V is for Very, Very Scary Things

Welcome to Thoughty Thursday here at More Cowbell! Thanks to a visit to the dentist yesterday, I’ve got phobias on my mind.

Earlier in the month, y’all got to hear about me getting wigged out by the dentist.

Sure enough, yesterday was filled with sucky things and scrape-y jobbers that turn me into a white-knuckled freak. I didn’t even have an iPod to save me, thanks to an emergency trip to the pediatrician that dragged me out of the house before I could gather my dental supplies.

I swear to God, I almost asked for the gas. (At the dentist, not the pediatrician. That gets pretty well covered at the pediatrician’s office.)

Phobias are a tricky thing. Some of them are sudden (like my fear of heights) and some creep up on you over time (dental appointments…*shudders*).

What is a phobia?

A phobia is a completely irrational fear. Sufferers know they are behaving oddly. But that doesn’t lessen the fear – in fact, it can make it worse. Phobias are a subconscious reaction — logic and rationality don’t help. In short, it is a flaw in their perception of reality.

I looked up the 10 Most Common Phobias. Did you know that the rest of the world fears different things than Americans?

Some of the “World Top 10” — Fear of snakes, darkness, another person, dogs and the dentist — did not make the U.S. Top 10 Phobia list, which is shown below.

Here are the most common phobias reported by American men and women.

1. Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders. There is no escape from these eight-legged beasts. They live in our houses, gardens, and even our places of work. True arachnophobes are even scared of pictures of spiders (which is why I didn’t use one for this post).

2. Social phobia – the fear of social situations. More than simple shyness. This is an extreme fear of being scrutinised by others, or humiliated by one’s own actions. This is usually where the fear of public speaking falls.

3. Aerophobia – the fear of flying. In a plane, obviously. Often paired with claustrophobia.

4. Agoraphobia – the fear of inescapable situations. The result is anxiety and panic attacks, which can easily become self-perpetuating. Extreme agoraphobes are confined to their own home, which is the only place they consider to be safe.

5. Claustrophobia – the fear of confined spaces. Sufferers will stay well away from elevators, trains and tiny cupboards under the stairs. May cause panic attacks if escape is not possible.

6. Acrophobia – the fear of heights. Sufferers may have panic attacks and put themselves in genuine danger if they can’t get down. Often confused with vertigo – which is merely a dizzy or spinning sensation and not necessarily caused by heights.

7. Emetophobia – the fear of vomit. No one likes the sight or smell of vomit, but these sufferers will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the stuff.

8. Carcinophobia – the fear of cancer. Although it’s not contagious, a carcinophobe will believe he has cancer because he touched someone else with the disease.

9. Brontophobia – the fear of thunderstorms. Also known as astraphobia. Child and adult sufferers alike hide away from thunder and lightning, lest they suffer panic attacks and have difficulty breathing.

10. Necrophobia – the fear of death. Derived from the fear of being buried alive, after early excavations of coffins showed scratch marks made by trapped victims. Also relates to coffins and corpses.

There’s also a new phobia on the rise, according to British researchers:

Nomophobia is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. The term, an abbreviation for “nomobile-phone phobia“, was coined during a study to look at anxieties suffered by mobile phone users.

Which one of the above surprised you the most? For me it was #7. Fear of vomit? Huh. I can only speculate on what parents do when they have that one.

Do you have any phobias (and what is it)? Have you always had it, or was there a starting point that you remember? I see lots of writers fight the fear of success or failure (feel free to address that one too). Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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67 Responses to V is for Very, Very Scary Things

  1. emmaburcart says:

    Wow! I feel so much better now! My fear is a real phobia. I have #7. In college, I had to sell my car because someone threw up in it and just knowing that had happened stopped me from ever getting in it again. And don’t ever ask me to be the D.D. because I would spend the whole time terrified that someone would barf on or around me, or on something I own. In fact, I really don’t like to be around drunk people for that very reason. I just end up with a night-long-panic-attack. No fun. I have a good friend with the same issue, and she has two young daughters. She deals with it very easily: she doesn’t deal with vomit. That is her husband’s duty. I’m glad to know it is a reasonable expectation because whoever I marry will have the same deal. Explosive diarhea, no problem. It can even be funny. But, barf, I can’t do.🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Emma, you poor thing! Barf is just kind of hard to avoid, especially as a parent. I’m just going to hope, for you, that if you have kids, your hubby handles all spit-up. You must be MISERABLE when you get the stomach flu.😦

