Superstition about Friday the 13th is related to the fear of the number 13. Both are examples of common phobias–that is, uncontrollable, irrational and persistent fears of a specific object, situation or activity, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) may seem trivial, but phobias can be quite serious. Some people with phobias can become so frightened that they go to extremes to avoid the source of their fear. For them, phobias can trigger intense reactions like panic attacks.Causes and Kinds of Phobias
Sometimes they start in early childhood, but phobias usually first show up between the ages of 15 and 20. They affect both genders equally. Research suggests that genetic and environmental factors contribute to the onset of phobias.
Phobias break down into three categories:
- Specific phobias are characterized by extreme fear of an object or situation that is not usually harmful. This can include a fear of flying, dogs, closed-in places or heights.
- Social phobia is an anxiety disorder that causes extreme stress and discomfort due to fear of being embarrassed, humiliated or scorned in social or performance situations.
- Agoraphobia, another anxiety disorder, involves the fear of experiencing a panic attack in a place or situation that can be hard or embarrassing to escape from.
If you feel overcome by fear, reach out for help. Talk with your doctor, or call your employee assistance program.
Most of all, be patient. Don’t expect to overcome deep-seated anxiety overnight. Instead, take small steps in the right direction. Phobia therapy can help you overcome paralyzing fear and lead a more manageable life.
This post was written by Victor Fornari, MD, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at North Shore University Hospital, LIJ Medical Center (including Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York and Zucker Hillside Hospital).
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