Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Freakout

Each Wednesday’s Afternoon Inquisition is presented by the previous winner of the Comment o’ the Week. Today’s question comes courtesy of Steve, who writes:


Even the most rational person has one or two irrational fears. It’s
heights, snakes and travel for me.

What about you? What freaks you out?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Hmmm….I guess I’d better get rid of my pet snake if I ever want Steve to visit my office :)

    I freak out over travel and being lost, but probably for a different reason than most.

    You can’t tell easily (I hope!) but I have a wide variety of impairments, visual and otherwise, from my head injury. This makes being in an unfamiliar place stressful. Add the fear of having a seizure to that, and travel is just horrid.

    I haven’t had a seizure in several years, but it’s still a major fear.

  2. @teambanzai: Right there with ya. I carefully plot out the escape/survival plan for a zombie apocalypse in every new place that I live. This is mostly an entertaining intellectual exercise, mostly.

    Have also noticed that, before the more modern “fast zombies,” stairs seemed to be a natural obstacle. I haven’t lived on a ground floor in 20 years. Coincidence?

  3. Certainly heights for me. I can’t stand close to an edge, even a few feet tall. Curiously, I prefer the window in a plane and travel like a dog looking out/down all the way.

    For years I have been told I will get used (working as a photographer in the seaport, with big cargo ships), but no. One day I got into the edge of an open bay and thought “hey, this is wide enough to stand comfortably” and when I started climb, I froze. No matter what I thought “calmly”, I couldn’t go further NOR back.

    (Eventually, the ship sank and I swam away. Not really!).

    I “say” I could kill pretty easily if my family was in danger, but sometimes the simple sight of a gun lying on a table gives me the chills.

  4. Definitely heights. Been trying to get over that fear for years.

    Was just up on the new glass floaty thing (the technical term) at the “Tower Formally Known as the Sears Tower” while on vacation in Chicago. For a full minute. I know, because I timed myself, to the second.

    Not 100% there, but this is a good improvement, yes?

  5. Heights from equipment and building where I’m near an edge without a ‘support’ of some kind can be a problem. I can look out and down from a cherry-picker basket all day – no problem. Look down from the Sears* Tower Skydeck…ummm, not so much. Which is funny because I’m a licensed pilot and made a career out of aviation. :-)

    I dislike spiders, but can handle them to an extent. Nothing else comes to mind…

    *Yeah, I know someone changes the name. Fuck ’em!

  6. The girl in the Palm Pre ads makes my skin crawl. Long, narrow bridges make me really nervous, I always think I’m going to drive over the side.

  7. I’m not much on spiders, but I’ve been forcing myself not to kill them when I see one in my room. They’re just doing their thing, after all. But if they start multiplying all bets are off.

    @QuestionAuthority: Totally off topic, but I second your thoughts on the Sears Tower being renamed. That’s just bullshit! Same goes for that health insurance company defacing the Pan Am building in NYC many years ago.

  8. I don’t think that some fears are necessarily irrational. We all know that if not careful, some things can really hurt us, like spiders, snakes, and heights. So having natural fears of this type aren’t really hurting us in any way. It’s always good to be careful, that is, if your goal is to stay alive as long as possible.

  9. People. The more of them there are and the more of them I don’t know the more freaky it is. Add heavy expectations of prescribed behavior and/or lots of noise and I shut down completely. This probably explains why I was uncomfortable in church as a child. As an adult I just stopped going to weddings. I can survive them if I have to, but it just takes too much effort. Ditto dance clubs, loud concerts, sporting events, and big cities. No force on earth could ever get me near NYC, London, or doubly-especially Bombay again.

    On the other small cities, small groups of people, and moderately-loud concerts are just fine.

  10. Well, I have OCD so I don’t know if this counts, but my worst phobia is poop. Yes, I hear you thinking “but nobody likes poop!”. Well, this is different. It’s much, much worse than any other bodily secretion. I’m not germophobic at all, and I’m even somewhat of a slob, but poop just freaks me out.

    I used to have this strange phobia of calling people on the phone. After each ring, I would start to worry that they wouldn’t answer and it would go to voicemail, which I wouldn’t be prepared for and then I’d end up leaving some awkward, bumbling message and I couldn’t just hang up because most people have caller ID now so they would know I called and wonder why I didn’t leave a message. Fortunately that has gone away, but I think that’s my strangest phobia so far.

