The Inverted Popularity of This Aspie’s Phobias and Philias, Part II: A Mathematical Analysis of My Phobias

phobias and philias

First, here is where to find Part I of this post. In it, I explained the reasons for my view that my phobias are among the uncommon ones, while I actually like many things (such as mathematics, darkness, and spiders) which are feared by those with more common phobias. I find such self-analysis, and reflective writing, helpful. This is unusual, of course, but those with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be unusual in many ways, and this includes being different from each other.

For Part II, I used Google, and searched for “100 most common phobias.” My goal was to determine the extent to which my current and past phobias are atypical, when compared to the incidence of various phobias within the general population. The top search result was http://www.fearof.net/, where 100 common phobias are listed, in descending order of world-wide incidence. These 100 phobias were then split into the seven categories, ranging from phobias about things I like a lot, to things about which I am phobic myself, as seen below.

Category 1: I have a strong affinity (a philia) for these things which people commonly fear, and I have never feared them myself. There are 17 phobias in this category, including four of the ten most common phobias.

  • Spiders (arachnophobia is the most common phobia of all)
  • Heights (acrophobia, 3rd most common phobia of all)
  • Small/enclosed spaces (claustrophobia, 7th)
  • Flying (aerophobia, 9th)
  • Public speaking (glossophobia, 13th)
  • Solitude (monophobia, 14th)
  • Long words (hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, 26th)
  • The unknown (xenophobia, 27th)
  • Success (achievemephobia, 30th)
  • Cats (ailurophobia, 32nd)
  • Balloons (globophobia, 34th)
  • Darkness / night (nyctophobia, 35th)
  • The number 13 (triskaidekaphobia, 39th)
  • Friday the 13th (paraskevideka-triaphobia, 46th)
  • Sleep (somniphobia, 47th)
  • Women (gynophobia, 48th)
  • Numbers (numerophobia, 93rd)

Category 2: I like these things people commonly fear, but not with high enough intensity for the word “philia” to apply. There are 23 phobias in this category, including three more of the top ten.

  • Snakes (ophidiophobia, the 2nd most common phobia)
  • Thunder and lightning (astraphobia, 6th)
  • Holes (trypophobia, 10th)
  • Birds (ornithophobia, 16th)
  • Chickens (alektorophobia, 17th)
  • Intimacy (aphenphosmphobia, 19th)
  • Falling (basiphobia, 29th)
  • Love, or emotions in general (philophobia, 38th)
  • Butterflies (lepidopterophobia 43rd)
  • Buttons (koumpounophobia, 50th)
  • Ducks (anatidaephobia, 51st)
  • Fire (pyrophobia, 52nd)
  • Doctors (latrophobia, 57th)
  • Adult little people (achondroplasiaphobia, 60th)
  • Moths (mottephobia, 61st)
  • Bananas (bananaphobia, 63rd)
  • Mirrors (catoptrophobia, 70th)
  • School (didaskaleinophobia, 83rd)
  • Technology (technophobia, 84th)
  • The future (chronophobia, 85th)
  • Halloween (samhainophobia is the 90th)
  • Rain (ombrophobia, 94th)
  • Zombies (kinemortophobia, 98th)

Category 3: I used to fear these commonly-feared things, although not to the level of a phobia, but now I no longer fear them at all. This category has a mere six phobias.

  • Everything, or terrible things happening (panophobia, the 44th most common phobia)
  • Food (cibophobia, 66th)
  • Horses (equinophobia, 68th)
  • Mice (musophobia, 69th)
  • Pain (agliophobia, 71st)
  • Worms (scoleciphobia, 97th)

Category 4: I am indifferent to these commonly-feared things, or have a like/dislike balance. In other words, for these things. . . meh. This is the largest category, which I view as healthy. It contains 25 phobias.

  • Failure (atychiphobia is the 15th most common phobia)
  • Needles (trypanophobia,  20th)
  • People, in all situations (anthropophobia, 21st)
  • Abandonment (autophobia, 23rd)
  • Commitment (gamophobia, 25th)
  • Bridges (gephyrophobia, 41st)
  • Insects (entomophobia, 42nd)
  • Feet (podophobia, 45th)
  • Frogs (ranidaphobia, 53rd)
  • Dolls (pediophobia, 58th)
  • Fish (ichthyophobia, 59th)
  • Animals (zoophobia, 62nd)
  • Cotton balls or plastic foams (sidonglobophobia, 64th)
  • Ghosts (phasmophobia, 67th)
  • Beards (pogonophobia, 74th)
  • Belly buttons (navels; omphalophobia, 75th)
  • Depths (bathophobia, 77th)
  • Obese people (cacomorphobia, 78th)
  • Getting old (gerascophobia, 79th)
  • Hair (chaetophobia, 80th)
  • Hospitals (nosocomephobia, 81st)
  • Work (ergophobia, 87th)
  • Opinions (allodoxaphobia, 89th)
  • Oceans (thalassophobia, 96th)
  • Being buried alive (taphophobia, 100th)

Category 5: I currently have an aversion to these commonly-feared things, but my aversion, in this category, does not reach the level of a phobia, and never has. This category contains only nine phobias, and none are in the top 32.

