WTF Fun Fact 13148 – Pentheraphobia

Pentheraphobia means the fear of your mother-in-law. And while fear might not be the word most people would use, a phobia also refers to anxiety produced by the trigger and subsequent avoidance (to which more of us may be able to relate).

Is pentheraphobia real?

A phobia typically refers to an unfounded fear or dislike – and, let’s face it, some mothers-in-law are scary and threatening. (Of course, some are delightful!).

But the fear of one’s mother-in-law can be real for people who suffer from anxiety and who let their in-laws’ behavior or presence affect their lives in negative ways.

Pentheraphobia is not widespread (or widely recognized). While this specific phobia is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), general phobias are. And to qualify as a psychiatric disorder, a phobia must produce excessive and persistent fear, induce a state of panic around the trigger, and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to avoid contact.

According to Its Psychology (cited below): “It is a specific phobia, and it is important to clarify that it differs from a simple dislike or hatred because it can seriously affect the sufferer of the disorder.”

Fear of in-laws

If you’re not a fan of your in-laws or other parental figures, Its Psychology has a few other potential diagnoses to bring up with your doctor:

  • Socerafobia (fear of in-laws in general)
  • Vitricofobia (fear of the stepfather)
  • Novercaphobia (fear of the stepmother)

Suffering from phobias

While fear of one’s mother-in-law may seem amusing in some respects, the symptoms of phobias are no joke. They can include nausea, vomiting, tremors, irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, and panic attacks. It goes far beyond dread.

Many phobias are believed to be rooted in past psychological trauma. Of course, you don’t have a mother-in-law until later in life, but it’s possible that you can be conditioned from a young age to fear non-blood relatives or pick up on other people’s fear or animosity towards their mothers-in-law.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Pentheraphobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments” — Its Psychology

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WTF Fun Fact 13122 – The Benefits of Recreational Fear

It turns out fear isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, recreational fear – the kind of fear you experience on purpose by going to haunted houses or watching horror flicks – can be good for your brain.

Seeking out recreational fear

We know some fear can create a stress response in the body that can be harmful. But our body’s ability to feel fear is, overall, a good thing. It tells us to get away from danger and keeps us alive.

But what about the people who seek out fear?

Even a game of peek-a-boo as a baby starts to prime our bodies for being caught off guard. And it can be exhilarating. When we get a little older, we may tell ghost stories around the campfire. In many ways, we seek out fear. As adults, we may go on roller coasters, see slasher or suspense films, or participate in risky activities like mountain biking or skydiving.

But why do we go after this feeling?

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below), “One hypothesis is that recreational fear is a form of play behavior, which is widespread in the animal kingdom and ubiquitous among humans. When an organism plays, it learns important skills and develops strategies for survival.”

The benefits of fear

By seeking out recreational fear, we put ourselves in a situation that has little risk. And perhaps scaring ourselves in a controlled situation can help us cope with real fear later on.

You can learn a lot about yourself by the way you react to fear. It’s just that not many of us like to acknowledge that feeling or explore it.

Researchers at the Recreational Fear Lab, a research center at Aarhus University, Denmark are looking into the science of fear and trying to learn more about our responses to stress. One thing they’re looking at is the relationship between fear and enjoyment. After all, some people really seem to go after scary experiences in order to hit a “sweet spot” between boring and terrifying.

The question of what makes recreational fear appealing to some is still up for debate. But researchers suspect that “even though fear itself may be unpleasant, recreational fear is not only fun—it may be good for us.”

One suggestion is to not be so afraid of fear, especially when you can control the parameters.

“With research findings such as these in mind, we should maybe think twice about shielding kids and young people too zealously from playful forms of fear.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Can Experiencing Horror Help Your Brain?” — Smithsonian Magazine

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WTF Fun Fact 12950 – Anatidaephobia

Anatidaephobia is the fear of being watched by ducks. And despite this existing as a fun fact for decades, it may not actually be a real thing. If it is, it originated in an awfully strange place for a real phobia.

Who’s afraid of a duck?

Ducks are probably only watching you if you get too close to them or their nests. But we don’t want to downplay phobias, because they’re very real and produce real physical symptoms. So, could someone fear that a duck is watching them? Sure.

