Dentophobia (fear of dentists)

Dentophobia (fear of dentists)

Cyclophobia, fear of bicycles.

Cyclophobia  (fear of bicycles)  (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

Before her dementia, my mother loved to try the writing exercises I created for my students. Here is one of our favorites.

There are hundreds of phobias. Some are very familiar: Aerophobia (the fear of flying); Claustrophobia (the fear of being in tightly enclosed spaces); and one of the most common ~ Glossophobia (the fear of speaking in public).

For my classes, the assignment was to understand fears and incorporate them in the personalities of characters. I wrote out dozens of phobias (and their meanings) on slips of paper. Students drew a slip, and in one page they were to create a character suffering from that fear…and also create the event that made the character afraid.   My mom loved this activity because it didn’t stop with the WHAT, but also attempted to understand the WHY.   She was the kind of mother, teacher, friend, CASA volunteer and ally of children who believed that if people could identify both the WHAT and the WHY of their problems and worries, they had a very good chance of also finding a solution.

My mom was an avid learner who enjoyed new facts and ideas, and the phobias I selected were uncommon.   Here are some examples: Achluophobia (fear of darkness); Chorophobia (fear of dancing); Aulophobia (fear of flutes), Allodoxaphobia (fear of opinions); Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth); and with apologies to my friends across the ocean, Anglophobia (fear of England and/or English culture).   Other phobias are illustrated on the pictures above and below.

Since Mom is deep in dementia now, I share these phobias with all of you. Have some fun with them, creating a possible WHAT and WHY for one… and maybe a solution as well.    March 26th is “Make Up Your Own Holiday,” and you never know:  you might create a Freedom from A Phobia Holiday.  Don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Achluophobia  (fear of darkness)

Achluophobia (fear of darkness)

Ophidiophobia  (fear of snakes)

Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special Days in March, writing, writing exercises

50 responses to “FACING FEAR

  1. I am afraid of water, deep and dark water esp. A few years ago in middle of whole flooded middle America, my hubby put us in danger with high water in Kentucky. I don’t know when I have been so afraid–ever. I was afraid of the water everywhere and of what he might do. He is a farm boy from Kansas who thinks you just drive through wet water creeks. It is fine I guess but my fear is something he doesn’t understand. Just writing about that time makes my heart race when they were closing roads and evacutating the area in Kentucky which was unfamiliar to us–but he kept pushing forward until we face mile wide water on three sides and had to make the return trip!

    • When we would meet the cousins at the Lake of the Ozarks and go skiing, the lake water terrified me, Claudia. I wanted to be in a swimming pool where I could see what floated around and below me, Once in the lake we saw the ripples of a snake nearby, and I still recall this with horror. I don’t know what phobia this is, but I have it.

  2. juliabarrett

    What a great writing exercise! And psychological challenge! My sister suffers from a terrible fear of snakes. Another sister has agoraphobia. I don’t like to fly yet I do it.
    I think a character should have a healthy dose of fear, otherwise he or she risks becoming an invincible superhero. Not a human thing to be!

    • The exercise always produced some amazing character qualities, Julia. I would read some of them to my mom over the phone, and she and I had the best time creating mini-stories around them.
      You’re right; we–and our characters–do need a healthy dose of fear! 😉

  3. I wonder if they have a fear of dementia yet. I confess I forget things so easily I often wonder if dementia has started.and I suppose I’m afraid of it.
    While I can well understand the Anglophobia I’m quite sure they can’t have created a Cymruphobia (yet) since we’re such a lovable group in a beautiful country.
    xxx Sending Gigantic hugs xxx

    • My dad died of Alzheimer’s, David, and now I’m losing my mom to dementia, so I have a very real fear of both diseases. I read all the medical studies and learn all I can that might prevent or slow the memory loss, but still it’s not something I take for granted. But I do try to focus on other more positive things to keep it in balance. 🙂
      Sending hugs to you and your entire lovable group in a beautiful country.

  4. How timely. I am just working on the next Amanda book and she is collecting names for different phobias! You gave me some great examples. I love the writing exercise as well. I suffer from musophobia big time. I had to look up the spelling of it and had heart palpations. Can’t even see a picture. The thing is that people who don’t have the same phobia don’t seem to understand.

    • What a concept, Darlene! I wish the character Amanda every fascinating success with the phobias, and you with your very real struggles with musophobia. I have a friend who as a child was accidentally locked in a garage where there were rats; she was rescued very quickly, but she’s never gotten over it. You’re right that those who don’t the same phobias might cringe at the description, but they’ll never truly understand it.

  5. Hi Marylin, I’m not fond of closed spaces although it is not as bad as it used to be. I have found that as my faith in God has deepened I am less afraid of things I cannot control. I just turn it over, try to relax, and breathe deeply. I admire your teaching style; I’m sure you were so creative. xo Joanne

    • Thank you, Joanne. And I appreciate you sharing how your faith has made you less afraid of things you can’t control. So many things are out of our control, and faith and trust are essential. You’re going to be such a comfort to Penelope! ❤

  6. Leave it to your mother to come up with such a terrific writing exercise, Marylin. Who knew there are so many phobias…I sure didn’t. Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth….ha ha! I’ll have to use that one for sure!

    • If you’re writing a romantic scene, Jill, think of the humor your could involve! 😉 The writing exercise was one I created for my writing students, but my mom was the one who had taught me the importance of the combination of understanding on both the What and the Why. From there she knew the next step was figuring out How to solve it. She was always such a wise example.

  7. I have a fear of losing my house keys. Seriously, I am constantly checking that I still have them. Haven’t found the name for that fear yet. I also have a fear of going to jail, but I think that is more common.