  • Change (metathesiophbia, the 33rd most common phobia)
  • Sharks (galeophobia, 54th)
  • Being forgotten, or not remembering things (athazagoraphobia, 55th)
  • Cockroaches (atsaridaphobia, 56th)
  • Choking (pseudodysphagia, the fear of choking, 76th)
  • Loud noises (ligyrophobia, 82nd)
  • Clowns (coulrophobia, 88th)
  • Roller coasters (coasterphobia, 95th)
  • Ants (myrmecophobia, 99th)

Category 6: I used to be phobic regarding these things, and still don’t like them. However, I can manage, now, to keep my aversion below the intensity of a phobia. This is also the category that has involved the most work, for it is difficult to shed a phobia. This category has three of the top ten, and 14 total — but these are former phobias, not current ones.

  • Open or crowded places (agoraphobia, the 4th most common phobia)
  • Dogs (cynophobia, 5th)
  • Germs (mysophobia, 8th)
  • Cancer (carcinophobia, 11th)
  • Death (thanatophobia 12th)
  • Crowds (enochlophobia, 18th)
  • Water (aquaphobia, 22nd)
  • Blood (hemophobia, 24th)
  • Driving (vehophobia, 28th)
  • God and/or religion (theophobia, 31st)
  • Bees (apiphobia,  49th)
  • Crime (sclerophobia, 65th)
  • Wasps (spheksophobia 86th)
  • Getting rid of stuff (disposophobia, 92nd)

Category 7: I am phobic, now (or very recently), about these things, and still actively try to avoid them, when I can. There are only six left in this category, and, with professional help, I am working on eliminating them, as well. Nothing left in this category is ranked in the top 35, which is consistent with my idea that my remaining phobias are among the less common ones.

  • Men (androphobia, the 36th most common phobia)
  • Fear (phobophobia, 37th)
  • Vomiting (emetophobia, 40th)
  • Pregnancy & childbirth (tokophobia, 72nd). In my case, since I am male, this means that I have been very careful, my whole life, to avoid participation in the creation of a pregnancy. The reason is simple: My now-deceased father was a horrible role model for fatherhood, and have never felt I could take the risk of becoming a biological father myself, for fear that I would turn out like him. His influence is also the reason I have both androphobia (top of this category) and PTSD. If there is a silver lining here, it is that I would not have learned how to focus on mental health, rather than mental illness, without him making such work necessary.
  • Talking on the phone (telephonophobia, 73rd)
  • Light (photophobia, 91st)

Further evidence that my phobias are rare was discussed in Part I. I may actually have some which are unique to me, such as my dread of the 16th of each month, which has plagued me since my mother’s death, last November 16th. Since fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number sixteen is hexakaidekaphobia. This is what July looked like, to me, as I approached the 16th.

Hexakaidekaphobia

Yesterday was the 16th of July, and that is when I wrote Part I of this post, which is no coincidence. The 16th is now over. By focusing on improving my mental health, and using therapeutic writing (which I am also doing right now), I made it through yesterday without falling apart, although it was not easy. Sixteen is a rational number, and it is time for me to resume being rational about it.

This makes me hopeful that hexakaidekaphobia will now stay in the past, where it belongs. No one need suggest that I get medical help, including seeing a mental health professional, for the appointments to do exactly those things, before school resumes, are already scheduled. 

The Inverted Popularity of This Aspie’s Phobias and Philias, Part I: An Explanation

phobias and philias

The image above contains three colors: white, black, and red. The words appear in red because I see it as a color denoting positive or negative intensity, and phobias and philias are both certainly intense. To “see red,” I have learned, does not usually mean what it would mean if I said it myself. Consistent with Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have, I tend to be almost completely literal in the words I use, while the non-Aspie majority often uses words in confusing (to me) non-literal ways. Over the years, I have figured out that this phrase means, when non-Aspies say it,  that they are extremely angry. (I, however, would only say “I see red” if I was actually seeing light with the wavelength-range, ~620 to ~740 nm, which our species has labeled, in English, as “red.”) On the other hand, red roses and Valentine’s Day hearts are popularly used to symbolize romantic love, which is an intensely positive emotion, while extreme anger is extremely negative. White and black, the other colors above, in much of the world, are commonly associated with, respectively, positive and negative things. I, on the other hand, view these colors the opposite way: I have avoided sunlight for much of my life, and continue to do so (to the point where I need to take supplements of vitamin D), while also reveling in darkness, in much the same way that I revel in my “Aspieness.” Right now, it is daytime here, and I am writing this inside, in a dark room, with the only artificial light reaching me coming from computer screens.

