While all phobias are irrational fears, some are stranger than fiction.
Most of us are afraid of dying, but people with Apeirophobia are cut from a different cloth. They are afraid of living forever.
When Bobby Azarian was four years old, his grandfather died from cancer. Bobby was told the old man had gone to a happy place where he would enjoy eternal life with his loved ones.
The concept of immortality scared the living daylights out of Bobby. He felt the idea of living forever was worse than dying. His brain struggled with the idea of infinity. It sent chills up his spine.
Andrew Bullock has a crippling fear of chocolate. If he touches chocolate, he feels dirty. If he sees someone eating it, he goes into a blind panic.
The fear of chocolate is called xocolatophobia. Andrew traces his phobia back to his mother. She is also terrified of chocolate. Andrew is aware that his phobia is irrational, but he can’t shake it. He said: “If I see someone else eating it, I start to feel worried about the chocolate getting on me…When I go out for dinner and someone has a big chocolate thing for dessert it freaks me out and I feel stressed.”
There may be hope for people like Andrew. In the UK they are trailblazing a project to cure phobias with VR headsets. Patients are exposed, via VR, to situations they’d usually cross the road to avoid. By confronting their fears in a controlled setting, it is hoped patients will conquer their demons.
Although no one wants to live in fear, not all phobias are bad.
A germaphobe is a person with an overwhelming fear of germs. They also have an extreme obsession with cleanliness. Germaphobes shun social customs such as shaking hands or fist-bumping. This was once considered rude or weird. Yet, the Coronavirus pandemic has made us all germaphobes. Not shaking hands can now potentially save your life.
Phobias may be a drag, but they can also help change the world. While Apple products have always been praised for simplicity, phobias also played a part in the design of their most successful product.
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, suffered from koumpounophobia – the fear of buttons. He viewed buttons as dirty and was loath to touch them.
While it is a rare phobia, Steve Jobs is not the only one. One in 75,000 people suffers from koumpounophobia. To the delight of Jobs and his fellow button haters, in 2000, Apple released a mouse with no buttons. And in 2007, Jobs shocked the tech world with the iPhone. It was a glorious button-free touchscreen that spread like wildfire.