We’re all nuts, you know. Used to be we were entitled to our own quirks. Idiosyncracies. Peculiarities. We all have our little oddities. They may make us comical or pathetic but at least they made us “us”. We were unique and, like it or not, owned our foolish traits as individuals.
But now, awash in a culture of ever-expanding psychological afflictions, we have to share our foibles as a class-action disorder. Every concern has a title, a classification, a one-size-fits-all phobia.
Some phobias achieve a popularity that large swaths of neurotics embrace. How many of us are claustrophobic? The fear of enclosure keeps us out of tunnels, elevators, MRI’s, and coffins. Acrophobics are so terrified of heights that even riding an escalator is impossible. Islamophobia is a made-up term to make us feel guilty about hating terrorists.
But there’s a never-ending galaxy of phobias to pinpoint even the most absurd of anxieties. How ’bout arachibutyrophobia: the fear of having peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth? Imagine the therapist weighing in on that one: “Well, well, Mrs. Pettigrew, have you ever considered not eating peanut butter?”
Sesquipedalophobia is the fear of long words. The remedy for that is a tad more complicated. Conversations must be limited to fourth graders or Donald Trump.
Androphobes are afraid of men. Gynephobes – women. Caligynephobics – beautiful women. And anthropophobes – people in general.
Are you an underachiever? A failure? A miserable, untalented, unskilled, incompetent excuse for a human being? Maybe you’re not such a loser after all. You might just be an achievemephobic afraid of success. That’s certainly nothing a million bucks won’t cure. That is unless you also suffer from plutophobia – the fear of money.
Some folks get high anxiety about being laughed at. This gelotopobia is understandable. No one wants to be the butt of someone else’s joke. It actually seems quite normal compared to the geliophobes who panic at other people laughing, chuckling, or even giggling. I personally find myself falling into a subset of this neruoses. Let’s call it “auto-geliophobia – the fear of being around people who laugh at their own jokes. How many stand-up comedians do you see on Netflix who crack themselves up when the only person in the audience that finds it funny is their mother?
I don’t know if it’s a real thing, but I suffer from what could be called “phoneyophobia”. I dread clowns. And puppets! If I were stuck in a Barnum and Bailey world with clowns and puppets, I’d want to kill myself except I’m such a thanatophobe, afraid of death. As a child, I squirmed at Kukla, Fran, and Ollie and detested Pinnocchio until he became a real boy.
Let’s introduce “parkophobia” into the mix. I have an alarming fear of parking tickets. Do I have enough quarters? Will the machine reject my credit card? Will the baby cops come around with their little piece of chalk, mark my tires, and circle back thirty seconds later to give me a ticket? The anxiety is too much. Now, whenever I go to the beach in Point Pleasant New Jersey, I don’t leave my car.
Possibly the most common, but up until now unlabeled horror is “DWIaphobia”, the fear of getting pulled over for going out to dinner. Sure, drunk driving is a problem that needs to be addressed but, with the current standards of blood-alcohol levels, you can flunk a breathalyzer just by standing next to a martini. Let’s face it, we’re all just criminals living with incarcephobia, the fear of going to jail.
Joke: What did one conversationaphobic say to the other conversationaphobic? Answer: Nothing. They’re both terrified of conversation. And who could blame them? Conversations take time and effort and are ripe for anxiety at any turn. I’m not much of a talker and so unless the other guy is, we’re gonna’ run out of material. The result: uncomfortable pregnant pauses. Silence is deadly. Then again, I’m not exactly the consummate listener either. My mind easily wanders; I miss sentences or entire monologues. This digresses into an embarrassing moment when I’m asked, “So what do you think?” I usually just agree.
Even when I’m alert and engaging, conversations are loaded with pitfalls. Some people talk too loud, some too soft, some too slow, others (especially young girls) too fast. Drunks have a tendency to spray. Potheads use the word “like” too much. Who can blame me for being a conversationaphobic?
At the end of the day, we all have to confront our own fears. That’s the conventional psychological wisdom. Or you can take my advice – stay in your room!