It is a common misconception that Aspies (an informal term many people with Asperger’s use for ourselves) are non-emotional. After all, two well-known fictional characters from different incarnations of Star Trek, Spock and Data, are based, in my opinion, on Aspie stereotypes. Stereotypes, I have observed, are usually based on some real phenomenon, and in this case, that phenomenon is that many Aspies experience emotions in radically different ways from the non-Aspie majority — so differently that we are sometimes perceived by non-Aspies to be emotionless, although that is not the case. This causes a considerable amount of tension, and no small amount of outright hostility, between the community of Aspies and the non-Aspie majority. When I write on the subject of Asperger’s Syndrome, I try to do so with the goal of explaining and understanding our differences, in order to reduce Aspie/non-Aspie misunderstanding, which is both common and unhelpful — in both directions. This is the reason I use the factual, non-hostile term “non-Aspie,” in place of the unhelpful and perjorative term “neurotypical” (a word in common use within the Aspie community), one of three unfortunate words discussed in this post.

Explaining my choices of colors in the image above was a prelude to a personal, mathematical analysis of the inverted popularity of my own phobias and philias. I have long observed that I have an intense, inexplicable affinity (in many cases, reaching the level of a “philia,” an often-misunderstood word and suffix, for reasons I will discuss below) for things which the majority, in my part of the world (the American South) hates and/or fears. Examples include spiders, cats, the number thirteen (and all other prime numbers), mathematics in general, geometry in particular (strangely, even many people who like mathematics still dislike the subfield of geometry), being different from those around me, darkness, the color black, night, the physical sciences, evolution (which happens, like it or not), enclosed spaces, heights, flying on airplanes, women, and Muslims. I have also struggled with phobias, working (with professional help) on eliminating them, one by one, but they tend to be less common. Examples of targets for my current and past phobias include light, especially sunlight, to the point where I actually have to take vitamin D supplements; as well as voice calls on cell phones (human voices coming out of small boxes freak me out); death; the life sciences; insurance; sports (and related events, such as pep rallies); loud noises; efforts to control me; and, since my mother died, last November 16, the 16th day of any month, especially at, and after, six months after her death.

I’m a teacher, and it’s the 16th of July, and I simply do not have the option of falling apart on the 16th of every month when school starts again next month, at a new school, with new students, for, as the saying goes, the students will arrive — whether I’m ready or not. That’s no way to start a school year.

I have much to be optimistic about, for I will be teaching in a different building, but on a much-improved schedule, with far fewer different subjects to prepare for each day than I had last year. When I fell asleep last night, after completing four full days of training to teach Pre-AP Physical Science for the first time, starting next month, some part of me knew that mental health improvement — before the 16th hit again, today — was essential. Was that something about which I was consciously thinking? No. I apparently rewrote my mental software (again) last night, an ability I have worked on developing for over thirty-five years. When this brain-software-debugging process first became evident, a few years back, it was happening in my sleep, just as happened again last night, and it took some time for me to figure out exactly what was going on, and how my ability to rapidly adapt to change had improved. 

In Part II of this post, I will analyze, mathematically, the inverted popularity of my phobias, compared to the most common phobias, ranked by incidence among the population. First, however, it is necessary for me to explain what I mean — and do not mean — by the word “philia.” There is a serious problem with this word, in English, when it appears as a suffix, and that is due to an unfortunate linguistic error: the incorrect application of a Greek idea, and word, to the horrific, disgusting, and criminal behavior of child molesters, as well as those who have sex with corpses. The ancient Greeks, as is well-known, used four different words for different kinds of love, and “philia” (φιλία) referred specifically to fraternal, or “brotherly,” love. This was not a word the ancient Greeks used for any type of sexual act. The words “pedophilia” and “necrophilia” are, for this reason, historical anomalies. Both terms are misnomers, meaning, simply, that they are messed-up words, and their existence creates the potential for misunderstanding. A philia, properly understood, is simply the opposite of a phobia. Phobias are better-understood, of course, and require no detailed explanation. 

One example of what I mean by my own philias should suffice. I have, for many years, had an abnormally strong fascination with spiders. I like them — a lot — so much so, in fact, that I actually have a tattoo of a spider, and often wear a spider necklace, to express how much I like this one biological order, the largest within the class of arachnids. Despite my strong affinity for spiders, however, I have zero sexual interest in them. It is accurate to call me an arachnophiliac, which is the opposite of an arachnophobe.

