30 Unusual Phobias You Never Knew Existed

Updated: Nov. 04, 2020

Phobias are about more than just fear. People with phobias can have marked anxiety about a specific object or situation that can lead to clinically significant distress.

peanut butter on bread with knife
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Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth

Phobias are much more than just being afraid of something. Almost all people feel afraid at some point, depending on their exposure to certain things or threatening situations. People with phobias, on the other hand, have a marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation that can lead to clinically significant distress. They can have an impairment in their ability to function in daily life, including socially or at work. Certain phobias are more common than others, including ones related to airplanes, elevators, or spiders; other phobias are less so.

For example, it’s an uncomfortable feeling for everyone, but some people have phobias, like the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. Some people can handle eating small amounts, but others avoid peanut-based products like peanut butter sauces and ice creams. It can be rooted in a broader phobia, like the fear of sticky textures or choking, or it can occur independently. (If you think a fear of peanut butter sounds unusual, check out these 7 strange body facts that most people don’t know.)

garlic cloves and peeled garlic

Alliumphobia: Fear of garlic

Garlic bread could cause a panic attack for someone with an extraordinary fear of garlic. It’s much more than just a dislike of the potent vegetable’s taste—people with alliumphobia might start to shake or feel unable to breathe when around garlic or other pungent plants like onions and chives. For such people, focusing on its health benefits probably won’t help; a compound in garlic may have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, according to a study in a 2015 issue of the Journal of Immunology Research.

Phobophobia: Fear of having a phobia

Unfortunately, people with this phobia are fighting a losing battle: the fear of acquiring a phobia. It’s likely they probably wouldn’t want to learn more about phobias, but if  you do, check out what your fears say about your personality.

person looking at dictionary

Sesquipedalophobia: Fear of long words

With twisted irony, sesquipedalophobia is the morbid fear of long words.

Showerhead with water coming out.

Ablutophobia: Fear of bathing and cleaning

Ablutophobia is one of those phobias that can stem from a traumatic past event, and can lead to social isolation.

Person driving a car on a highway, hands on steering wheel

Dextrophobia: Fear of having objects to your right

With a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, some people can’t stand to have objects at the right side of their body, which could make it hard to drive in the fast lane with vehicles to the right. On the flip side, levophobia is defined by fear of things to the left side of the body.

Night sky with stars

Siderophobia: Fear of stars

Many people enjoy stargazing on a clear night, but that’s not true for everyone. People with siderophobia have a fear of stars, and might keep their curtains closed to avoid getting overwhelmed by how vast and uncontrollable the universe is.

hand writing numbers on chalkboard

Arithmophobia: Fear of numbers

For some people, a fear of numbers goes beyond frustrations over solving equations and understanding geometry. People with arithmophobia have an irrational fear of numbers in general.

bookshelves packed with books

Logophobia: Fear of reading (or learning how)

People with the fear of words function fine in conversation, but when shown written words, they could become breathless, shaky, or paranoid. Most people with logophobia don’t know how to read, and they may refuse to try to learn.

paper currency

Plutophobia: Fear of money

This is one of those phobias that can manifest as dread around money itself, the chance of getting rich, or wealthy people. If you’re not anxious around money, then be sure to learn these money tips from the world’s most successful people.

businessmen pointing to project on table
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Ideophobia: Fear of reason or ideas

Those with extreme distrust or fear of reason or ideas have ideophobia.

mature couple laughing

Geliophobia: Fear of laughter

People with the fear of laughter—not to be confused with gelotophobia, the fear of being laughed at—might hate chuckling or the sound of others’ giggles if they have one of these phobias. Some just feel slightly uncomfortable, but others could start to hyperventilate.

belly button

Omphalophobia: Fear of belly buttons

People with the fear of belly buttons try to avoid touching their own, even in the bath, and might cover their belly buttons with a bandage or avoid going to places full of exposed navels, like the beach.

Bright yellow school bus on a city road
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Xanthophobia: Fear of the color yellow

A school bus could be deeply uncomfortable for someone with xanthophobia, the fear of the color yellow or the word itself.

woman outdoors with arms outstretched
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Eleutherophobia: Fear of freedom

People with the fear of freedom generally can’t do anything without taking an order from someone else, making them much more inclined to be followers than leaders. They might be scared of the increased responsibilities that come with more freedom.

blowdrying hair in hair brush
iStock/Milan Markovic

Chaetophobia: Fear of hair

Whether their own or other people’s tresses, those with chaetophobia have the fear of hair. They might hate running their fingers through their locks, or even be immobilized by a clump of hair on the floor. 

