The state of fear

About 6.3 million American adults suffer from some sort of phobia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

A phobia is a persistent, abnormal or irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels a person to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

According to, phobias are generally divided into five subgroups: agoraphobia, the fear of being outside one’s “safe zone,” such as one’s bedroom, home or city; claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces such as elevators, buses or trains; blood/injury phobia, the fear of injections, surgery and the sight of blood; simple phobia, the fear of simple objects such as cell phones and roadways; social phobia, the fear of any kind of situation involving people. It is also called social anxiety disorder.

Even though the direct cause of phobias is still unknown, reports that scientists think there is a link between a child’s phobias and his or her parents through their genetics. Some factors for this link may include hormones, cultural expectations to put other people’s needs first and a greater disposition to report anxiety to a doctor.

Scientists say that oftentimes these categories blend together in patients who exhibit symptoms. A person who has a phobia may produce the following signs and symptoms: an immediate response of anxiety when exposed to the object of fear or the desire to avoid what they fear. Finally, the person is unable to function in their daily normal tasks because of their fear. states that people who exhibit these symptoms and signs of panic such as sweating, a rapid heartbeat or avoidance behavior may have a phobia.

However, studies have shown that phobias are best treated when recognized early. They are treated with medication, behavioral therapy or both. Some medications could include antidepressants and sedatives.

With several different phobias, some people might find that theirs are more peculiar than others. Let’s take a look at these phobias and how they might relate to USF and the world around us.

Taurophobia: the fear of bulls

After a dismal 15-14 season, Seth Greenberg is now on his way out. If the Bulls can find a new coach and undergo a quick revitalization, perhaps their Conference USA opponents will experience this phobia, which apparently isn’t limited to just rodeo clowns. C-USA opponents of the USF softball team experience taurophobia every time junior superstar Leigh Ann Ellis steps into the pitchers circle.

Francophobia, Germanophobia, Russophobia: the fear of French, Germans and Russians

Maybe the recent trend that has Americans proudly feasting on “Freedom Fries” is rooted in something other than arrogance and blind patriotism. Maybe it’s rooted in fear. Those afflicted with this phobia steer clear of dissenting opinions and borscht.

Coulrophobia: the fear of clowns

This phobia, I must admit, hits home for me, as it has plagued my uncle, even into his adult years. To this day, members of my family still torture him at family gatherings. Those who suffer from this phobia should avoid at all costs the rotten-mouth rap duo Insane Clown Posse, Krusty from The Simpsons, Touchstone from Shakespeare’s As You Like It and the movie based on Stephen King’s book It.

Decidophobia and liticaphobia: the fear of making decisions and the fear of lawsuits

As heavily criticized as USF President Judy Genshaft was for failing to make a prompt ruling on the Sami Al-Arian case, maybe her spell of decidophobia wasn’t such a bad thing. Had she fired him before his arrest, she no doubt would have had a rush of liticaphobia, as lawyers likely would have had her number.

Herpetophobia: the fear of reptiles

If USF football head coach Jim Leavitt suffers from this one, let’s hope that by 2008, he’s dispelled it, as the Bulls play their first game in The Swamp against the Gators. Who knows, maybe a few good seasons and a couple of major upsets preceding this much-anticipated matchup will have spells of taurophobia raging through Gainesville.

Claustrophobia: the fear of enclosed spaces

While a roomier Phyllis P. Marshall Center is appealing, many students are upset because the money for the enhancement project will come out of their pockets. And while it is true that the Marshall Center is undersized for a university of 30,000 plus students, USF is a commuter school. Many of the students who pay for it worry that they won’t even use it. Too many students, too little space — maybe this Student Government–backed proposal is founded in claustrophobia?

Contact Ryan Meehan at