It is now near 9 pm on Saturday, November 16, and Friday night’s sleep therapy gave me the energy to work on the needed improvements to my mental health during the day today, by using reflective writing as a therapeutic technique. I also have a new appreciation for sleep, which will come soon. Part II will be posted soon, but it will not be written until after I have enjoyed a full night of sleep — starting, hopefully, in a few minutes. Goodnight, and thank you for reading Part I.

[Update, July 17: Part II is now posted here.]

Phobias? What phobias?

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

It just occurred to me that there are an absurd number of common phobias, such as claustrophobia or acrophobia, for which I have the polar opposite — an unusual attraction to the commonly-feared thing or situation. (Since I am no stranger to anxiety, so this is rather odd.) Claustrophobics fear enclosed spaces, while those with acrophobia fear heights. If someone told me that a sensory deprivation tank was available for my use, atop the nearest mountain, I’d drive straight there, climb the mountain, get in the tank, and seal myself in for hours, for two reasons: I love being in enclosed spaces, and also absolutely love heights. Combining the two would be awesome!

There is a proper word-ending for the opposite of a phobia, of course: “-philia.” Unfortunately, though, use of words which end with -philia is problematic, due to the fact that the most often-used words with this ending refer to criminal acts. There’s nothing wrong with the words “claustrophilia,” nor “acrophilia,” to a linguistic purist. To a pragmatist, though — which I am — the undesirable effect of reminding the reader of such horrors as pedophilia must be taken into account. For this reason, I find it preferable to state that I have the opposite of both claustrophobia, and acrophobia.

In alphabetical order, then, here are some common phobias for which I have the polar opposite:

  • Acrophobia, fear of heights — See first paragraph, above.
  • Aerophobia, fear of flying — Just being a passenger on an airplane is thrilling, especially at take-off. Once, at about age twelve, I actually got to take the controls of a small plane for a little while, and that will remain one of the peak experiences of my life.
  • Ailurophobia, fear of cats — We have cats, and I’ve had cats all my life. I admire their “cattitudes,” for one thing; they are somewhat like my own.
  • Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders — I try my best to protect every spider I see, wear a spider necklace, have a spider tattoo, and have spider-decorations in my classroom year-round, just because I like spiders that much.
  • Atychiphobia, fear of failure — If I had this, I would never begin work on any challenging math problem, and . . . well, what would be the point of existing like that?
  • Autophobia, fear of being alone — The fact that I traveled over 11,000 km, alone, in my late teens, proves I don’t have this problem.
  • Barophobia, fear of gravity — A bad idea for anyone with mass! If I had it, I wouldn’t be writing this, for I’d be too busy freaking out. All. The. Time.
  • Bibliophobia, fear of books — Yeah, well, I can’t even narrow down my favorite-author list to fewer than four, as seen here.
  • Claustrophobia, fear of enclosed spaces — See first paragraph, above.
  • Cyberphobia, fear of computers — Wow, that would make it difficult to maintain a blog!
  • Glossophobia, fear of speaking in public — As a teacher, I actually get paid to run my mouth, so this one is . . . out!
  • Gynophobia, fear of women — They may scare a lot of lawmakers, judging from the political “war against women” in America, but I’ve always preferred the company of women to that of men (sorry, guys).
  • Islamophobia, fear/hatred of Muslims and Islam — I’ve blogged about this; you can find those posts here.
  • Melanophobia, fear of the color black — My favorite color!
  • Negrophobia, fear of Black people — It’s a common affliction where I live, this being the American South, but I couldn’t do my job if I had this problem, for a majority of my students are Black. I can’t think of any reason why a person’s albedo, high or low, should be a problem for me. I’m not allergic to melanin, after all, and have viewed racism as evil since I first became aware of it, as a child.
  • Nyctophobia, fear of darkness and night — If I could get away with it, I would be completely nocturnal.
  • Ombrophobia, fear of rain — I don’t even own an umbrella.
  • Ophidiophobia, fear of snakes — Have you ever had a twenty-minute stand-off with a copperhead? I have. I was probably fifteen or so at the time. My reasoning: running toward or away from the snake might be dangerous, and walking away wasn’t an option, since I was standing on a rock in the middle of a river, with the snake on the next rock — so I held my ground, and simply stayed on “my” rock. The snake did the same on his rock, for about twenty minutes, and then it jumped into a river and swam away, ending the standoff. This wouldn’t have been possible with ophidiophobia.
  • Triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number thirteen — Why would anyone fear a number, especially one of the smaller primes? Wouldn’t that mean not being able to count more than a dozen things at once? There’s plenty of evidence on this blog that numbers don’t scare me.

The next time anxiety is a problem for me, I’ll try to remember to think about this list of anxiety-problems I don’t have, but which do affect many other people. I could certainly have it worse when it comes to anxiety, and it harms nothing to keep that in mind. In fact, it might even help.