  11. Ugh, spiders. I can’t even squish the ones that are a millimeter big because they scare me so much. I basically flail until someone else can come get it for me. It’s so pathetic.

  12. I do, however, have an irrational fear of certain textures. It’s a fear of clusters or holes. This weird fear was instilled in me from my mom. She’s afraid of the same thing. But I’ve met other people with this same thing.

    Grapes have been too common in my life and were show to be okay to me as a kid. The best examples are wilting pomagranate seed still in the fleshy part of the exterior, the back of that weird sea frog after its eggs hatch out of it’s skin, and tiny, close-together holes in the dirt that worms make. Also, imagine if you stuck your finger many times in the surface of a tub of vasoline, eww.

    Now THIS fear is completely irrational. I have nightmares where I see strange textures like this and then wake up suddenly. I also watched lots of horror movies as a young kid, so I’m sure that having seen those fueled this fear, because a frequent nightmare of mine is the changing texture of flesh on some dead dude’s face. Thanks mom.

  13. @jtradke:

    When I was a kid, my brother told me that centipedes are poisonous. For a few years I believed him, then I assumed that he was just teasing like he always did, and then I found out that some centipedes actually are poisonous. Sorry, that probably made you feel worse.

  14. I’m not phobic about crowds and cities. I just don’t like them. The happiest place I remember owning was our house on 12 acres of forested land in Northern WI. Half a mile to our next neighbor.

  15. @Peregrine: “A-a-a-a-a-a-h-h-h-h-h-h!!!!”

    We now return you to your normal snarks.

    @Imrryr: Damned right. I’m a Chicagoan. It’s blasphemy against the great doG of architecture!

  16. Still run up the stairs whenever leaving the basement.

    Also, hate heights for the simple fact that I might be suddenly gripped with an irrational urge to throw myself off.

  17. I am terrified of spiders, centipedes, and most nasty creepy crawlers out there. That is one reason why i’d never be able to visit Austrailia. Rollercoasters also make me pretty uncomfortable.

  18. Turbulence on airplanes. We’re cruising at ten thousand meters, and I’m perfectly fine, but we hit a patch of choppy air, and my lizard brain switches into panic mode. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, somehow.

  19. Discovery Channel pisses me off every year with Shark Week. Sharks scare the wholly living fit out of me. Walmart is running a tracfone advertisement with sharks. I’m about ready to stary screaming! I don’t go near the ocean, I don’t watch shark movies, I shouldn’t have to see them. The worst part of all, most of them have the teeth bared. I’ll freak myself out if I’m not careful, like at night, when I’m outside smoking, or when I’m in the shower. I hide my eyes whenever there’s a scene set underwater in the ocean. If I’m not prepared to talk about these animals, I call them “scary fish”.

    I’m also scared by big spyders. Small ones I can deal with. Once, I saw a scary bug in a room I was sleeping in, and I refused to go into that room again. Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with these in advertisements often, except around halloweeen. If I’m running a register, and out of the corner of my eye, I see like a web, or something, I pull back. Then, I realize, its ok, just decoration. What I hate most are the rubber imitations of animals. Once, I found one of a scary bug on one of the shelves at the walmart I work at. I refused to touch it, I had someone else get it.

    Also, oddly enough, I can’t look directly up outside. If I do so, sometimes, I go into a panic attack, and unless there’s something over my head, I’m convinced I’m about to fall up.

    None of these are rational, and I’ve always been convinced that I was crazy, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t have the market cornered on crazy. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing.

  20. @sandra

    Textures: I have that, too. Not those exact textures, but similar ones. As a kid I used to have these weird nightmares about ropes and strings, too. I would see myself reaching out to grasp a thick rope, and instead it would feel in my fingers like the tiniest thread. The disconnect always woke me up in a cold sweat. I have been told this is a migraine symptom and also a symptom of Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I believed the migraine thing– I am a migraine sufferer — but not the SID thing, until my daughter was diagnosed with SID and complained of the same kinds of nightmares. Go figure.

    Otherwise, centipedes/millipedes have the power to send me into screaming fits. Other insects/arthropods, not so much. Just those. Yuck.

  21. @davew: I would say count me in, but that would make three members, and three is a crowd…

    My main irrational fear is any flying insects. I don’t just mean wasps and bees or anything that could sting me, I mean the lot of them – down to the smallest fly. If I see one of them in my flat I have to hunt it down until it’s gone out of the window or felt the wrath of a heavy implement of some sort.