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  2. The fear of vomit surprised me. Nobody likes to look at it, especially when it’s spewing from his/her own mouth, but I did not know it even had a name. How horrible for them! I can’t fathom what it’s like during flu season. Do they develop short-lived agoraphobia to avoid exposure?

    That puts the skids on my Lucy-of-Peanuts-fame The Doctor is Real In advice booth. I am not qualified. I’ll have to come up with another money-making idea.

    writingwritingwritingwritingwrintingwriting <==== my subconscious is an intrusive little booger

    I have a fear of heights; irrational, I know. My toes tingle and I get a sense of vertigo just looking at people on stepladders and high-girder construction projects. The lumberjack balanced atop a tall pole at a show in Vancouver? Fuggedabouddit. Could. Not. Look.

    I had an extremely odd don't-know-what-set-it-off fear of escalators for years. I can remember the first time I experienced it (Atlanta airport after getting off the tram), but poof (!), one day it simply disappeared. But, not before I took the longest, I-am-going-to-have-a-heart-attack-and-keel-over SOLO ride down The Longest Escalator (IMHO) in the Universe. Descending into the bowels of the MARTA transit system in Atlanta. White-knuckle grip on the handrail (not on reality, obviously), sweaty palms and face, irregular heartbeat — the whole shebang.

    I got off at the bottom, took the elevator reserved for handicapped people to street level, and hailed a cab.

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    • I’ve been on that escalator during my one and only trip to Atlanta! My sister-in-law and I got off the MARTA train, looked at what appeared to be a moving Stairway to Heaven, and said “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Took forever to get to street level on that thing! I can’t even imagine seeing that thing while having a fear of escalators.

      Like

      • So, it wasn’t my imagination that made it a tumble into hell waiting-to-happen? I would have PAID for people to stand in front of me so I have something else to look at. But, no. I was alone.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Gloria, as I’ve gotten older my fear of heights has extended. I’ll go down escalators and stairs, but I don’t love them. And now I have to hold on tight to overcome that fear (of plummeting to my death) that wants to sneak in.

      But ladders? Fuhgeddaboutit. And balconies that look flimsy? Oh no. Uh-uh. Only if I bungie chord myself to inside the building.

      Like

      • I can not fathom stepping onto that clear platform that extends over the Grand Canyon. And, those commercials with people standing on high, high, rock platforms surveying their world? If someone plunked me atop one of those, it would be my last look at this world. I’d have a heart attack and keel off the damn thing.

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  3. LauraDrake says:

    Wow, Emma, I didn’t even know that was a phobia! Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather break a bone than hurl, but other people’s, I can live with. Well, not LIVE with, but you know what I mean.

    Thank you SO much for not putting spider photos up, Jenny. I still have bad dreams that one is in the corner, smiling at me, waiting….I run away, and there he is, in another corner. *shudders*

    Banner bad day was when I found out my claustrophobia had reached a bad stage – in a WWII submarine. I stood up in a lecture in a miniscule galley, and said, “I think I’m going to throw up.”
    Two phobias in ONE day!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yeah, I had a great pic too. But I thought, “No…that’s really not nice.” I don’t care for spiders, but I don’t dream about them. You poor thing…

      So, do you hate elevators?

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    • On the topic of spiders…
      [Yes, I have more productive things to do with my time than piddle around in your comments, Jenny, but …]

      Poor, Laura! I get claustrophobic, too…especially in situations where I’m underground (or, water).

      On spiders? Picture me prepping for my first colonoscopy, back-In-the-day when it was a ring-around-the-rear all-night affair with the potty. We have a small potty room in the master bath. I sat there, trying not to fall asleep, and slide off the throne when I spotted a scorpion — a dead one — but, a scorpion along the baseboard. Gaaaaah!

