Here is the dictionary definition of the word phobia: an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. Synonyms for phobia are irrational obsessive fear, dread, horror, terror, hatred, loathing, detestation, aversion, antipathy, revulsion. Yikes!
Here are a few of the most common phobias to get your heads around:
Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders, which affects women four times more than men.
Acrophobia: The fear of heights. I didn't think I had a fear of heights until I took a mule trip to the bottom of The Grand Canyon and found myself actually shutting my eyes whenever my mule made a tottering turn on the edge of a cliff. If I had a true phobia though, I would have most likely been screaming my head off.
Agoraphobia: The fear of open crowded spaces, as opposed to claustrophobia, which is fear of confined places. Most of us have a touch of this, as anyone who has been stuck in a broken elevator will tell you!
Ailurophobia: (sometimes called felinophobia) - The fear of cats. I have an acquaintance who nearly has a breakdown when a black cat passes in front of her and who feels that even a sweet tabby is evil incarnate and makes her skin crawl.
Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes. Okay, I fess up. This is my own little-piece-of-hell-full-fledged fear.
I think I came by my "anti-snake-ness" with reason, though. My mother was afraid of snakes, so I got to watch her react to these varmints with unabashed terror from the time I was little. And of course my fledgling fear was cultivated with a certain amount of joy by my brother, who would chase me with snakes at every opportunity (as a result, I developed into a very fast runner and later excelled on the track team!)
One of my strongest memories relating to snakes was the day my brother lured me to where he was standing by our pasture fence. He said he wanted to show me something. Between my brother and me was a small tree. As I was passing under it, he told me to look up. I think I was expecting a bird's nest with some cute little baby birds in it. Alas, that would be in an ideal world. In my world, I looked up to see a snake which my brother had wrapped around a branch that was just above my head. It wasn't a dangerous snake - just the common garden-variety, but coiled around the branch, hissing and with its tongue flicking directly over my face, it was a vision to behold.
And my saga continues. Recently, my husband found a pair of snakes in our yard and thought they were "cute," so he held them up to the window in which I was sitting for me to see. I had been innocently reading the newspaper and drinking my morning coffee. As a result of beholding these two "cute" reptiles close up, I immediately jumped from my chair, spilling hot coffee all over myself. Was hubby in trouble, you might ask? Alas...
So do I have an irrational fear of snakes? I guess I probably do, but I submit that I came by it honestly. As a result of my experiences, I also have great empathy for people who have phobias. There's usually a good, solid explanation as to why they have them. So I don't laugh if someone screeches and runs when they see a spider, or breaks into a sweat in an elevator, or won't hike up a tall cliff. It's just part of the human condition, and in my opinion, we should all be cut some slack!