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MacBean's avatar

Have you ever had a phobia develop or strengthen for no reason?

Asked by MacBean (19453 points ) November 1st, 2009

This morning I was in the bathtub, thinking about NaNoWriMo and idly playing with the water. (I was flicking the surface to play songs. It’s fun!) Suddenly I realized that I was feeling nervous because of the water.

I’ve always had a slight fear of water, but only when I can’t see or feel the bottom. If I can see the bottom, depth has never bothered me. If I can feel the bottom, murkiness has never bothered me. My bath was certainly not that dirty and the tub is definitely not deep enough that I couldn’t touch the bottom, so I should not have been afraid. Through a little experimentation, I discovered that I was fine if I lay back and relaxed; I was only nervous if I sat up and looked down into the water. But I still don’t get it. Nothing has happened to me that could explain this increase in my phobia.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

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24 Answers

Ivan's avatar

Well, I also have a fear of water. I can’t say that something as harmless as a bathtub would affect me, though I haven’t been in a full bathtub recently enough to know for sure.

Dog's avatar

Once when locked in a car trunk I suddenly became very claustrophobic. I had to fight back the panic and regain my reason. Before then I had been in tiny, stifling, dark places for hours without issue. It was really out of nowhere.

figbash's avatar

I feel like over the past few years I’ve started to get bad claustrophobia. I never really had this before. Also, I developed a really bad fear of heights after I was high up in a historic building during an earthquake. I can’t look down from a high space anymore, without imaging the building/platform/floor shaking underneath me.

I don’t like this. . .

augustlan's avatar

I have had situations where some things I had always been able to do despite my phobia stopped being ‘doable’. In every case, the issue was too much time passing in between the doing. Examples: I am afraid of heights, but was always able to ride roller coasters and dive off the high dive. At some point, I went too long without doing either of them. Thinking I was fine, I proceeded to board a roller coaster (and later, the high dive) and freaked right the fuck out. >:(

faye's avatar

i’ve developed a fear of driving on the highway!! and this is alberta-no six lanes. what we do have is hundreds of semi trucks roaaring along beside me on the calgary to edmonton route. and everyone is doing 130 klicks [about 80 miph]. it takes a few miles in before i can relax.

dpworkin's avatar

The classic panic attack comes seemingly from nowhere, and is so terrifying and upsetting that it begins the panic syndrome, because now one is afraid of ever experiencing that again.

These things can remit, return, begin suddenly from nowhere, worsen, appear to relent and suddenly return with great force.

In my opinion much can be done through Cognitive-Behavioral psychotherapy.

nzigler's avatar

My arachnophobia is worse than it was when I was a kid.

My belief is that as I get older and others and myself become increasingly accustomed to the idea that I’m somebody who is very afraid of spiders, the idea is reinforced over and over again. When someone sees a spider they make a point of warning me about it. When the topic comes up, I feel like I identify with others who are afraid of them. I wish it wasn’t a part of my identity- I’d like to not think about spiders or the fact that they bother me so much. It doesn’t help.

That said, I have recurring nightmares (the situations change but the point is the same) where I have spider(s) on my person. Sometimes I wake up with a vague feeling that my spider sense is tingling more than usual (I’m a little more paranoid about them and don’t always remember why). I’m sure there are lots of subconscious triggers that can exploit our fear without making a conscious impression.

At my best moments I’m able to reason with myself about why I shouldn’t be afraid of spiders and why they bother me. Being a phobia though, my feelings irrational and persistent. I’m just trying to manage it and not let it screw up my daily activities.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

My phobia of big dogs only gets worse as I get older. One simple bark can almost send me into cardiac arrest. I love dogs, but strange dogs are quite frightening. stems from being bit as a 3 yr old kid by a Golden Retriever.

@nzigler I recently overcame my arachnophobia, but there are still times when very big spiders creep me out. But the little ones, hell, I let them crawl up on my hand so I can play with them for awhile. I even keep a brown house spider as a pet, named her Seven, since she is missing one leg.

casheroo's avatar

All my phobias seem to be related. I dislike being confined, being trapped in any way. Elevators? No fucking way. Today I went through a carwash, knowing I may or may not completely freak out and want to try to escape..but also knowing leaving the car was not an option. It’s the not having an option to leave that I always come back to. I always joke with people that I’m flakey..but I’m really just fearful of a lot of situations, so my true friends have accepted that fact about me and understand when I just can’t do something. It’s gotten a lot better over the years though.