The question is whether this fear rises to the level of anatidaephobia. That’s less likely since the word was coined by Gary Larson in his comic The Far Side. The idea of this particular phobia is a hoax.

Phobias and anatidaephobia

Phobias spawn feelings of intense fear and worry about object or situations. While there’s no formal duck phobia, the idea of anatidaephobia comes from the Greek word “anatidae,” meaning “swan, ducks, or geese,” and “phobos,” meaning “fear.”

According to PsychCentral (cited below, and which does eventually get around to the point of mentioning it’s a hoax): “People who experience this phobia may not necessarily be worried that a duck might attack them. Instead, their fear centers around the idea that somewhere, a duck could be watching them — constantly.”

However, while “Anatidaephobia may seem like it could be a credible phobia, the fear of being constantly watched by a duck is actually a fictional phobia created for entertainment.”

In other words, you won’t find a fear of ducks in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), though you will find diagnostic criteria for “Specific Phobia: Animal type.”

That doesn’t mean a fear of birds, in general, is fake though. “Ornithophobia, or the fear of birds, is an animal type of specific phobia. Some people with this type of phobia may fear all birds or just a specific type of bird, such as a duck. Although anatidaephobia may not be real, the fear of ducks is a very real phobia.”

In the end, PsychCentral explains that: “Anatidaephobia can be traced back to Gary Larson, creator of the ‘The Far Side’ comic. Larson’s cartoon comic depicted a paranoid office worker with the caption, ‘Anatidaephobia: The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.’ The comic showed a duck looking out a window from another building behind the office. The point of Larson’s cartoon was to illustrate that any object can be a source of fear. Since the fictional phobia debuted in 1988, anatidaephobia has gained popularity. This has led to the internet questioning the phobia’s veracity. While anatidaephobia is indeed a hoax and not a real phobia, fears and phobias are no laughing matter. Phobias can have serious affects on a person’s daily life.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Fear of Ducks Watching You: Is Anatidaephobia a Real Condition?” — PsychCentral

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WTF Fun Fact 12798 – Top Phobias

What are you afraid of? A surprising number of people admit to having phobias in the U.S. In fact, a recent YouGov survey found that 83% said they had these genuine fears. And the top phobias were snakes and heights.

America’s top fears

Despite the pandemic, disease ranked fifth – after public speaking.

YouGov even broke the phobias down by gender, age, income, and political party! There wasn’t much difference between these categories other than women being more likely to fear snakes, spiders, and crowded spaces.

Men were more likely to say they had no fears. But those who had phobias named heights and public speaking as the things that freak them out most.

Fears vs phobias

Now, the YouGov poll doesn’t use the word “phobia” in the proper psychological way. Phobias can truly affect the way you live your life, and they’re more than just fears.

According to VeryWell Mind:

“The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that phobias affect approximately 10% of U.S. adults each year. These phobias typically emerge during childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood. They also impact twice as many women as they do men. There are a number of explanations for why phobias develop, including evolutionary and behavioral theories. Whatever the cause, phobias are treatable conditions that can be minimized and even eliminated with cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques and medication.”

In addition, “phobias can lead to marked fear and symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness. In some cases, these symptoms escalate into a full-blown panic attack.”

Phobias may not always be logical (most snakes and spiders don’t want to hurt you), but that doesn’t make the fear less real.

Interestingly, exposure therapy is one common treatment for phobias. During exposure therapy, you’re around the thing you fear the most in order to desensitize you to it and prove that it’s not as scary as you might think.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Phobias – 1000 U.S. Adult Citizens” — YouGov

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WTF Fun Fact 12695 – Male Mice Are Scared Of Bananas

We may have never noticed on our own that male mice harbor a fear of the humble banana. But scientists studying the fear responses of male mice to pregnant and lactating female mice made the connection.

Long story short, male mice can be very aggressive towards baby mice (or “pups), especially virgin male mice who see them as genetic competition. That’s why female mice have evolved to produce a compound, called n-pentyl acetate, in their urine that produces a stress and fear response in all male mice (but especially virgins).

Bananas enter the equation because they also happen to emit a compound that produces a fear response in male mice. They don’t contain n-pentyl acetate but rather isoamyl (or isopentyl) acetate.

Of course, bananas didn’t evolve to scare mice, that’s just a coincidence.