Number 8 house number on a blue wall.
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Octophobia: Fear of the number eight

Experts think the fear of the number eight it could be rooted in superstition, with octophobics afraid of the inescapable—flip the number on its side and it looks like an infinity sign. This phobia could translate to fear of the symbol for eight, or objects in groups of eight. (Speaking of groups, find out if Covid-19 is giving you agoraphobia, or the fear of large crowds.)

Top view of a symmetrical bridge.

Symmetrophobia: Fear of symmetry

A perfect circle is not the friend of someone who’s afraid of symmetry. They might think of symmetry as perfection or extreme beauty that they aren’t worthy of being around. People with asymmetriphobia, on the other hand, have the fear of asymmetrical things.

Gray couch with colorful pillows

Kathisophobia: Fear of sitting down

While you look forward to sinking into a comfy chair after a long day, some people experience the fear of sitting down. While phobias can sometimes severely disrupt daily life, there’s something to be said for not sitting for long periods of time. Harvard Medical School experts warn about the dangers of prolonged sitting, stating that “habitual inactivity raises risks for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, deep-vein thrombosis, and metabolic syndrome.”

gold jewelry
iStock/Melissa Carroll

Aurophobia: Fear of gold

A fancy necklace doesn’t usually impress everyone—especially those with the fear of gold. They could have panic attacks with nausea, sweating, or an irregular heartbeat when they see someone else wearing the metal. Aside from gold jewelry, here are some other unusual causes of feeling anxious.

Welcome mat with open door

Nostophobia: Fear of returning home

Home might be where the heart is for some, but others have the fear of returning home. These people might have experienced abuse there. Or, they may fear that others will view their return as a failure. Sadly, returning home may truly up negativity and family discord. A study published in a 2018 issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine states that children who return home may alter a parent’s quality of life. This is probably because parents became used to independence after their children left. Therefore, when children enter the picture again, it can upset the dynamic.

attractive woman lying in bed
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Caligynephobia: Fear of beautiful women

Also known as venustraphobia, the fear of beautiful women goes way beyond nervousness or intimidation around someone pretty. Those with a phobia might feel chest pain, get numbness in the extremities, or faint when around a woman they consider attractive. 

Man sleeping in bed and holding a cell phone

Nomophobia: Fear of not having a mobile phone

For people with nomophobia, going without their phone causes extreme anxiety. But not having a mobile phone may not be so bad; here are 13 ways your cell phone affects your body and mind.

Zombie hand reaching out of the ground

Kinemortophobia: Fear of zombies

Combining two not uncommon anxieties—the fear of death and the taboo on cannibalism—kinemortohobiacs have a phobia of the fictional creatures that are generally found only in horror movies (or nightmares).

Unmade bed
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Somniphobia: Fear of sleep

This is one phobia that can be particularly disruptive: Somniphobia is the fear of sleep. Sleep is associated with many health benefits. For example, the Mayo Clinic notes that lack of sleep increases your risk of developing colds. Even worse, a lack of adequate sleep on a long-term basis is associated with a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Men's boxer briefs hanging on a rope to dry

Neophobia: Fear of new things and experiences

Neophobiacs feel anxious about new life experiences. For example, a departure from their cereal-eating breakfast routine may be bothersome. Another fearful feeling may involve meeting friends at a different coffee shop instead of the usual corner cafe. New experiences, no matter how large or small, can create serious fear and anxiety.

Old trophy in front of a black chalkboard
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Kakorrhaphiophobia: Fear of failure

While most people would prefer to succeed at something rather than fail, people with kakorrhaphiophobia have a sometimes incapacitating fear of failure.

spool of black string
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Linonophobia: Fear of string

People with linonophobia have an irrational fear of string.

Silver flute on sheet music
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Aulophobia: Fear of flutes

Anyone with this unusual phobia will want to steer clear of certain bands. However, while the fear of flutes may affect some people, for others, it’s calming. For example, the University of Nevada, Reno, highlights previous research about music’s feel-good power. Specifically, they note that “…stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are very effective at relaxing the mind even when played moderately loud.”

Bright pink shrimp

Ostraconophobia: Fear of shellfish

Ostraconophobia is the fear of shellfish. For those of you who aren’t afraid of shellfish, here’s the perfect diet for your personality type.