      It would have scared the chit outta me, but I the prep meds had that under (or out of) control.

      Like

  4. Julie Glover says:

    From my psych background, I can’t help but reiterate that major fears are not phobias. Phobias, as you’ve said, cause panic attacks and even catatonia in the face of the fear agent. I have plenty of things that give me the willies, but nothing rises to the level of phobia in my world.

    I wrote about the weird names for phobias sometime ago. Some of the odder ones were Rhytiphobia (fear of wrinkles), Omphalophobia (fear of belly buttons), and Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words). I may, however, be developing a case of Ephebiphobia…the fear of teenagers. But that one is entirely rational!

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  5. I have a theory about some phobias: I think they could be related to past life experiences. Things that make me go, “hmm.”🙂

    I don’t put arachnophobia into that category, though. I mean, what’s to love about all those legs? Gross.😀 I don’t think I’m an arachnophobe, but I’m pretty close. ::shudder:: Aside from that pseudo phobia, I don’t have any that I’m aware of.

    I know someone who has emetophobia. Even with her own children, it’s her husband who has to help them when they’ve got a stomach flu. Where does that come from? It tickles my mind.

    As for nomophobia… Ugh. I can see how it is becoming a thing in our hyper-techno-connected society, but it just seems wrong. I fear I’d say, “Snap out of it!” to sufferers. Love Moonstruck.😉

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yeah, I’m with you on spiders. All those legs and all those eyes are just CREEPY. But they don’t make my stomach shudder or my head go light with fear like heights do. I love Moonstruck too.🙂

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  6. Hey, I went to the dentist yesterday, too! But, unlike you, I love my dentist and look forward to going. In fact, I was eating chocolates just a short while before heading out the door to see him. He never even knew.🙂 He keeps my teeth all sparkly and you know how much I love sparkly anything.

    Believe or not, I’m claustrophobic. Yep. Ever since my brother used to lock me in a closet when I was a kid, or roll me up in a blanket an sit on me, or, well any number of things that involved me being confined in a dark place and terrified. Of course, my siblings thought it was all in good fun and hilarious. Me? Not so much. And my dog is brontophobic! Guess what we had last night? A killer thunder storm! She’s got her very own thundershirt and Xanax. Poor girl. I’m always afraid she’s going to have a little puppy hear attack.

    I fear I’m becoming more and more nomophobic. If there’s a cure for this, I don’t want to know. I love my phone. You can’t have it. Never! Death before separation of me and my phone. Actually, I can live without it. I can. For at least ten minutes while I shower. I think. Yes, yes I can. Definitely.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I do know how much you love sparkly! And your teeth are gorgeous. I have gotten my dental phobia down to a dull roar and I’m MUCH better now than I used to be.

      And, you had a killer thunderstorm down in San Diego?? I didn’t even know we had any decent ones here in SoCal. Missouri thunderstorms I’ve seen (and MAN they are impressive). But Southern California, not so much. Call me next time you’re expecting one and I’ll come down to watch. I love thunderstorms.🙂

      By the way, I can’t believe your mean brother locked you in closets and smothered you in blankets. Do you even still talk to that guy??

      Like

  7. Jane Sadek says:

    I had one sneak up on me and I’m not even sure what to call it. I took a waterslide into the pool at a resort, expecting nothing but fun, because I’ve always loved the water. I even taught swimming when I was younger. But coming off that slide, the second I hit the water, I went into major freak-out mode. I thought I was going to have a heart attack before I could get out of the pool. I’m not sure exactly what it was that upset me, because I was able to swim to the side under my own steam, but as soon as the water covered me, I became frantic. My husband saw my head pop out of the water and he’d never seen such a look of horror. I’m not afraid of drowning, because I’m thrilled to get on a cruise boat. I’m not afraid of water in most situations, but I never want to feel that way again, so I stay away from the deep end of the pool, diving boards, waterslides and all water parks.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I looked and can’t find the name of this phobia, but I know you’re not alone. And yours, like mine, was brought on by a specific experience.