    What really gets me the most though is moths. I hate the things. My wife tells me I literally jump out of my seat if I see one, and will sometimes even run out of the room and have to be persuaded to come back in to dispose of it.

    Speaking of flying insects – does anyone know why they’ll fly into a room through the smallest possible gap in the window, but can’t find the way out even if you’ve got every single window and door in the entire building open?

  22. Zombies aside, human fanatics give me the willies. After the shooting of Dr. Tiller, I decided that I was never going to leave Los Angeles. I am outspoken and fear that may lead to bodily harm in less liberal parts of the country.

    Hmmm…these two seem to be related. Brainless, slow-moving dangers that can not be reasoned with and will only be satisfied when they cause you to become like them.

  23. Heights and telephones.

    The strange thing is, heights is a relatively new thing. Airplanes are (and have always been) perfectly fine, but I hate tall buildings, rock ledges, etc., even if there’s a perfectly tall and sturdy railing to “support” me. It’s curious, because I used to be a climber – I’d climb rock faces with my youth adventure class, any tree that presented sufficient stepping brances…Now, I break into a cold sweat at the very thought.

  24. Women (IRL, I’m fine on-line). Damnit!

    It’s a real shame, too. I don’t have any other fears and I’m tall. So if I could manage to not put my foot in my mouth constantly, I could be a very effective spider killer and reach things on the top shelf. Heck, just last night I evicted an unwelcome mouse from my neighbor’s apartment.

    I grew up in a religious school where flirting was barely practiced (and hand holding might get you in minor trouble) so I didn’t start seeking female attention until college. Today, I put too much stress on myself when approaching girls, so I often end up not doing it. I even took a woo-woo class (mostly harmless) on sexual dynamics once to try and get a different perspective; that didn’t work at all.

  25. Cockroaches and very public restrooms.

    Not general filth – though I am a bit of a neat freak in my own life and home but I have been in some filthy conditions and don’t have an irrational fear there. When the cockroaches start showing up and/or I have to use a public restroom in a park or festival — blergh.

  26. i just moved to chicago. my fear is being the victim of gang violence because of my appearance. my fear is irrational because i live in the north side. but why wouldnt you be scared of getting beat to a pulp or shot in the face.

  27. @catgirl: Nah, it’s not that they’re poisonous, it’s that super-fast skittering that they do, and the fact that they come right the fuck up out of nowhere. Most other bugs don’t really get my goat – I’m cool with spiders and millipedes, for example.

    @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): Dear sweet Jesus, don’t say its name!

  28. Fishing hooks, lures, etc., and sometimes the things attached to them like rods, reels, and fishing line. (Though not alone; fishing line not connected to a hook doesn’t bother me).

    When dad taught me to fish as a kid, he gave me a little lecture about being careful with fishhooks, because if you hook yourself they’re hard to get out because of the barb. About how you have to cut off the loop end with pliers, push the sharp end out through the skin, and push them all the way through — instead of pull them out.

    That image stuck with me, and my overactive imagination conjured images of catching my own earlobe — or worse, an eyelid — while casting out a lure.

    The funny thing is, I can actually go fishing just fine, especially if I’m in control of the equipment. But a tackle box full of rusty old gear, or someone else’s fishing pole sitting in a support on a dock with a line trailing out, can seriously give me the willies.

  29. @Bookitty: I’ll second you on that one, also outspoken and have been in places where I knew that it could lead to trouble, so my territory rarely strays out of the Burbank/Los Angeles area.

  30. Since I was a kid I’ve been afraid of metal gratings. Those kind usually in the street that cover yawning pits. I’m always afraid the grating will break and I’ll fall in. These are most common I think at ski resorts.

    There is also a Catwalk in New Mexico with walkway made of this metal grating. I went there and had a minor freakout.

  31. I’m not a fan of being around a lot of people for a long time, but I mostly get cranky and sarcastic when that happens. Leeches are oogie! I scream like a girl when I get them on me. I’m quite afraid of being raped, which I suppose is pretty rational. I have a lot of little neurotic fears, but as far as something that makes me totally, irrationally FREAKED OUT? I had a big fear of fire for a long time, but it’s settled down. Used to be that someone lighting a smoke out of the corner of my eye would make me jump. I’ve calmed down on that though. I can’t think of anything that I really freak out about.

  32. Heights, and other people using knives.
    I’m fine with knives just lying there, or using them myself, but someone else wielding a knife for any reason gives me the heebie jeebies.

