Fantastic Phobias: Christougenniatiko Dentrophobia

top-10-scariest-looking-christmas-trees-4Christmas is nearly here and, while most of us are frantically scraping together our last few pennies and trying desperately to find an appropriate gift for awful Aunt Debbie, a small minority are so paralysed by fear that they dare not leave their homes. Christougenniatiko dentrophobia may not be a common one, perhaps because it takes longer to pronounce than it does to cure, but it is still no less crippling.

The term refers, rather obscurely, to the fear of Christmas trees, with “Christougenniatiko” or “Χριστουγεννιάτικο” meaning “Christmas” and “dentro” or “Δέντρο” meaning “tree” in Greek. But what is it about those sparkly spruces that terrifies phobics so much? With their pointed pines, blazing hot bulbs, and imposing stature, Christmas trees may not be quite as innocent as we’ve all been led to believe.

In fact, Christougenniatiko dentrophobics might be on to something. Every Christmas in the US, an average of approximately 250 people are injured and 40 are killed by incidents directly involving Christmas trees and decorations. That means you’re over 80 times more likely to be killed by a Christmas tree than you are by a shark. These evergreen killing machines are everywhere, and they’re just waiting to strike.

Like most phobias, many people fear Christmas trees because they’ve had some traumatic event related to one. Perhaps, as a child, the tree fell on them and caused them some horrific injury. Or maybe they forgot to turn the Christmas lights off one night and, like some festive flame of death, the tree went up in smokes. Let’s be honest, taking a giant piece of dry wood and strapping dangerously hot electrical equipment to it doesn’t seem like the wisest course of action.

top-10-scariest-looking-christmas-trees-8In other cases, the source of the phobia may be a genuine physical aversion to the ferocious firs in question. Unfortunately traditional Christmas trees are a haven for mould, meaning that their simple presence can aggravate any respiratory condition. Sufferers of ailments such as asthma, sarcoidosis, or even simply hayfever may find themselves sniffling, wheezing, and coughing their way through the holiday season. When you’re practically blinded by swollen eyes and your gifts are covered in a thin layer of mucus, it’s understandable that you may develop a hatred for your arboreal adversaries.

Yet the phobia may not be localised to just the trees, as Christougenniatiko dentrophobia is part of a veritable constellation of festive phobias, including but not limited to: Festivalisophobia, fear of Christmas and all Christmas-related things; Fayophobia, the fear of elves; Syngenesophobia, fear of relatives and relations; Ghabhphobia, the fear of presents or gifts; Chiniophobia, fear of snow; Partiophobia, fear of parties; and Prasinosophobia, fear of the colour green. With all of these fears flying around, having a strange man come crawling down your chimney may seem like the least of your worries.

As with all phobias, the best way to conquer Christougenniatiko dentrophobia is by treating both the symptoms and the source, which may prove more difficult in this particular instance since the terror comes but once a year. Psychologists and psychotherapists employ techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises to help combat anxiety attacks, although desensitisation to the object of fear and confronting the original source of the fear is what will cure the phobia itself. Whether it be reliving that time you accidentally got pine needles stuck up your nose or simply screaming your way through a snowy forest, the only way to conquer fear is to face it head on. More intensive measures include talk therapy, psychiatric counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and even hypnotherapy.


Sometimes the road to recover may seem long, and it can be hard to finally branch out, but we should all remember that fear is our daily constant; it is what connects us and what threatens to consume us. Whether it be a fear of Christmas trees, gifts, or switchblade-brandishing elves, in some way we all have fear and we will always have fear, for time immemorial. So next time you invite good old Uncle Derek over for Christmas and he spends most of the day shiftily glancing at your shimmering shrub, have a little compassion.