      According to my therapist pal, phobias get worse as we get older because we have more free-floating anxiety and it attaches to concrete things.

      That’s not the case with me. I’ve had an irrational fear of heights ever since I got thrown over the side of a cliff. I was wearing a swiss seat and all – there was no chance of me dying (probably) – but that is when I first experienced that sensation of out-of-control falling.

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  8. I think everyone under the age of 21 has nomophobia. I hate the way people look at their cell phones every freaking second. And frankly, it’s parents who have instilled this in their children by giving them all that technology to use, even in restaurants, when they are practically babies. Sooooo rude. I think the only thing I’m afraid of is writing a really sucky book.😉

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It’s bizarre to me too, Renee! And it’s definitely the parents. Hubs and I already decided to institute a cell-phone basket for mealtimes as the Little Bean gets older. When you sit at our table, you toss the phone in the basket. I’m sure we’ll be the talk of the town.

      And p.s. I think we’re all afraid of writing a crap book. The only thing to do is keep writing, right?

      Like

    • Both of your fears of writing a really sucky book are irrational. With your voices? No. Freaking. Way.

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      • patriciasands says:

        Too true, Gloria. Too true! And that goes for you too, BTW. I’m getting tired of tapping my fingers waiting for great reads from all three of you! I’m afraid I’ll get too old and miss them and I think there’s a phobia for that … Julie would know!

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  9. K.B. Owen says:

    Hi, Jenny, great topic today! (So glad you made it through the dentist yesterday, btw – good for you!). As I got older, I developed acrophobia – fear of heights. I never had a problem before I hit my late 30s. Now, driving over long, high bridges, I feel like I’m going to DIE. Really. We stopped going to Shenandoah National Park for family outings, in part because I am so scared of those mountain trails. When I see my kids climbing up for a better view of something, I feel like I’m going to pass out. And don’t get me started on those courtyard-style hotels, with the open corridors that go all the way up to the top floor! I can’t even go near the railing.

    So weird. I’ve never had a bad fall or traumatic experience that precipitated this. Just glad to have my feet on the ground!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      How did you ever manage ziplining with Thing 1 and Thing 2??! I had no idea you were afraid of heights! The funny thing is, if I know I can’t fall and DIE, I’m not at all afraid of being high up…I kind of like it. Does ziplining fall in that category.

      Like

      • K.B. Owen says:

        I know, weird, right? I was really nervous thinking about it ahead of time, but when your 70lb (barely) 10 year old goes merrily ahead of you, well – it’s a pride thing. After the first couple of zips, I was enjoying myself!

        Like

  10. Hmm. I would have to say that I lean toward acrophobia. I’m not afraid of bridges. But I totally freaked out on the Eiffel Tower. Here we were in Paris mind you and hubby wanted to go up to the top to get the full view of the city and I’m clinging to a gurder waiting for the next elevator to take me down. The whole thing is open. You can see through the floor. It’s grated. So didn’t make my day. Hubby went up as I went down. We met back on the ground. I had the same problem when visiting the Empire State building and when he took me to the Rainbow Room on top of 30 Rockefeller Center. Just couldn’t do it. The whole restaurant was glass. Well of course, cause if your up that high one would want to see the beautiful view. Not me apparently. I clung to the interior walls until the elevator took me down to safety. Can’t say I didn’t try.🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      See, and my fear of heights is really my fear of plummeting to my death. So, as long as the structure is safe, or the room is windowed, I can usually relax. That had to be dreadful to feel like you were missing out on the famous sights! And good for you for trying.🙂

      Like

  11. Jess Witkins says:

    Thank you for not putting a spider picture in your blog. I have arachnophobia. I fear all bugs really. I do not like them, and I can’t kill them myself. But spiders are the worst. And I have like laser eyes for finding them. It’s the first thing I do when I move into a new house – I scour all the ceilings and walls for dark spots, chips, holes etc. because I have to KNOW what is part of the wall and what could be a bug. I memorize those marks and if I see anything different, I call one of the boys I live with to kill it!