  33. @Steve: That Palm Pre girl reminds me of a cross between the Cocoon aliens and the Raiders of the Lost Ark ghosts.
    I see a sort of drugged out replicant.

    @MiddleMan: The Palm Pre woman wants your soul!
    Has she got an app for that?

  34. Bridges. Big long bridges that go WAY WAY high over water and you can see the water. I can manage the shakey old Bourne bridge to Cape Cod (barely). I actully have to blare up some good heavy metal music and just go for it…but the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, or even worse the Bay Bridge with TUNNEL (who puts a tunnel in the middle of a bridge? really, just plops a tunnel under the water in the middle of a bridge). I can’t drive them.

  35. Spiders freak me out… but there is nothing I hate more than flying. I understand the science of flight and the statistics on safety but still I get upset every single time. I booked my flight to Atlanta for Dragon*Con this morning and a tear ran down my cheek. It’s crazy and irrational…I know….

  36. I’m afraid of seeing other people at the edge of a cliff or tall building. I get scared to the point where I cry. Hiking in the mountains with my husband and our friends was torture. They all have no fear of heights and loved looking over the edge or cliffs. They had a blast and I laid on the ground in the fetal position crying.

  37. On the REALLY irrational side, I have always been afraid of “the grays.” When I was a kid, and more inclined to believe these ugly f’ers existed (and X-files just started to become popular) I was TERRIFIED of being abducted from my bedroom.

    It’s not nearly as bad now, but I have to admit, any time I see an image of one, or read an alien abduction novel (they are my guilty pleasure) I have a hard time sleeping at night. :-P

    On the more rational side: I have a horrible fear of funnel clouds, either tornadoes or water spouts. I honestly can’t even watch them on tv they freak me out so bad. Thank goodness I live in Nevada (although, the occasional dust devil has been known to give me goosebumps).

  38. Driving makes me anxious (I got my DL when I was 30 and had no choice, it makes me so anxious.) Driving in a strange place where I could lost ups the ante. Driving in a strange place at night is worse. Driving in a strange place at night and it starts to rain=panic attack. Fortunately I spawned male persons who like to drive and do it for me.

    Heights. But it’s not a fear, per se. I . . .lose a sense of where I am when I’m looking over something high. Or, oddly enough, lying on my back in the yard and looking up at the sky when there are no earthly reference points. Might be a depth perception flaw from too many closed head injuries as a kid.

    Slightly related, so I’m adding it, I get extremely anxious when the guys are up on the ladder at the studio fixing the lights for my tv show. I want to go over and hold their legs but . .well . . .they already think I’m perv. LOL

  39. @ddr: “Having my blood drawn. It is an irrational fear. I know it can’t really hurt me. But it always makes me faint.”

    Fainting is irrational, and I do it too, but the fear is not. I once asked a nurse what’s the worst that could happen. She said either: “You faint hit your head on the way to the floor and die of a fractured skull or faint, have a seizure, vomit, aspirate the vomit, and then choke to death.”

    You’re welcome. I’m just here to help.

  40. @davew: Hey, you asked!!

    My husband’s list of freak outs is much larger than mine: snakes (also, worms), planes (will never go on), boats (doesn’t go on), that transition point from the roof to the top rung of the ladder, heights in general, bullet trajectories on “CSI,” “Dr. G” autopsy dramatizations (and their ilk), blood in general, even just talking about wounds or injuries or blood or blood donation (I tried to share my gooey pulsating bag of blood story with him and he almost threw up)…

  41. Scorpions are my big freak out. Followed by those big, flat, black centipedes that would pop up in my bathtub in Oklahoma.

    And Tom Cruise. From way back. He’s always given me the willies, and that was before he turned crazy.

  42. I was never too worried about sharks until I went and saw that damned movie “Jaws.” It’s ruined my peace of mind for swimming in deep water. Irrational, I know.

    I’m wary of many centipedes, millipedes, etc. because where I grew up they could be venomous. I just give them wide berth.

    @Amy, Blake_Stacy: I can sort of sympathize with those like you that have a fear of flying, even though an invitation to go flying with the Blue Angels/Thunderbirds would only evoke the response “WHERE AND WHEN DO I SHOW UP!” I don’t like roller coasters and they feel very similar to flying in turbulence to me. However, turbulence in airplanes doesn’t phase me at all, probably because I’m so used to it. It also may be a control issue, as I’m a pilot (not professionally, sad to say).