Fantastic Phobias: Christougenniatiko Dentrophobia

Fantastic Phobias: Swinophobia

Ever had the sneaking suspicion that animals may be plotting against you? Maybe it was that squirrel who gave you a funny look, or that pigeon who appeared to coo derisively as you walked past. While many people love our furry counterparts, still more are terrified of them. Whether it be due to a traumatic event, or just generalised paranoia, the thought of certain animals is enough to fill some people with the deep down tremblies. So it comes as no surprise that several of the most common phobias are related to specific or non-specific fears of various animals.

Swinophobia, a fear that is currently on the rise, refers rather unsurprisingly to the fear of pigs. Its name is derived from the word “swine”, which in turn originates from the Old English word “swīn”. It is not only a general fear of pigs, but can sometimes extend to a disliking of or even a paralysing fear of pork. Let us all take a moment of silence for those swinophobics out there, who are trapped in a horrifying world without bacon. Unlike many phobias, which usually originate from a traumatic event involving the object of fear, swinophobia usually stems from an extreme dislike of the animal, with particular reference to their reputation as dirty and unhygienic.

Though many people, such as George Clooney, find our snub-nosed snufflers practically irresistible, the developing swinophobic usually regards them as a repulsive beast to be avoided at all costs. The incidence of swinophobia appears to be more common in those who follow the Jewish or Muslim faith, as these religions both prohibit the consumption of pork. Followers are encouraged to believe that pigs are the unholiest of animals, so it is unsurprising that many of them fear and/or hate them. To add insult to injury, films like Hannibal and Snatch habitually imply that all pigs want to do is munch on our delicate little faces.

The mere sight of a pig is enough to plunge the swinophobic into a series of panic attacks, with characteristic symptoms such as trembling, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, and a rapid heart rate. More extreme responses like nausea and vomiting are not uncommon, particularly if pork is accidentally ingested. So don’t even try to get facon (fake bacon) past these wary individuals because at best they won’t eat it and, in the worst case scenario, you’ll end up with baconnaise coloured vomit all over your carpet.

As with all phobias, the best way to conquer swinophobia is by treating both the symptoms and the source. Techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises will ease the passing of an anxiety attack, while desensitisation to the object of fear over time will cure the phobia itself. This can range from looking at photographs of piglets (preferably in wellingtons) to a jaunty scream-filled trip to the local petting zoo. For those with a deeply embedded phobia, use of talk therapy, psychiatric counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy or even hypnotherapy may be needed to deduce the source of the phobia and in turn combat it.

Dr. Chris P. Bacon, talented psychiatrist and champion truffle sniffer

Sometimes the road to recover may seem long, and it’s a real pig getting to the end, but we should all remember that fear is our daily constant; it is what connects us and what threatens to consume us. Whether it be a fear of pigs, flowers, or chainsaw-juggling clowns, in some way we all have fear and we will always have fear, for time immemorial. So next time you open a packet of bacon and your new housemate starts violently retching, have a little compassion.

Famous Swinophobics

That’ll do, Bloom

Unfortunately our much maligned yet delicious squealing chums have been the target of a lot of negative press lately, worst of which being Orlando Bloom’s outburst on the set of Kingdom of Heaven. As a closet swinophobic, Bloom thought his secret remained firmly hidden until a rogue pig got loose during filming and he “ran like crazy” to get away from it. To Bloom, a horde of charging orcs is a walk in the park, but one lumbering pig is enough to send him into a fear-induced coma.

In the popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV, there is a side-quest called “Swinophobia”, in which the player must cull five wild boars as their population has gotten out of control.

In 6th episode of American Horror Story: Murder House, Ben is enlisted by client Derrick to help him overcome a fear of urban legends, or specifically one urban legend known as “Piggy Man”. In the story, a butcher from Chicago wears the skinned face of a pig in order to creep up on the unsuspecting swine before butchering them. One awful day, in 1893, Piggy Man slipped over in the pen while approaching the pigs and was subsequently eaten alive. Evidently the “pigs love human flesh” stereotype is a popular one. Looking into a mirror and whispering “here piggy pig, pig” will supposedly conjure the Pigman, who will then dismember you. So you can go ahead and add that to the list of “things I won’t be doing tonight…or ever”.

