Living with phobias


Photo by Pranav Ram

Zoe Pavlu, senior, uses anti-bacterial spray.

Pranav Ram, Staff Writer

Spiders, heights, tight spaces: there is an endless variety of fears that keep people up at night, but some fears are so strong or so unusual that they become known as phobias.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a phobia is “an uncontrollable, irrational, and lasting fear of a certain object, situation, or activity.” These fears can be of anything, even, in Priya Ravella, sophomore’s, case, a jar of mayonnaise.

“I am not comfortable around [mayo] and I would not want to put myself near it. If it was on a sandwich I would be fine with it, but if it was in the jar, I would want to move 10 feet away from it. That’s how gross I find it,” Ravella said.

According to Mayo Clinic, while the root cause of phobias is unknown, it is thought that they can be developed as a reaction to encountering something never seen before.

“I think it started when I was in elementary school. There was this time I went to the grocery store and my friend opened a jar of mayo and I got really scared of it because of the texture and consistency of it [grossed me out],” Ravella said.

Ravella says that mayonnaise does not take up a significant part of her daily life which makes it easier for her to live with her phobia, but when it does inevitably come up in public spaces, Ravella tries to minimize her reactions.

“If I was at home I’d put myself away from [the mayonnaise, but] at school I’d probably be a bit more casual about it because I don’t want to make it seem so dramatic,” Ravella said.

Some phobias cannot be so easily avoided though, and finding people who take them seriously can be a challenging issue as Katie Bachman, freshman, knows extremely well from having myrmecophobia, the fear of ants.

“Some people make fun of me a lot because it’s a stupid fear, but it’s just something [I] have, like how people are scared of spiders,” Bachman said. “I’m scared that they’ll eat me alive. It sounds really stupid, but it’s just what it is.”

Unlike Ravella’s mayophobia, which can just be avoided by not having mayonnaise in her life, Bachman’s is harder to deal with since her house used to have an ant infestation.

“I was in the kitchen when I saw one and then I saw another and they just kept coming and I was so overwhelmed by it that I just started running to my parents and asked them to go kill the ants for me because I was scared,” Bachman said.

Since then Bachman has started finding ways to overcome her phobia, and has seen some positive results.

Katie Bachman, Freshman, uses bug spray. Photo by Pranav Ram

“I looked up how to get over it and so I have tried to push through and try to kill them on my own and it has gotten better over the years,” Bachman said. “I’m not that scared anymore.”

Overcoming phobias does not have to be done alone; Zoe Pavlu, senior, a germaphobe, shows that family can be helpful.
“[My parents] helped me by understanding my phobia, for example we do not share food so they will cut pieces off the food that they have not bitten into yet so I can try it, they’ll make sure that I’m the first one to try a drink,” Pavlu said.

Meeting others who share the same phobia can also be helpful, as Pavlu discovered when she met another person with germaphobia.

“It was nice to know that someone else felt the same way about germs, and felt as gross around germs as I did,” Pavlu said.

These scenarios are a rare occurrence according to Bachman and Ravella’s experiences. However, Bachman had some advice for phobics who feel similarly to how she did.

“You are not alone, most of my life I thought that it was just me, that [my myrmecophobia] was just a stupid fear that I had, but that is just how phobias work,” Bachman said. “Everyone has a fear, it is nothing to be ashamed of.”