (understandable) fear of long words. Or decidophobia, a fear of making decisions. And its first cousin descendophobia, the fear of going down. Inevitably you have its opposite, ascendophobia, a fear of moving up. Ah, come on.

There’s a phobia for everyone in the audience.

But what of the phobia that dare not speak its name in Ireland? That was so prevalent, though poorly concealed as “concern”, in the same sex referendum campaign last month. I speak of homophobia, a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual/gay people.

Sufferers felt so victimised and bullied during that campaign. During it a lady on the radio complained that her son was being bullied at school. His fellow pupils were calling him “a homophobe”. It begged the unasked question, why?

Phobia from Greek phobos, meaning fear, panic, terror.

Be afraid, be very afraid.