    By the way, I just posted the most awesome video on my Facebook profile. A British filmmaker was fortunate enough to wrangle a ride in a Lockheed U-2C spyplane. It’s essentially a jet-propelled high altitude sailplane. It cruises somewhere north of 70,000ft, the closest you can get to space without the Shuttle. The view is just…go see. I’m Gregg Bender on FB. It’s beautiful beyond words…

    @gwenny: I’d forgotten it, but I have the same reaction when I lie on the ground on my back and stare into the blue sky. I start feeling as if I’m “falling upwards,” even though I can feel the ground beneath me. I suspect you are right that it has some sort of organic source. I’ve never had head trauma, though.

    I suspect my fear of needles/blood draws is a learned reaction and could be defeated with the right therapy. It’s just not a big enough issue for me to bother.

    @DaveW: With me, I think that it’s as much a love of the outdoors, fresh air, natural sounds vs. human noise, etc. I also love to watch the wildlife come and go. I’m no woodsman or sportsman…but I know what I like, if that makes sense.

  43. Bugs. I know roaches are completely harmless but i still squeal like a 12 year old girl when I see one. Actually it’s ONLY the harmless bugs that scare me. Bees, spiders and wasps for the most part don’t bother me. I think it’s because they’re less erratic.

    I also have a pretty irrational fear of getting lost. Fortunately I recently got a Garmin and this has helped me a lot.

  44. If when swimming in the ocean … at night … little moonlight … I see either a dorsal fin on the horizon or a wave crest … I’m outta there!

  45. I fear the garbage disposal. The longer it runs the more I have the intense feeling like my hand is being drawn into it.

    Thankfully it’s something one only has to run for a short time anyway.

  46. @bug_girl: I didn’t say I hated them, just that they give me the creeps :D

    I actually got over a major childhood fear of all bugs, and will get up close and personal with a number of them, because they are just fascinatingly weird. But as interesting as scorpions are, show me one unexpectedly, and I will run screaming like a little girl!

  47. @kylev: I’m nervous around men IRL because I was a short nerdy kid (who grew up to be a short nerdy adult) and in high school no guy ever looked at my face. Oklahoma guys in general don’t like smart women, so I’ve never dated anyone I could have an actual conversation with. So don’t feel bad.

  48. My biggest fear is not being able to breathe. It probably stems from my younger brother’s sleep apnea, but that terrifies me more than anything.

    Next would be bugs (sorry to any insect-lovers out there; I’m more than mildly allergic to bites, although fortunately anaphalaxis allergic), but only if they startle me – otherwise I do okay.

    I don’t like crowds because I’m short and quiet; therefore easily overlooked and stepped on – I’m NOT missing TAM 8 though! If you see me there, please be nice to me.

    I didn’t think I was afraid of snakes until I found a dead one under a pile of mail in my study three weeks ago. I cheerfully flushed him, but it took at least half an hour to find a way to get him in the toilet without screaming.

    I think that’s about it – tons more things I don’t like, but most of those are rational and not to phobic levels.

  49. DYING ALONE. [/obligatory emo comment]

    Anyway, yeah. Actually, it’s mostly BEES. Bees and WASPS. And COCKROACHES. Fuck them all.

    (But apart from those, I think bugs are kinda neat.)

  50. @Kimbo Jones: The balloon itself. I’ve gotten better though. It used to be that I couldn’t go into a store if it was having an event that involved blocking the entrance with a couple balloons. Now I can get past balloons most of the time if I ignore them really hard.

  51. Rubber bands, or anything remotely resembling it, in part because my brother used to point it at me all the time. But worst of all things I fear, it is hypodermic needles, you know, the ones they use in clinics and hospital. Everytime I go to vaccinate, it leaves me sweating and trembling horribly. Which is why the mere thought of donating blood freaks me out.

  52. Oh, and at one time, a centipede freaked me out so much (primarily because I have never seen one before) that I panicked, grabbed a chair, and started beating at it until it was dead. And even then, I continued in order to make sure. My classmates made fun of me for a long time.

  53. Lightning, I know it’s a little childish, but I can’t help but feel helpless and scared. Usually I feel very on edge and cannot sleep during a storm, I’ll also sleep on the side of my bed as far away from the window as possible, I still never feel ok. I know it’s a tad irrational, and I also know the odds, but I just can’t shake it.

  54. The Dyson Airblade handryer. I’ve developed an irrational fear that the blade of air will suddenly become so strong I’ll suffer an instant double dismemberment.

