In a relatively safe world, the part of our brain that alerts us to danger just seems to get bored sometimes. Thus, phobias (from the Latin "phobus" meaning "Seriously, you're scared of that?") are born.
Psychology has compiled thousands of phobias, to the point that it seems somebody in the field has made a hobby of inventing them. But there are some truly ridiculous ones that actually do affect people, including some people you know. Such as ...
What is it?
Fear of bright colors.
Imagine you're strolling down a main thoroughfare and you chance upon a vast panorama of leather regalia, rainbow flags and colorfully decorated floats. You've stumbled upon the most flamboyant section of the gay pride parade. Suddenly, you feel an uneasiness giving way to terror, but you're not sure why. Congratulations, you're the proud owner of chromophobia, the fear of bright colors. Or you're just a homophobe. Shame on you.
Billy Bob Thornton, a man who housed just enough crazy to land Angelina Jolie, has plenty of other crazy to accessorize with it. On top of being an admitted chromophobe, he has a recorded history of fearing plastic cutlery, as well as antique furniture.
He refuses to inhabit a room with furniture built before 1950, which we guess means he has to maintain an entourage of several qualified antique appraisers or carbon-dating specialists.
Worst case scenario for a chromophobe:
What is it?
Fear of butterflies.
The savagery of nature can be chilling. Lepidopterophobes remind us that were it not for the advent of long sleeve shirts, we would all be completely exposed to the rabid butterfly hordes fluttering about. Despite their taking great pains to warn humanity about the iradescent-winged scourge at IHateButterflies.com, the rest of us stubbornly insist on living our lives in relative calm. Guess who will be laughing last when our bones are picked clean by voracious butterfly proboscises?
Nicole Kidman. So if you were wondering what sort of person believes butterflies are a source of unspeakable peril, first ask yourself if this person would buy into Tom Cruise's heterosexuality long enough to marry him. This principal of psychology is not formally called the Nicole Kidman Principle, but give it time.
Though in all fairness to Nicole, we don't know if this psychosis predates exposure to Cruise or not. If Katie Holmes succumbs to the phobia we'll have confirmation that he's the outbreak monkey for this particular brand of crazy.
Worst case scenario for a lepidopterophobe:
Sitting in the back row of a Phish concert, guaranteeing a dozen of these in view at any time:
What is it?
Fear of clowns.
Some of you will say there should be a name for when people aren't afraid of clowns, since this proud lineage of entertainers has long been the object of scorn and outright fear. But why? Sure, they associate with scary carny folk, and yes, they cloak their emotions with makeup that gives them the pallor of the undead. And sure, their distorted features inspire images of demonic possession and evil incarnate.
But it's not like a clown has ever hurt anyone. Unless you count John Wayne Gacy and his 31 brutal rapes and murders.
OK, so maybe this phobia is onto something.
While P. Diddy has shown a willingness to collaborate with any semi-animate being, don't count on getting him into the studio with the Insane Clown Posse. Though the clown thing would really be just one of several thousand better reasons why this paring should never happen.
Johnny Depp, never afraid to append more weirdness to his resume, is also wary of clowns. He once commented "There always seemed to be a darkness lurking just under the surface, a potential for real evil." You know we're pretty sure there's evil on top of the surface, too, Johnny.
Worst case scenario for a coulrophobe:
Middle of the back seat of a clown car.
What is it?
Fear of chewing gum.
To the chiclephobe, gum is a menace that can easily nestle into any crevice, laying in wait for your guard to drop. When it decides to strike its sticky tendrils grasp tenaciously, hellbent on your destruction.
Actually, chiclephobia seems more focused on the fact that used chewing gum is really, really gross, a resilient vector of diseases carried in the mouth. So all it would take is a fall on any city street resulting in eye/gum contact for terminal eye gonorrhea to take hold. Gum's final insult would be forcing you to listen to the doctors speculating on the nature of the eye-fucking that caused it.
Oprah Winfrey's chewing gum phobia stems from childhood trauma. Apparently her less-than-fastidious grandmother would store it in rows in the cabinet for safe keeping as well applying it directly to dinner plates during meals.
Oprah was so profoundly sickened by this that she has banned the chewing of gum in her studio. This was a compromise between her and the other producers, as she initially insisted that all studio audience members have their jawbone removed. Her audience remarkably showed 100 percent compliance with either initiative, patiently awaiting further edicts.
Worst Case Scenario:
A job as a janitor at a middle school.
What is it?
Fear of your own reflection.
Being monstrously ugly isn't classically part of what causes this, but it probably doesn't help. This phobia can be extended to viewing videos of oneself as well. If our scientists can synthesize this phobia in the lab we've got a long list of names we'd like to infect with it.
Pamela Anderson has reported that her reflection freaks her out. Now that we're over 10 years out from her starring turn on Baywatch, the feeling is pretty much mutual.
Though we have to wonder if Anderson actually suffers from a mild xenophobia (the fear of strangers) and thus is freaked out every time she looks in the mirror and doesn't see a brunette with unweaponized tits.
Worst case scenario for an eisoptrophobe:
Being forced to watch the entirety of Barb Wire in a mirror's reflection.
This actually applies to people with and without eisoptrophobia, with or without the mirror.
What is it?
Fear of plants.
Botanophobia is not to be mistaken with Boitanophobia, which is the understandable fear of being forced to watch competitive male figure skating. Sufferers of botanophobia can presumably only find respite in the desert or the arctic, at least until living space on the moon is widely available.
Apparently chlorophyll-related terror is common enough to subdivide. Sigmund Freud had pteridophobia, which is the morbid fear of ferns. It's difficult to say where this came from, but using his theories as a baseline the good money is on a traumatic childhood episode involving a fern and his penis.
Christina Ricci is a more pure botanophobe, being perpetually creeped by "filthy" household plants. It is downright sensible compared to her fear of swimming pools, which she won't swim in alone because " ... I think that somehow a little magic door is going to open up and let the shark out."
We note that there are many photos available of Ms. Ricci in or near a pool. We guess the key there is that she said she was afraid of being in a pool "alone" so apparently Ricci figures she can get out of the pool and let her friends succumb to the domesticated house shark instead.
Worst case scenario for the botanophobe:
Finding out that plants have become sentient and attacked humanity, and knowing that no one will ever believe you.