    Like

  12. Bears. Heights. Those are the main ones. Some other minor ones, like fear of running out of Diet Dr. Pepper. (You have done a smashing job with the blogging challenge IMHO. I’ve never seen the alphabet so creatively used!)

    Like

  13. tomwisk says:

    Jenny, where’d you get my secret list of phobias? I thought that was between me and Dr. Zeitgeist my shrink.

    Like

  14. Bill Parker says:

    I like Julie’s reminder that most of us probably don’t actually have any “phobias.” Though I’ve often said I’m “mildly claustrophobic,” which I’m sure isn’t true at all — just strongly dislike being in small spaces. Though I’ve noticed it’s pretty much only when other people are in there with me. Wasn’t too far away from a panic attack a few times on the trains in Chicago during rush hour.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I think there’s a certain down side to being creative people with great imaginations. We can IMAGINE all the crimes and suffocation that can happen on a crowded train in Chicago…and we get a little hopped up.🙂

      Like

  15. viveka says:

    Jenny, Susie sent …. me !!! What an interesting post … I don’t suffer from any phobia on your list … I’m scared from falling from a height where I can survive and become handicap or not able to take care of myself. Never afraid when I’m up on heights that I know that the chances are zero to survival.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Fascinating, Viveka! It’s kind of a conditional fear you have. I too hate the thought of being unable to take care of myself. That survival fear is a big part of what pushes me to work hard.

      Like

  16. Cory Imhof says:

    I am a freak when it comes to rodents. Small, scurrying, burrowing, scratchy little monsters scare the be-geezers out if me. If they scurry and squeak at me OMG Jesus-Take-the-Wheel I’m on the nearest elevated surface crying and covering my head…yes they climb and they are going to get in my ears, I just know it!! And the sounds they make when my cats kill them in the middle if the night…shudder, sudden wave of panic… Don’t get that dead mouse in my shoes you beast!!

    Like

  17. shanjeniah says:

    I am acrophobic; have been most of my life,and, a while back, an old, old memory surfaced that might explain it -my first memory of an abusive experience came when i was sitting in my high chair with my back to the kitchen, not finishing the cold oatmeal I was supposed to eat, and my mother yanking me up from behind, spinning me upside down *in the air and unseen*, and spanking me, then slamming me back into the high chair.

    It’s terrifying, even now. I had no control whatsoever over what was happening, and that was the part, I think, that led to unreasoning responses like these:

    I can’t use a diving board. I stand there, immobilized by the fear that i will sail straight over the pool, and land on the concrete apron on the other side.

    I am afraid of slipping off a curb, or stepping stones, even though it’s only a few inches’ difference.

    Into adulthood, I had a terror of falling backwards down my my parents’ garage steps. I was certain that was how I was going to die.

    I have challenged my phobia through the years, but never moved beyond it. My favorite daring move was to go with this guy I was living with on a Grand Canyon hike to Havasu Falls. Past that, there is a series of waterfalls and terraces. This guy told me that we had to do Mooney Falls, because it was too lovely at the bottom to miss.

    I had a book on Canyon history, so I knew that the Supai natives had named it Mooney falls as a joke – a white man named Mooney had fallen to his death there!

    Encouraging, no?

    The last 70 feet of the trail is a descent straight down the cliff face, using footholds and heavy chains attached with railroad spikes. No lie!

    I was frozen in terror. The only way I made it down was that i was sure I was going to die, anyway, and there were other people waiting to descent. Oh, and that guy went before me, and moved my feet into each foothold, because there was NO WAY I was looking down!

    At the bottom were glorious turquoise pools, fern grottoes, quiet side canyons. And that guy who had put up with my phobias proposed to me while holding me in waist deep water.

    I’ve always maintained that he knew I was trapped into agreeing, because I NEEDED him if I was ever going to get back UP that cliff….