    Oh, and Simon Cowell, but that’s not really irrational.

  55. Wasps/hornets/yellowjackets and spiders. I don’t like seeing things go through flesh or bone, though I’m okay with getting blood drawn/shots as long as I don’t have to watch.

    Zombies freak me out beyond anything else, though. I will start crying if left in a dark room thinking about zombies. Windows over sinks freak me out when thinking about zombies due to a book I read where the climactic scene started with the lead character seeing a zombie out such a window.

    Also, grown people dressed up like Santa/the Easter bunny/amusement park mascots, but that is more concern over their intent than actual fear.

  56. Heights. I don’t even like being this tall.

    Kinda weird, cuz as a kid I would climb to the very top of trees that were easily 60 or 70 feet tall, and whip them back and forth for fun. Now I can’t even climb a ladder to change the light on the end of my house.

    Not a fear, but the sound of liquid glugging out of a bottle on TV or radio is like nails on a chalkboard to me. If I can’t turn it off immediately, I have to cover my ears and say “ShutupShutupShutup” til it’s over to block it. Oddly, nails on a chalkboard doesn’t bother me at all.

  57. @MiddleMan: The Palm Pre woman wants your soul!
    @MathMike: Has she got an app for that?

    That’s when she does that slidey thing.

  58. Pressure vessels (compressed air tanks, acetylene bottles, big truck tires). My neighbor growing up was injured when a two-piece truck tire rim that he was servicing came apart on him. My grandmother told me it blew him across the room and ruptured his ear drum (she probably embellished the story a little as she was a bit of a drama queen).

    Anyway, whenever I am standing next to a big-rig I think about that story and get a little nervous :-)


  59. @ Laura W

    When I have a head cold I have a similar issue with rocks in my dreams. I go to pick up a boulder and it feels like a grain of sand in my fingers (though weighs as much as it did when it was a boulder).

    My fear is of large bodies of water that you can’t see the bottom of. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl…

    The easiest thing of all is to deceive one’s self; for what a man wishes he generally believes to be true.
    – Demosthenes

  60. @Billy Clyde Tuggle: Actually, that’s quite possible if it was a wheel assembly for a large truck or semi. The air pressure is quite capable of doing that. They can go off like hand grenades. If so, he’s lucky to be alive. That being said, we were taught that you never should approach an aircraft with overheated brakes in line with the wheel hub because of that very possibility. Having a wheel hub blown through your midsection can ruin your whole day. ;-)

    @bug_girl: No hatred of arthropods here, just caution with certain kinds that I suspect are harmful. I absolutely love mantises and can watch them for hours…I’ve been known to catch moths inside the house and release them outside. I dislike roaches only because of their association with poor sanitation. I just watch bees, wasps and hornets, unless they become a hazard. We actually have planted lots of bee-attracting flowers and shrubs in our backyard. I’m considering asking about having a local beekeeper about leaving a hive in our back garden, too.

    I’ve had pets of just about everything, even spiders (caught in the outdoors and fed bugs for awhile, then released). I just don’t want them crawling around on me. Of course, everyone here has heard of my/my dog’s misadventures with possible dangerous arthropods.

  61. Making phone calls. But not all. Some examples: OK: having a specific problem with the car and getting an appointment to have it fixed
    Freaky: having a vague problem with the car, that might have been caused by the mechanics in the first place and getting an appointment to have it fixed, possibly at their expense

    This ties in with my fear of embarrassment. I fear being embarrassed. I even have trouble watching actors doing made up embarrassing things on TV. It’s followed me since childhood, and doesn’t seem to let up.

  62. @Bjornar: I’m the same way with embarrassment. Terrified of being embarrassed, can’t watch it on TV, can’t read about it. I tried to watch the new tinkerbell movie because I love tink but I had to stop halfway through because I could see massive humiliation coming >_<

    I hate casinos with a bloody passion, but that's less of a phobia. We ended up in one for a meal a few months ago on a family vacation and I basically had a nervous breakdown from sensory overload. LOUD and BRIGHT and FLASHING LIGHTS and CIGARETTE STINK and SO MANY PEOPLE. It was horrible horrible horrible and I never want to be inside a casino again ever.

    I used to be really freaked about making phone calls, especially to someone I didn't know or if I might end up on the answering machine and sound like an idiot. I've gotten better about it, but I still don't much like phones.

