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Fear and Loathing

Don't Be Afraid to Tour Web of Fright and Phobias

April 12, 2001|ROBERT BURNS robert.burns@latimes.com

In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Well, with all due respect to FDR, what a crock.

There are plenty of things to fear besides fear. What about being in a gloomy place (lygophobia) like work (ponophobia) and then sitting down (kathisophobia) at your computer (cyberphobia) only to find your network connection has slowed (macrophobia) to a crawl? Yep, you can fear almost everything (panophobia), including fear (phobophobia).

So, in the name of tough love and exposure therapy, here's an anxious little tour of the Web of fright. Don't be afraid of learning (sophophobia) something new.

The most common phobia sites are dedicated, of course, to social phobias. A few even brave chat rooms. Try the Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Assn. (http://www.socialphobia.org) for information and current therapies. Not that the Internet might be an enabler or anything.

If you're worried you might have social phobia because, say, the only thing you've talked to in the last three weeks is your cat--and that was through a closed door--you can take a social phobia quiz at Harvard University (http://www.fsap.harvard.edu/socialphobiaquiz.html). A more general phobia quiz comes from Ohio State University (http://anxiety.psy.ohio-state.edu/phobia.htm).

Do I Have a Phobia? (http://psychology.newcastle.edu.au/~provost/ homespun_hypertext_96/caporale_et_al/phobia.html) doesn't really answer the question but has lots of stuff on classical conditioning. And one really long URL.

Maybe you don't have any phobias (we'll deal with denial in another column) and just want a titillating look at the list of weird names. The Phobia List (http://phobialist.com) is a good one because you can check things out by description too at http://phobialist.com/reverse.html.

Disease World (http://www.diseaseworld.com/phobia.htm), which links to the Phobia List, offers some expert discussion as well as help links.

More help can be found at Anxieties.com (http://www.anxieties.com), which has programs for dealing with phobias and panic attacks. They're free, if you have problems with money (chrometophobia).

Phobiaproducts.com (http://www.phobiaproducts.com/products.shtml) takes a more commercial approach, including a $350 home-care kit for agoraphobia (fear of open spaces). If we spent $350 on a kit, we would certainly stay inside and use it.

Maybe home kits aren't the answer. How about exposure therapy using virtual reality? Georgia Tech has information at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/virtual/Phobia. Treatment always goes better with cool graphics.

For more phobia art, check out the gallery at Mac Anxiety (http://www.macanxiety.com/phobiaart.htm), an Ontario, Canada, anxiety-disorders clinic. But don't go there if you have issues with Northern Lights (auroraphobia).

Our all-time favorite phobia is archibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, but here's one that's more useful in Southern California: fear of tight parking spaces. Get help at http://www.xs4all.nl/~yskes/pp/index.html.

We've got to stop now. Our graphophobia is acting up.

*

Robert Burns is an assistant Business editor at The Times.

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