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  18. Hey there, first time visitor – Susie L. sent me!
    My worst fear has always been a fear of heights. It started way back when I nearly fell into the Grand Canyon. I did some alternative therapy with it and it was decided that what I truly have is fear of embarrassment. It made sense and I have tried hard to work with that.
    Scott
    My contribution is a short story from about a week ago.
    http://kindredspirit23.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/visitor-from-hell-a-short-story/

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  19. Planes and claustrophobia for me. Not so much as a kid, but after I became a mom. I also get super anxious at the dentist, jumping out of the chair at the water squirter, but that I had even as a kid. I remember seeing something on TV about a woman being terrified of chickens, not just live ones, but people in chicken suits.🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      WOW! Chickens? That’s a new one. Although I saw a thing online when I was researching this that some people have a phobia of pickles. That completely tripped me out.

      Now that you mention it, I remember your post on your fear of flying. You made it funny, but I could tell that was just NOT your happy place.

      Like

  20. PapaBear says:

    Jenny Hansen…, didn’t you live next door in another life…, had 3 cats that sat on the fence and caterwalled the neighborhood after 3am??? No…, then it must have been that other Jenny!
    Stopped by from Susie’s party and explored your site. Great stuff, and really funny ! I need to read some more of this. Best to ya !
    Paul

    Like

  21. The Guat says:

    Was hanging out at Susie’s party and thought I would stop by … every time I see you I remember that Christopher Walken SNL skit and I crack up. I know I’ve told you this before but I just love it. I don’t have any phobias, but what’s up with that phone phobia. People need to get a grip. But like you sometimes going to the dentist does freak me out, but not so much because of the drilling, it’s the damage to my wallet…brokaphobia. Yeah I got brokaphobia🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Guat, I freaking LOVE that skit. Hence the name.🙂 No one says, “I could use a little more cowbell” like Chris Walken. He is the complete stud actor.

      You had me clutching my tummy laughing over brokaphobia. I’ve got a toddler – I understand that disorder completely!

      Like

  22. Phil says:

    Honestly, I don’t have many phobias. I do think many of us are borderline nomophobiacs though. If I forget my cell phone I need to go back to get it. If I forget to charge it I freak out a bit as I know it will die on me. Oh crap. I might have a phobia.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Phil, living in NYC, I don’t blame you. They’ve taken out almost all the pay phones everywhere I went last time I was in The City. If you didn’t have your cell, you’d have to hit people up for their phones on the subway. That could get ugly.🙂

      Like

  23. susielindau says:

    I think a lot has to do with the media. Everything is so over-dramatized. It’s no wonder there is a fear of cancer. Most of us will die of heart disease!
    I always looked forward to going to the dentist until the last time I was there. I disagreed with a comment she made about flossing and the dental hygienist stabbed me in the gums. No lie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I agree that the media pretty well sucks these days, Susie. But OH MY GOD, I can’t get over that your hygienist stabbed you! Did you report her to the dentist??

      Like

  24. Thank you for my new favorite word for today: Emetophobia.

    Like

  25. I came by here and read some of your spots about vomit. I don’t have what type of response to that action but it was quite amusing to me the way you people explain it. I found you at Abuse me and use me. Susie’s blog so I thought I would check it out. I wrote a poem about a guy that had a hang over. My girl friend often refers to it as the puke poem so That was along the lines of the subject. I will come back take care and hope you find some comfort in knowing that life does go on for all of us LOL Robert Lee Niswander Aka Plot121

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  26. Tim Mushey says:

    Great post Jenny! That was a lot of fun to read. I am looking forward to following in the future. Enjoy the rest of your Friday and weekend ahead… Good luck!

    Like

  27. Karen Rought says:

    Fascinating! I love learning about this stuff. I would say the only phobia I truly have would be social phobia. It affects my daily life unlike some of my other fears (as opposed to phobias). One of my next biggest fears is the fear of birds. I had an umbrella cockatoo land on my head when I was younger and, well, that’s a big bird! I love birds though, but when they’re out of their cage, or they fly too close to me, I get sweaty palms, a racing heart, the whole works. I’m getting better though, which is a relief. They’re beautiful creatures!

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  28. Pingback: Saturday’s Share: Havasu Falls Memories | shanjeniah

  29. I’m totally of the fear of vomit variety. I can handle anything but that. Of course that’s what happens when you get trapped on a cross-continental flight as a child with a projectile vomitter. It would make anyone have that fear. ::shudders::

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