health

Fear Of Balloons, Fear Of Bridges, And 10 Other Weird Phobias You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Christin Perry LitteThings writer by Christin Perry
Christin is a mom and editor specializing in lifestyle content. She also hides cookies like a boss.

Everyone knows what it’s like to fear something, and that’s totally normal! Fear is the body’s natural response to things that could potentially harm us. But when a fear becomes irrational, it can cause people to avoid it at all costs. That’s when it can turn into a phobia.

Phobias often develop in response to some sort of trauma-inducing situation. For instance, if the kid behind you throws up all over you onstage during the third-grade play, you might very well develop emetophobia, or fear of vomiting. And you’d be in good company; it’s an incredibly common phobia!

But there are some phobias you’ve probably never heard of. These are beyond your wildest imagination — like the fear of taking a bath. While most of us would give anything to sink into a warm, soapy bath at the end of a long day, for others, it’s their worst fear. Read on to learn about this and lots of other seriously bizarre phobias.

1. Globophobia

balloon phobia
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Globophobia is the fear of balloons. There’s a good chance that Stephen King’s uber-creepy novel IT brought about this phobia. Who can see a red balloon and not think dark thoughts these days? In all seriousness, though, most people who suffer from globophobia are mostly afraid of the loud popping sound balloons make.

2. Ablutophobia

fear of bathing
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This uncommon fear can quickly become a problem because, well, adults need regular showers. But people suffering from ablutophobia — the fear of bathing or showering — will go to great lengths to avoid cleaning themselves. Why? Like most seemingly unusual phobias, it’s usually due to a traumatic situation they’ve endured sometime during their life, typically during childhood. And for some people, even a super-scary movie scene involving a shower or bathtub can spark ablutophobia. Psycho, anyone?

3. Nomophobia

phone fear
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Can you believe that people used to regularly leave their homes without their phones? We can’t either! Now that smartphones are a thing, we use our phones for pretty much everything. And because of that, we can feel a bit panicky when we accidentally leave them at home for a day. While it’s definitely frustrating, it’s certainly not the end of the world for most people. But an irrational fear of being without a phone has a name: nomophobia. And people who have nomophobia tend to be intensely protective of their phones, often obsessively ensuring they don’t leave them behind.

4. Pentheraphobia

mother-in-law fear
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When it comes to interacting with our mothers-in-law, things can be… complicated. They’re not our moms, but they are our spouses’ moms, and for that we have to respect them and let them be part of our lives. And for the most part, we end up realizing that our MILs are pretty great. But a brush with a terrible one can lead to one of the most unusual phobias: pentheraphobia, or fear of mothers-in-law.

5. Decidophobia

fear of decisions
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Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, and maybe you can’t make up your mind about whether you have decidophobia. But if you do suffer from this phobia, you probably can’t decide what to do about it. You’ve probably guessed by now that decidophobia (as the name indicates) is the fear of making decisions. And humor aside, severe decidophobia can be crippling — leading to indecision about career paths, where to live, and whether to get married.

6. Pediophobia

fear of dolls
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Dolls — when you think about it, they are kind of creepy, with their empty, staring eyes and those not-quite-decipherable sounds they sometimes make. Maybe it comes from pop culture creepiness (thanks, Chucky!) or some sort of trauma-inducing experience you’ve had. But if you can’t handle even being in the same room as a doll, you might be suffering from pediophobia.

7. Brontophobia

storm fear
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If you find yourself running for cover every time there’s a thunderstorm, you could be dealing with brontophobia. To be fair, thunder can be a bit intimidating, especially during a severe storm. The super-loud noise that thunder makes is unsettling to lots of people. But those suffering from brontophobia have been known to hide from storms, cover their ears when it thunders, and even obsessively track weather reports to determine whether a storm is coming their way.

8. Somniphobia

fear of falling asleep
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Not to be confused with insomnia, where you really want to sleep but can’t, somniphobia is the fear of falling asleep. While it’s nearly inconceivable for most of us, people suffering from somniphobia are exceedingly afraid of falling asleep. Some fear recurring nightmares; others are scarred from youths spent dealing with sleepwalking and night terrors. Still others have endured traumatic experiences during the night. In any case, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is an extremely effective way to overcome this intense fear.

9. Gephyrophobia

fear of bridges
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Have you ever planned your travel route to avoid any and all bridges? You could have a phobia called gephyrophobia, or the fear of crossing bridges. So what leads a simple bridge to become a bridge over troubled waters in some people’s minds? Gephyrophobia typically occurs in people with a fear of heights or a fear of open waters. Or perhaps both!

10. Trypophobia

fear of small holes
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Trypophobia, which refers to the fear of things with lots of tiny holes, isn’t even recognized as an official phobia yet. And while it’s a very real thing, with thousands of people identifying with it, for the most part it’s just a term that’s tossed around on social media. That said, there might be some basis for this rather bizarre phobia-in-the-making. The American Psychiatric Association says that “the anxiety could relate to an evolutional response to parasites or infectious diseases that cause similar appearances of clusters of circles, such as smallpox and measles.” 

11. Phagophobia

swallowing phobia
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Here’s a fact that’s difficult to swallow: Some people have a debilitating fear of swallowing. Yep, you read that right. Phagophobia is the word used to describe an irrational fear of swallowing, which can obviously lead to nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, and poor overall health. This would definitely be a difficult phobia to deal with!

12. Masklophobia

mask phobia
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Masklophobia — the fear of mascots or things wearing masks — can easily turn that college football game into an evening of seek-and-avoid. But while it might sound a bit strange, there are people out there who have an irrational fear of mascots, or costumes that include masks. 

Do you know anyone with these strange phobias? Some of them may sound pretty wild, but they’re very real for many people around the world.