If you have the fear of newness or novelty, you get to choose among 8 terms: Cainophobia, Cainotophobia, Cenophobia, Centophobia, Kainolophobia, Kainophobia, Kainotophobia, and Neophobia. The fear of being touched has 6 names to describe it, and the fear of odors has 7!
Regrettably, the fellow on the right has only two terms to describe his fear of needles: Aichmophobia and Belonephobia. Maybe we could come up with a couple of others: stickophobia or ouchaphobia. Or if you’re classically trained: neraphobia, from the Latin root “nere,” or nemaphobia from the Greek “nema, ” both meaning “needle.”
Today’s post is a lighthearted look at all the multiple names given to phobias, complete with a cartoon. The topic is explored under the headings:
- What are phobias, anyway?
- Why are there so many names for the same phobia?
- A big old list: Multiple names for the same phobia
What are phobias, anyway?
Marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association is the main diagnostic reference book for mental health professionals in the US and in much of the rest of the world.
According to the DSM-IV, a phobia is characterized by:
- A marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).
- Exposure to the phobic stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed panic attack.
- The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.
- The phobic situation(s) is avoided or else is endured with intense anxiety or distress.
- The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared situation(s) interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that up to 18 per cent of Americans — 55 million — suffer from at least one phobia. If there are so many suffering people out there, why can’t the mental health profession agree on a single name for a single phobia?
Why are there so many names for the same phobia?
Aeluro-, aelur-, ailuro, eluro- are all Greek root words for “cat”
Some of the reasons for the multiple names for phobias lie in the language of the root source of the word, whether that root word is plural or not, and how the root word is spelled.
Take, for example, some of the fear of cat’s terms. Felinophobia’s root is the Latin word “felinus,” Elurophobia’s root is directly from the Greek “eluro,” and gatophobia’s root is derived from the Spanish word for cat, “gato.” All these root words mean “cat.” Two of the other terms for the fear of cats, Aelurophobia and Ailurophobia, come from variant spellings of the Greek root word “eluro.”
Another reason is that phobias were not studied much until recent times. Each physician over time invented his (and it was a “his,” almost exclusively) own word for an observed phobia, usually dusting off his grammar-school Greek or Latin for the root word. So these terms come down to us in all their plurality from the moldy tomes of the ancients.
But not all terms were made hundreds of years ago. Greek and Latin root words are still being coined for certain mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, which is made of two Greek words slammed together in the early 20th century. Autism, neurotic, id and libido were all made up in the 20th century.
A big old list: Multiple names for the same phobia
Afraid of dirt? There are 11 names for it!
Below is a sample list of phobias with three or more terms identifying them — there are many, many more, but I decided enough was enough. So, sit back and relax while you read this list and wonder where all these terms came from:
- Being alone – Autophobia, Eremiophobia, Eremophobia, Ermitophobia, Isolophobia, Monophobia
- Being locked in an enclosed space – Cleithrophobia, Cleisiophobia, Clithrophobia
- Being poisoned – Toxiphobia, Toxophobia, Toxicophobia
- Being touched – Aphenphosmphobia, Aphephobia, Chiraptophobia, Haphephobia, Haptephobia, Haptophobia
- Blood – Hemophobia, Hemaphobia, Hematophobia
- Cats – Aelurophobia, Ailurophobia, Elurophobia, Felinophobia, Galeophobia, Gatophobia
- Childbirth – Maleusiophobia, Tocophobia, Parturiphobia, Lockiophobia
- Cold – Cheimaphobia, Cheimatophobia, Cryophobia, Frigophobia, Pagophobia, Psychrophobia, Psychropophobia
- Crowds – Demophobia, Enochlophobia Ochlophobia
- Dirt and being dirty – Automysophobia, Coprophobia, Misophobia, Molysmophobia, Molysomophobia, Mysophobia, Rupophobia, Rypophobia, Scatophobia, Spermophobia, Verminophobia.
- Disease – Nosophobia, Nosemaphobia, Pathophobia, Panthophobia, Monopathophobia
- Everything – Panophobia, Panphobia, Pamphobia, Pantophobia
- Fever – Febriphobia, Fibriphobia, Fidriophobia, Pyrexiophobia
- Flying – Aviophobia or Aviatophobia, Pteromerhanophobia
- France or French culture – Francophobia, Gallophobia, Galiphobia
- Glass – Hyelophobia, Hyalophobia, Nelophobia
- Hair – Chaetophobia, Trichopathophobia, Trichophobia Hypertrichophobia
- Heights – Acrophobia, Altophobia, Bathophobia, Batophobia, Hypsiphobia, Hypsophobia
- Insects – Acarophobia or Entomophobia, Insectophobia
- Men – Androphobia or Arrhenphobia, Hominophobia
- Mice – Musophobia, Murophobia, Suriphobia
- Newness, novelty – Cainophobia, Cainotophobia, Cenophobia, Centophobia, Kainolophobia, Kainophobia, Kainotophobia, Neophobia
- Night or darkness – Achluophobia, Lygophobia, Myctophobia, Noctiphobia, Nyctophobia, Scotophobia
- Odors – Autodysosmophobia, Automysophobia, Bromidrophobia, Bromidrosiphobia, Olfactophobia, Osmophobia, Osphresiophobia
- Pain -Agliophobia, Algophobia, Algiophobia, Ergasiophobia, Ergophobia, Odynephobia, Odynophobia, Ponophobia
- Rabies – Cynophobia, Hydrophobophobia, Hydrophobia, Kynophobia, Lyssophobia
- Red (color or word) – Ereuthophobia, Ereuthrophobia, Erythrophobia, Erthyrophobia, Erytophobia, and Rhodophobia
- Thunder and lightning – Astraphobia, Astrapophobia, Brontophobia, Ceraunophobia, Keraunophobia, Tonitrophobia
- Walking – Ambulophobia, Basiphobia, Basophobia, Basostasophobia, Basistasiphobia Stasibasiphobia, Stasiphobia
- Water – Aquaphobia, Caninophobia, Cynophobia, Hydrophobia, Hydrophobophobia, Kynophobia, Lyssophobia, Nautophobia
What do you think?
I have a fascination for words and their etymology. You can probably tell that! I hope I haven’t bored you with all these almost indecipherable Greek and Latin terms!
I want to emphasize that I in no way intend this post to make fun of people with these and other phobias. If you have a phobia that is impairing your life, I recommend seeing a mental health professional. Treatment usually takes only a few sessions for a lifetime of relief.
- Do you have a phobia? Mine is roaches!
- Do you find this list offensive, funny, or none of the above?
- Did you even get this far with your reading?
As always, your comments are welcome!
If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to this blog, either via RSS or email at the top of your screen. It’s free! You can also follow me on Twitter from the same place. I would also appreciate your sharing this post using your favorite social media, such as StumbleUpon or Digg. Just click the little green “ShareThis” button at the bottom of this post.
More phobia lists for your reading pleasure:
The Phobia List – An enormous list sorted by the phobia terms
Types of Phobias – You can look up terms either by their names or “fear of…”