Do you have any phobias?

The latest list of phobias from Merriam-Webster contains examples of things people love, but my list is about unlovely things, more’s the pity.

I learned about triskaidekaphobia when I was doing a special feature story for the paper. That’s the fear of the number 13. Not so well-known. Mostly a big “who cares?”

But the one that I’m familiar with is the one that plagues me.

Claustrophobia. A fear of being closed up. It leaves you feeling panicky and breathless and all-around horrible. If you have it, you know. If you don’t, it’s hard to understand.

I had two spells of bad claustrophobia in one day while at a columnists’ convention in Boston. I suppose Boston is probably a pretty good place for claustrophobia.

A group of us was touring the old church in Quincy next door to Boston, where John Adams and his son, John Quincy, used to attend worship services.

We all trudged downstairs to the basement, where both Johns, and both their wives, are buried above ground in concrete sarcophagi.

The light was dim, the mood was somber, and the low ceiling began closing in on me.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. And I wasn’t the only one feeling the terror. We beat a path to the upper rooms.

That very same day, back at the hotel, we were all packed into an elevator, making our way back to our rooms to get ready for a big banquet.

And the elevator stopped. And stayed put. And the claustrophobia took over once again.

I started feeling desperate and saying so when one of the other delegates grabbed hold of my hand and held on tight for all the time it took to get that elevator working again.

I don’t even know who it was, but he saved my life. Or, I felt like he had.

Claustrophobia is no fun. Claustrophobia makes you feel stupid.

I even get claustrophobic pulling clothes on over my head.

I don’t like elevators. The big ones, like those at the hospital that have room for beds to be hauled in them, are OK. But some are just too little.

A friend with a two-story house offered her private elevator to get upstairs. I crawled up the stairs instead. It would’ve stifled me.

Other phobias most of us are familiar with include acrophobia, a fear of heights. I’ve known folks with this bad feeling. And it’s bad.

Agoraphobia is, I guess, the opposite of my claustrophobia. It’s a fear of public places.

Who doesn’t have algophobia, the fear of pain. I’m glad not to have autophobia, which is a fear of being alone.

Here’s another I’ll bet we all have. Dentophobia, a fear of dentists.

Another I’ve seen in practice. Hemophobia, a fear of blood.

Here’s the champion — hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. That’s a fear of long words.

Take that, you dictionary maven.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at



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(1) comment

Carlos Ponce

You left off Coronaphobia from the NIH:

Coronaphobia: fear of contracting SARS Cov 2, spiraling a cycle of fear among the people and making them scrutinize even the mildest of bodily signs or any social engagement. "an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. "


i Physiological: The fight or flight response of fear is triggered, on being exposed to antecedent event.

ii Cognitive: Fear of virus would involve preoccupation with threat provoking cognitions eg ‘I will die if I contract the virus, ‘I will not be able to go to my job and will be unemployed’; ‘My family is under danger and they may die’. The cognitions may further trigger emotional responses, like sadness, guilt, and anger.

iii Behavioral: In order to prevent the consequences, individuals engage in avoidance behaviors. There is marked fear of using public transportation, touching any surface, being at open places (markets, beaches, stadiums) and at enclosed places (hotels, shopping malls, movie theatres, indoor stadiums), attending any public gatherings, and standing in queue.

The individual fears and/or avoids situations like meeting people or overindulges into health-related safety behaviors (like washing hands). Reassurance behaviors such as constantly checking body vitals, confirming absence of illness, self-medicating or rechecking sanitation perpetuates fear, leading to phobia.

The recent forced behavioral changes— social distancing, wearing mask, consistent hygiene practices of hand washing, and avoidance behavior including avoiding touching face and large gatherings— will initiate a vicious loop of discomfort, fear, and anxiety.

Sounds like several readers have CORONAPHOBIA!!!

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