    • I think that’s a fear shared by all of us who’ve ever lost our keys, Andrew. I don’t know the name of the phobia either, but I know the fear. And going to jail is something else I think we all dread.

  8. Snakes! Even the word gives me the heebie jeebies!

  9. Your students would find your writing prompts so irresistible they would certainly not suffer from graphophobia, a fear of writing. All my life I have suffered from ophidiophobia. When a new issue of National Geographic came out, I would make sure I didn’t have a second glance at snake photos.

    I am definitely an Anglophile, not its opposite, witness my Downton Abbey addiction. Fabulous post, Marylin.

    • Thank you, Marian. Neither of us fears writing, that’s for sure, and although I didn’t let myself watch enough Downton Abbey to form an addiction, as an English major I definitely have an appreciation for England and the English culture. Some of the phobias are so funny to me, especially the fear of flutes and of peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth! 😉

  10. Perhaps Trumpophbia but does the list include reasonable fears?

  11. You’ve inspired me at last! A friend and I are entering a free themed short story competition and I was struggling to come up with an idea for mine! A phobia is excellent. Now all I’ve got to do is to decide which one. Thanks Marylin 😀

    • Oops, that first bit sounds rude – I didn’t mean it like that at all…I’ve been suffering from this Writer’s Block nonsense and your post here has suddenly unlocked some ideas for me 😉

    • There are SO many phobia’s to choose from, Jenny. Hundreds. And some are so strange that they would give you amazing story ideas. Or choose one and then have another character surprise the reader with having it, too, along with other phobias. Some of the phobia’s really are surprising. I still laugh when I think of the fear of flutes. 🙂

  12. I had not heard of it before but I think I am a prime candidate for the suffering of “Allodoxaphobia”!

  13. Marylin, your students must have loved you. Helping children deal with fear was wonderful. Identifying the what and the why was a great idea. Drawing out ones fears would certainly help too! Gannon’s pic is adorable! ❤️

    • Jim’s dad–Gannon’s paternal great-grandfather–died before Gannon was born. Opa was a dentist, Tracy, a really good dentist, and we think he would have loved Gannon’s sense of humor, and his happy smile showing off his teeth.
      The writing about phobias and why me might have them, really is a good for step for dealing with the fears.

  14. Hmmm, I am trying to think if I have a phobia. I get the heeebie jeebies if I step on slimy things such as a slimy pond bottom. Shudder! That might be the closest.

  15. Molly

    I totally don’t understand the phobia XANOPHOBIA-the fear of the color yellow! Remember when I was gonna start a gang, “THE HAPPY YELLOW SUNSHINE GANG”!

    • Oh, I remember it so well, Mookie. It was such a cute name for an imaginary gang. And of course, now your sweet student Jake, who loves yellow, is part of your ‘gang’ and I know he loves having you as his teacher. Here’s to The Happy Yellow Sunshine Gang…hey, is that why I named my yellow FJ Cruiser “Sunshine” ~ so I could be in your gang, too? LOL!

  16. Gannon

    Hi Mor-mor! As you know I like cheese on somethings, but not everything. Does this mean I have TUROPHOBIA-fear of cheese?

    • Maybe, Gannon. We’ll have to look it up. You might just be selective about the kind of cheese you like…and what foods you like it on. I know you like cheese on tacos and cheeseburgers! Love you bunches, Gannon. ❤

  17. Grace

    Mor-mor, maybe the reason I can’t fall asleep at your house or anywhere else is because I have SOMNIPHOBIA (the fear of falling asleep)!

    • Oh, I hope not, sweetie. When you were little, you slept overnight at our house, so maybe it was because you, your brother and I all slept together on the mattress we put on the living room floor. And now that Scout is the puppy of the family and loves being with you so much, maybe you and she can have a sleepover at our house. Love you lots, sweetie! ❤ No more Somniphobia for you!

  18. Pam

    Hi Marylin! After being in Oregon for years, there is no way that I could suffer from Hylophobia, which is the fear of trees! Been having fun with OUR grandkids! Hope you, Jim and new Scout are well!

    • Hi, Pam! You’re much more creative (and brave) with OUR grandkids, taking them on Zip Lines. I know they’re loving having you with them this Spring Break. And I’m glad you’ll never have Hylophobia, living in gorgeous Oregon! Thanks for sharing, Pam. 😉

  19. Jim

    Our little puppy Scout suffers from trokhosphobia, the fear of trucks. When I was getting her acquainted with her new backyard for the first time, a big loud garbage truck roared past us in the alley. Scout panicked and raced to the backdoor and frantically clawed at it to get inside. Now every time we are outside, she alerts to the distance sound of a truck. If the sound gets closer and closer, she wants back in the house. She must think some dinosaur-type critter is out to get her. I have been seeking advice on how to desensitize her to this phobia, although to some extent it is a healthy fear. (Interesting aside: Scout is the first dog we have had who is NOT afraid of a running vacuum cleaner. She thinks it’s something to play with!)

    • Our little Scout is definitely afraid of trucks, but I’d never heard of Trokhosphibia. Hmm. But in the overall scheme of things, since she’s not at all bothered by the vacuum cleaner or the lawn mower, I think we came out ahead. Plus, she’s so cute when she thinks the dinosaur-type truck critter is coming and she runs and hides behind you. ❤ Scout, like our grandchildren, can always count on you for protection, honey. ❤ ❤ ❤

  20. Such a clever exercise/assignment. I now have to research phobias…and I am going to share this with my kids for their next creative writing pieces. Have a fabulous week!

  21. Who knew there was a phobia og all things English. Good job I don’t suffer from that one 🙂

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