Fantastic Phobias: Swinophobia

Fantastic Phobias: Gephyrophobia

Take that, bridge!

So we’re going to kick off our first Fantastic Phobias segment with one of those phobias that seems so unremittingly dull that surely no one must suffer from it. Today, we’ll be delving into the nebulous world of gephyrophobia, or fear of bridges. The term comes from the Greek word “γέφυρα” (gephura), meaning, rather unsurprisingly, “bridge”. To a gephyrophobic, bridges can seem so terrifying that they’ll gladly go three hours out of their way simply to avoid using one. Believe it or not, people have actually endangered their own lives in an attempt to evade despicable bridges. In fact, seeing a bridge in a photograph or movie is sometimes enough to send gephyrophobics into paroxysms of anxiety. Unless that movie is I Am Legend. Then they’ll just want to watch the Brooklyn Bridge get blown up over and over again. Sweet, sweet bridge-related vengeance.

Gephyrophobia is a constellation phobia, meaning it is connected to a myriad of other phobias, including fear of tunnels (also gephyrophobia), water (hydrophobia), heights (acrophobia), restricted spaces (claustrophobia), or even wide, open spaces (agoraphobia). This is predominantly due to the fact that, on the whole, crossing bridges involves traversing over water at great height, although the specifics of gephyrophobia are decided by the initial origin of the phobia. The fear may have derived from our primal fear of heights and drowning, but somehow became magnified to an unhealthy level in the phobic. The phobia may have been generated by a traumatic event, such as witnessing an accident or fatality on a bridge. Or it may simply be because bridges are clearly vicious, malevolent entities that feast on the blood of man.

Even news reports of bridge-related accidents can lead gephyrophobics to question the structural integrity of any bridge and deepen their fear. When confronted by a bridge, gephyrophobics will usually experience a myriad of anxiety-related symptoms, such as panic attacks, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, numbness from head to toe, trembling, and nausea. The phobic may even experience horrifying visions of their own death. To the average person a fear of bridges may seem preposterous and irrational, but to the phobic it’s a terrifying reality that they must face every day.

It is such a common and devastating phobia that many cities in America offer services to help sufferers. The Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland and Mackinac Bridge in Michigan all provide a service whereby victims of the phobia can request a public servant to drive their car across the bridge for free, thereby allowing the gephyrophobic to avoid crossing the bridge but still not add hours to their journey. Some thousands of people take advantage of this service every year.

The key to cracking a fear of bridges, or any real phobia, is to combat the anxiety and the source. Use of meditation and breathing exercises will help to reduce immediate stress while exposure and desensitisation will gradually dispel the phobia itself. This could be something as simple as watching bridges in movies, and eventually graduate to crossing smaller and then larger bridges. Talk therapy, psychiatric counselling, and hypnotherapy will all aid in deducing the source of the phobia, which will in turn help greatly in combatting it.

Sometimes the road to recover may seem long, and we’ll have to cross a few bridges along the way, but we should all remember that fear is our daily constant; it is what connects us and what threatens to consume us. Whether it be a fear of bridges, kittens, or axe-wielding maniacs, in some way we all have fear and we will always have fear, for time immemorial. So next time you watch The Bridges of Madison County and your friend starts uncontrollably screaming, have a little compassion.

Famous Gephyrophobics

Although not a conventional gephyrophobic, Matthew McConaughey is afraid of tunnels. He is also, rather bizarrely, deathly afraid of revolving doors.

In the video game Halo, Gephyrophobia is the name of one of the maps. It is so-called because the only two bases on the map are connected by a bridge flanked by snipers’ outposts, so players are frequently killed on the bridge.

So what are you afraid of? Let us know in the comments and your phobia may just feature in our next Fantastic Phobias segment!

Fantastic Phobias: Gephyrophobia