    My main irrational fear is cockroaches. HAAAAAAAAAAATE cockroaches. Can't stand looking at pictures of them, panic attack if I see one irl, screamed bloody murder and had a panic attack when one RAN ONTO MY GODDAMN HAND ON MY BED AUGH.

    I rather like bees, as the only ones that have ever stung me were dead and I ran into them floating drowned in my pool. I rescue them if I find them alive in the pool. I also rescue junebugs, though the sensation of their clingy-barbed legs on my hand freaks me out a bit. I don't like wasps because I know they hurt like hell, and also that they're more likely to sting because it doesn't kill them like it does bees. Most other bugs I'm fine with, though I will freak if something flies straight at my face no matter what it is.

    Hypodermic needles is a huge one for me. I had epilepsy when I was little, and I had to get my blood drawn frequently to make sure they medication I was on for it wasn't screwing up my liver. Apparently the people who did my first blood draw when I was five were really horrible and someone sat on me to hold me down, and they fucked around in my arm so much getting the vein that my entire arm was bruised. I don't remember this, I was like five, but my parents tell me so :P Anyway, needles FREAK ME OUT. Lumbar puncture on House? Look away look away augh look away till it's done, look back too soon by accident and nearly have a panic attack. IVs are massively freaky. I HATE shots and getting my blood drawn. Time before last that they tried to give me a shot at the doctor – not that long ago, so I would have been 16ish – I ran off and locked myself in their bathroom, then out and locked myself in my mom's car. (We took the shot home and a friend who's a medical resident gave it to me cos I trust her more.) The most recent shot I've gotten I got embarrassingly profuse praise from the doctor and nurses for being so good about getting the shot. The last time my mom tried to take me for a flu shot at the grocery store – I swear it was AT LEAST five years ago, I was at least prepubescent, but she thinks it was more recent, LIES – I kicked the person trying to give it to me in the shins and ran off. Needles are evil.

  63. Oh! I forgot to mention blood. I’ve passed out 2 or 3 times getting blood drawn. I actually donated once without passing out, but I got the woozy sweats and they had to elevate my feet, and they stopped right after they got the minimum for a useful donation. Still working up the courage to do it again.

    Interestingly though needles themselves don’t really bother me. Vaccinate my ass off, just don’t take my blood away from me!

    @slxpluvs: “ignore them really hard”

    I laughed out loud when I read that! I mean, I know exactly what you mean (that’s what I do for blood draws) but it’s an amusing turn of phrase. I’m going to overuse that from now on.

  64. Heights, and confinement. The last major panic attack I had was while trying to fish something out from behind the bed, and I slipped and fell in such a way that my arms were pinned to my side and I couldn’t push myself up, or move in any way. It took a fair bit of effort to keep calm enough to call for help.

  65. I want nothing more than to love all things creepy crawly so as to fully flush out my consciously determined your-mortal-world-cannot-phase-me persona… it is impeded only by the decidedly not bad-ass “icky icky” dance I do with bugs.

  66. Spiders, bees, anything that looks like a bee, most insects in general, freshly removed body parts, the idea of being eaten alive, and anime nerds/otakus.

    I also get extremely uncomfortable when I have to prepare meat before I cook it. I just start to feel really uneasy when I have to tenderize something because I for some reason put myself in the place of the already dead chicken on the cutting board.

  67. @Kimbo Jones: Oh, me too. I could get a much more rewarding and much higher paying job if only I were willing to talk on the phone. Sighhh…

    Oh, and I used to have this thing about eating meat that looked too much like it did when it was alive. So, no shrimp and no lobster tails and no crab legs and no chicken wings, nothing with a bone… I’m better than I used to be, but not great.

  68. @Kimbo Jones: I’ve gotten over it some partially because my parents made me make some phone calls at various points, and partially because I have comcast and they suck and I keep having to call them about service issues and I can’t get a parents to do that instead.

    I order pizza online, though, which has the added bonus of getting to watch little status updates as a progress bar fills on my order’s completion status. Domino’s has a clever thing there. (Papa John’s closed the location that delivered to where I live :P)

    I wonder what the thing with phones is? I have no problem talking to random strangers in text, and I tend to be fine on voice or video in skype. But phones are ugh.

  69. @Shiyiya: See, the whole point of ordering pizza online is to fill in the special request box with the goofiest thing you can think of. Popular examples would be to request the driver come in a viking hat made of pizza boxes or to send their best Street Fighter IV player.