I also have a fear of water. I’m not sure what mine is about. My parents have a theory that while we were on my grandfather’s boat, my grandmother must have said something or I picked up on her severe fear of boats and water…because I still refuse to get on boats and the thought of it makes me want to vomit.
None of mine seem to pop up suddenly like how you experienced. But I have felt my phobias get worse and get better (like, I will use the elevator to go to the ultrasound place..there’s no stairs I can use and I just silently panic while in the elevator, usually scaring other people haha)

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

@casheroo you’d hate to ride in an elevator with me, I like to jump up and down when it stops and starts.

casheroo's avatar

@Psychedelic_Zebra You’d never do that to a pregnant lady! That’d be evil! I’d probably completely bug out and pass out, which has been known to happen.

Dog's avatar

@casheroo Your post reminded me of my recent trip to the San Diego Zoo where I took our kids on this thing. Height does not usually bother me but because the kids were with me and it was windy, causing the bucket to rock and bounce. I think that having the kids on that fueled major anxiety in me to the point where I was glad to get to the other side. If it was just me I do not think it would have bothered me so much.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Dog – I can’t imagine why no one has asked so I will have to, why were you in the trunk of a car?

First time I had a panic attack was when I was waiting in line for a tuna sandwich in the drug store at the corner of Connecticut and I street in DC. It came out of nowhere and I thought I might possibly die. I was working on L street and literally hung onto the walls of buildings until I got back. They are hellish things.

Over the years I experienced them they were of varying degrees of intensity, and I never had any idea why that was??? Must depend on what is going on in your subconscious.

dpworkin's avatar

@rooeytoo I think it is a fight-or-flight affair. Not positive, but I think the adrenaline surge has something to do with it.

Dog's avatar

@rooeytoo I guess I should have added it to the response. A buddy had locked his only set of keys with his speaker units in the trunk of his car after a gig. (Bass player). Being that we were all too broke to get a locksmith and I was nimble and not claustrophobic we removed the back seat and I slipped through the iron slats and worked my way to the back where his keys lay.
Once I found them in the dark while wedged between the speaker and wall of the trunk I hooked them to the end of an opened wire coat hanger and they pulled the keys out through the seat back.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Dog – hehehe,makes perfect sense now!

@pdworkin – I have always been the stand and fight sort of person but wow, they beat me down, I did go into flight mode, I wanted to be in a safe place which meant home. If necessity had not forced me to go out and work for a living I would have become house bound. Thank goodness I discovered the book by Claire Weekes, her book plus 12 step programs and work with a counselor brought me to the point where I accepted that I had them, so then they started to go away. The Serenity Prayer is a very powerful tool even for a non believer.

pinkparaluies's avatar

Yes! For some unknown reason.. I can’t stand to listen to people sing. Its the absolute worst. No idea why this happened.

Ps. Maybe you have rabies?

LeetaLuminate's avatar

yeah for some reason, i cant stand to staring at some wall for so long.feels like that wall is trying to catch me.thats why i dont wanna be close to every wall.

dpworkin's avatar

The wall one is very creative. Have you ever been Here?

LeetaLuminate's avatar

@pdworkin oh wat kinda site is that? seems like its all full of people with phobia..

dpworkin's avatar

Pretty good, right?

LeetaLuminate's avatar

@pdworkin yep yep yep :] thank you

MacBean's avatar

I knew this question would generate some good stories! :D

@pinkparaluies: haha! I was about to say I don’t have any of the other symptoms of rabies, but then I realized… I actually do. Oops! I haven’t been bitten or scratched by anything in ages, though.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Hmm.. Well.. Yeah.. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. As a kid I used to be terrified of butterflies and moths (it’s called lepidopterophobia for those who don’t know). I could be walking down a street and if I ever saw something larger than a ping pong ball fluttering my way I’d freak out and either run past it at full speed or cross the road to avoid it.

I don’t know why but when I was in 3rd Grade I volunteered to bring the class chrysalises back home. The butterflies emerged from them and as my family was staring in wonder at them crawling out, I refused to go anywhere near them lest they start flapping in my face.

I knew it was an irrational fear. Unfortunately, so did my family. So one day on holiday in the mountains my dad pushed me into a butterfly garden. You know, those things where hundreds of the tiny monsters would flutter around, ready to land on unsuspecting passers-by. I was forced to approach them at close range and place them on my body.

Guess what? It worked. I actually got less and less scared of them the more I mingled with them.

Now… I can actually feel the fear coming back. Just two nights ago I was walking past the door only to see a moth perched on it at eye level, making me startle backwards. I was able to approach it after a while though when I got my fear under control.

Hmm… Looks like it’s time for a return to those butterfly gardens..

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