According to IFL Science:

“The team bought banana oil extract from the supermarket and placed it inside the cages of male mice to measure their stress levels, which increased significantly in response. The team believe that the stress response in the mice is similar to the stress response when about to engage in a fight.”

At least now we know one more strategy for getting rid of male mice! – WTF fun facts

Source: “Researchers Accidentally Discover Why Male Mice Are Scared Of Bananas” — IFL Science

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WTF Fun Fact 12604 – Ergophobia

We know what you’re thinking:

Thats Me GIF by Your Happy Workplace - Find & Share on GIPHY

But ergophobia is more than a case of the so-called “Sunday scaries” – those are more about dreading work, and it’s not a clinical diagnosis.

Ergophobia is still not well understood but tends to be classified as an anxiety disorder – typically social anxiety or performance anxiety. It’s an irrational fear of work that causes noticeable signs of anxiety when a person thinks about working. It can even cause the kind of panic attacks that can lead to hospitalization. A sufferer may even know there’s nothing to fear, but their brain reacts anyway (hence the clinical diagnosis).

The condition includes an array of fears about work, including the ability to perform tasks or even look for a job. And the inability to do work without suffering mentally and physically can leave people in poverty or dependent on others to care for them. And as you might imagine, that can lead to even more anxiety about life that makes everything worse.

Psych Times lists the common symptoms of ergophobia as:

  • Intense anxiety when working
  • Anxiety when thinking of work
  • Unwillingness to hold a regular job
  • Inability to cope with strong emotions
  • Becoming dependent on others due to the inability to work
  • Experiencing panic attacks as a result of work or fear of work

The condition doesn’t always have to lead to hospitalization to be considered severe. As we know, stress can lead to all kinds of physiological effects, such as heart disease, that can lead to a shorter and less happy life.

The condition can be genetic (though someone may inherit a predisposition to an anxiety disorder that manifests in this unique way in them and no one else in their family) or because of a trauma or environmental pressure.

There’s no specific “cure,” but desensitization techniques are common treatments for phobias in general, and it’s possible someone can be eased into work. Anti-anxiety medications and therapy may help ergophobics maintain a job as well. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Ergophobia (Fear of Work)” — Psych Times

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WTF Fun Fact 12556 – Halley’s Anti-Comet Pill

Where there’s fear, there are people willing to take advantage of it for their own gain.

Hundreds of years ago, comets could be a terrifying phenomenon. It looked like the sky was falling, so it’s not surprising that people have long interpreted them as harbingers of doom.

1910 was the first year that people really knew to expect the comet and could convey that to a larger global population. There were still people who remembered seeing it in 1834.

But we still didn’t entirely understand the nature of comets, so people were more susceptible to rumors about their dangers. While they’re all false, some researchers and commentators were happy to propagate rumors that Halley’s Comet had a tail made of a toxic substance that would contaminate the earth.

It was visible to the naked eye beginning on April 15th disappearing on July 5th. But some people weren’t excited to catch a glimpse because they thought it would bring about the end of the world.

The warning from a handful of scientists was rooted in real concerns. It was a close pass, and a previous comet (named Morehouse) had just been studied closely, and scientists found the fail emitted a toxic gas called cyanogen. But that’s no reason to blow it up into a rumor that a high-speed comet full of poison was headed straight for earth.

Famous scientists were asked to debunk the rumor but had a hard time admitting it was entirely impossible (which people needed to hear in order to chill out). Of course, the press coverage of cherry-picked remarks only made the story bigger and the fear worse.

Reactions ranged from hysteria to people selling all of their possessions to others drinking themselves to death in preparation for the end of the world. Some people caulked their windows and did their best to seal every hole in their homes to prevent the entrance of the supposed toxic gas.

In the panic, some charlatans decided to sell an easy cure in the form of a pill. Of course, it was a sugar pill and had no medicinal value, but they failed to mention that part. There was also an anti-Halley’s comet elixir. It’s unclear how much money people make from these quack remedies for problems that didn’t exist but clearly enough to pay for advertising space.

In the end, Halley’s comet passed without incident – and it was barely visible in the night sky. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Halley’s Comet, Covid-19, and the history of ‘miracle’ anti-comet remedies” — Discover Magazine

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