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A woman recently made the headlines because of a bizarre phobia.
Published on April 3, 2006 By Clonmelchat In Blogging
A woman recently made the headlines because of a bizarre phobia. Ever since she had a baby, Louise Arnold has been scared of peas, suffering panic attacks at the mere mention of them, fleeing restaurants if she sees them being served and avoiding the frozen food section at the supermarket.

You might think such an affliction is unusual, but the list of officially recognised phobias is long and obscure. While the most common phobias are agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), social phobia (fear of public embarrassment) and amaxophobia (fear of being in a car), there is also the possibility that, if you are among the 13% of the adult population who will develop a phobia at some point in your life, you could come down with optophobia (a fear of opening one's eyes), arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one's mouth), or genuphobia (a fear of knees).

Other unusual phobias include anablephobia (a fear of looking up), pentheraphobia (a fear of one's mother-in-law), pteronophobia (a fear of being tickled by feathers), and, God forbid, genophobia (a fear of sex).

The reason why people develop phobias is, according to the National Phobics Society (NPS), connected to anxiety. The NPS says that anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger and is often called the 'flight or fight' syndrome. This process involves adrenalin being quickly pumped through the body, enabling it to cope with whatever catastrophe may come its way. The problems begin when this natural response is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or is generated when no danger is present.

This is the point at which the anxiety can manifest itself as an anxiety disorder, or phobia. The NPS says that there are many factors that can trigger an axiety disorder or phobia, including stress, physical factors such as a thyroid problem, childhood environment, genetics and changes in the levels of chemical messengers in the brain.

Most common phobias - such as a fear of spiders or snakes - are caused by childhood environment, while the more irrational, like Mrs Arnold's fear of peas, are more likely to be caused by a stressful experience such as, in her case, having a baby.

However, knowing the origins of a phobia doesn't help the person suffering from it deal with the day-to-day problems that it causes. But it can sometimes be reassuring for sufferers to know that their phobia, however bizarre, is caused by factors that are out of their control.

At present there is no cure for phobias, and sufferers depend on a combination of therapy, medication and self-help strategies to overcome their anxiety. However, scientists from the University of Zurich have revealed that they are working on a pill which could cure all phobias. The pill, which is based on the stress hormone cortisol, acts by making people forget what they are afraid of and could reduce fear levels by half.

In tests, scientists looked at the effect of cortisol on 20 men and women who had a fear of spiders. Half of them were given the cortisol pill while the rest received a placebo. The volunteers were then forced to look at a picture of their worst fear - a spider. Researchers then asked how scared they were, and monitored them for signs of sweating or trembling, repeating the procedure six times over the course of two weeks. Results showed that those who took the cortisol pill were noticeably less fearful than those who didn't, and their fear dropped by 45% by their fourth treatment.

Used in combination with counselling, the cortisol pill may be able to eradicate such fears altogether. Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the Daily Mail: "Cortisol is the hormone released during stress, so this suggests that giving lots of cortisol can reduce the impact of stress. A lot of people are tormented by fear and their lives are ruined by it. But cortisol is a powerful drug. One has to be careful that the treatment isn't as bad as the condition."

There are hundreds of officially recognised phobias, ranging from the obvious to the bizarre - here's a selection from the latter category:

Alliumphobia - fear of garlic
Allodoxaphobia - fear of opinions
Atephobia - fear of ruins
Aulophobia - fear of flutes
Auroraphobia - fear of the Northern Lights
Automatonophobia - fear of ventriloquists' dummies
Caligynephobia - fear of beautiful women
Coulrophobia - fear of clowns
Dendrophobia - fear of trees
Dikephobia - fear of justice
Francophobia - fear of the French
Geniophobia - fear of chins
Hedonophobia - fear of pleasure
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - fear of long words
Hobophobia - fear of tramps
Lachanophobia - fear of vegetables
Lutraphobia - fear of otters
Novercaphobia - fear of your step-mother
Oenophobia - fear of wine
Papaphobia - fear of the Pope
Paraskavedekatriaphobia - fear of Friday 13
Peladophobia - fear of bald people
Rhabdophobia - fear of being severely punished with a rod
Xanthophobia - fear of the colour yellow

on Apr 03, 2006
I have an odd phobia. acridophobia- fear of grasshoppers. I know they can't harm me, but they freak me out! It's gotten a lot better as I've grown up, but when I was little I would run screaming. I still run, but I keep my mouth shut. I'm not afraid of anything else really, but there's something about those little buggers... yuck.
on Apr 03, 2006
I have a fear of giant green and yellow space frogs.
on Aug 06, 2006
I could have written the same statement, though I am not sure it has gotten much better with age. I once jumped out of a moving vehicle because a grasshopper had gotten in the car and began to hop around the floorboard.