  70. I have a lot of irrational fears. Being in large groups of people (to the point of anxiety attacks), being lost (to the point of anxiety attacks), being in a small confined area. When were discussing phobias and other fears in my psychology class, I offered the knowledge of my anxiety problems and the professor said, “Wow, you’ve got a few problems don’t you?” Thanks… no really, Dr. C, you just boosted my self-esteem to great heights.

    Also, spiders and velvet. I seriously can.not. stand velvet.

  71. @Shiyiya:

    I wonder what the thing with phones is? I have no problem talking to random strangers in text, and I tend to be fine on voice or video in skype. But phones are ugh.

    I have the phone thing too. I have some idea why it is a problem for me. Of course, some or all of this may not apply to you.

    So much of communication is non-verbal, and this is lost in phone conversations. If you already have trouble with communication, this compounds the problem greatly. You cannot receive the non-verbal cues, and neither can the other person. I also find that silence on the phone is very uncomfortable, so I feel an urgent need to fill that silence with something … anything. This results in saying stuff that you want to pull back because it sounds so bad, but you can’t. In a real conversation (or even if there’s a video connection), you can pause to think and the other person can see that you are doing it. They don’t start saying, “Hello? Hello? Are you still there?… I thought I lost you.”

    Text communication (such as this) is easier for me because the urgency is gone and you can carefully construct what you mean to say. It’s not that everything has to be a brilliant composition, but you at least get to look at it an read it over before sending it. This gives you the opportunity to change wording that might come across wrong, or that you think you may end up wishing to retract. Unlike on the phone, if you quickly blurt something out, you may actually have the opportunity to take the words back before they reach anyone else.

    Add to that the possibility of anonymity, and it beats the phone hands down.

    I really don’t like talking on the phone. I prefer to give a talk to room of 50 people than talk to one person on the phone about um, I need to um, my car is …. there’s something wrong with … the light with the check engine thing came on and, uh I want to see about if you might have any time I could bring it in and if you could take a look at the car which is having some problem….I don’t really I’m not sure what’s wrong but can i make an appointment for you to check out my car?

    I am a Hedge

  72. Bugs. Particularly the grotesquely huge ones.

    I’m from Minnesota, so the largest bugs we have here are not much bigger than a nickel.

    Any insect whose regular name is preceded by the word “giant” or “emperor” is considered by me to be an actual monster. Not to mention an abomination of nature that – to quote a recent Cracked article- both science and religion agree should not exist.

  73. @Im a Hedge: Come to think of it, I don’t much like doing the conversation you have at the bottom there in person either.

    “Right that sounds like it might be a counter-reclined splurd. Have you had any problems with the splurds previously?”

    “With the … ?”

    “[patiently] If you corner real fast to the left, does the car reen at all?[/patiently]”

    “‘Fast’ being, what? 50? ([thinking]WTF is reen?[/thinking])”

    “We’ll get back to you on cost in a week or so, ok?”

  74. @Im a Hedge: Yeah, that is probably a large part of it. Awkward silence freak me out because I start assuming I did something wrong and trying to figure out what… I’ve never been very socially apt >_<

    I had to call the vet to ask about the costs of several things I need done for my cats, and I wrote out a list of everything I needed to ask with spaces to fill in the answers before I was willing to phone.

  75. I used to share a handful of the freak outs previously mentioned. However, I was determined to move past them so I attacked them, after a fashion. To elaborate:

    I was terrified of heights, so I got into rock climbing. Pulling yourself up to a height, trusting your gear, trusting your belay person, and working slowly higher has done wonders. I am still overall more afraid of heights than is rational, but it helped (and was fun)!

    I was also terrified of insects (arthropods in general) so I took an entomology course in college. Now I am fascinated by the little exoskeletal wonders!

    My fear of needles left me with sweaty palms and a racing pulse. To get over that I became a medic in the Army. You can only get poked withe needles so many times before it’s really no big deal (who do you think medics practice their skill on? OTHER MEDICS).

    Now if I can just figure out a way to get over my fear of marilove…

  76. Oh, I just remembered one from when I was little. I used to be /terrified/ to be on a second story anything. I was convinced the floor was going to collapse under me. This gradually faded and was gone by the time I hit puberty.

  77. I just remembered, when I lived in CT I was pretty unnerved by the Sikorsky bridge -ever since one of my professors told me the story of how all the bolts and screws work loose over the winter and the maintenance crews have to go and whack them back in place all the time… Bridges never bothered me before that.

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