Fantastic Phobias: Heliophobia

Truly the stuff of nightmares

While most of us are praising the return of summer and heading outdoors as often as possible to enjoy the sunshine, a select few are locking their doors, closing their curtains, and holing themselves up in the darkest corners of their homes until winter arrives like a bizarre form of reverse hibernation.

These modern-day vampires suffer from what is known as heliophobia: fear of the sun, sunlight, or any form of bright light. In fact, some historians believe that Vlad the Impaler, on whom the character of Dracula was based, may have been a heliophobe himself. If only the Ottomans had had access to flashlights, and perhaps fewer of them would have ended up as human shish kebabs.

The phobia’s name is derived from the ancient Greek word “helio”, which unsurprisingly means “sun”. It may seem irrational to fear the live-giving entity that provides us with light and warmth, but heliophobes might be on to something. After all, if it wasn’t for the ozone layer, the sun would have killed us all a long time ago. In most cases, heliophobia derives from a fear of the health risks associated with overexposure to harmful UV rays, which can cause skin cancer and, in extreme cases, blindness due to macular degeneration.

Not only can the Sun cause blindness, it can also lead to extreme stupidity


Hypochondriacs and nosophobes (people who fear contracting a specific disease, such as cancer) are therefore at higher risk of developing heliophobia. For those with a penchant for vanity, an obsession with the aging effects that sunlight has on the skin may eventually lead to heliophobia. Spending your entire life in a darkened room may not actually stop you from getting wrinkles, but at least you won’t be able to see them.

In some cases, fear of the sun can be triggered by a pre-existing medical condition, such as porphyria cutanea tarda, photodermatitis, erythropoietic protoporphyria, keratoconus, and chronic migraines that are triggered by bright light. Porphyria cutanea tarda is the most common subtype of a rare and debilitating disorder known as porphyria, in which substances known as porphyrins build up in the body and have a negative impact on the skin or the nervous system. When exposed to sunlight, the skin of the sufferer is prone to itching and painful blistering.

Similar symptoms occur as a result of photodermatitis, which is a form of allergic contact dermatitis where the allergen has to be activated by light before an allergic response is provoked. Erythropoietic protoporphyria, another subtype of porphyria, results in extreme photosensitivity of the skin, which can lead to swelling, severe itching, inflammation, and even second degree burns. Keratoconus, on the other hand, is a disorder of the eye that results in the progressive thinning of the cornea, which can make the eyes incredibly sensitive to sunlight and bright lights. When a jaunty trip to the beach ends in crippling migraines or an angry rash all over your body, you can understand why certain individuals might be worried about more than just weird tan lines on a sunny day.

Who would have thought a huge, glowing sphere of hot gas could be so dangerous?


If they make the brave decision to head out in dreaded daylight, heliophobes will often cover themselves in long, protective clothing, carry a sun parasol, and slather themselves in high-factor sunscreen in order to protect themselves from their flaming enemy in the sky. In more extreme cases, they may cease to go outdoors at all when the sun is out.

This means that heliophobes are more prone to vitamin D deficiency and this deficiency, combined with their self-imposed isolation and feelings of alienation from others, may lead to depression. Short-term solutions involve taking vitamin D supplements, but long-term plans must be implemented if the fear is to be conquered entirely. These plans involve tackling both the symptoms and the source of the phobia.

Techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises, as well as anti-anxiety medication, will ease the passing of an anxiety attack, while desensitisation to the object of fear over time will cure the phobia itself. Since the sun isn’t going away any time soon (we hope), exposing the sufferer to it gradually is very feasible. The bold heliophobe might even consider booking a trip to Svalbard, although the temptation to book during the Polar Night instead of the Midnight Sun might be too much. 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.

Sometimes the road to recover may seem long, and it can be hard to let the sunshine in, 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 the sun, the stars, or the man in the moon, in some way we all have fear and we will always have fear, for time immemorial. So next time you open the curtains and your friend runs into the nearest closet, have a little compassion.

Famous Heliophobes

While there are no specific celebrities who suffer from heliophobia, it has been a part of mainstream media for a long time. Well-known mythological figures such as vampires, orcs, and ghosts have traditionally been portrayed as being heliophobic.

4047179404921In terms of modern-day usage, from 1994 to 1996 there was a short-lived magazine known as Heliophobe, which was self-described as “a not-so-sexual fetish magazine exclusively devoted to pale-skinned women”. We’re sure the incredibly creepy nature of this magazine had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it was cancelled after only three issues.

Heliophobe is also the title of an album by a German rock band delightfully known as Scumbucket, while Heliophobia is the fifth song from the album “Days of Summer Gone” by an artist who simply refers to himself as “Chris”. Evidently vitamin D deficiency significantly affects one’s ability to come up with creative names.

Fantastic Phobias: Heliophobia

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 phobes 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 dentrophobes 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 swinophobes 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 swinophobe 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 Swinophobes

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 swinophobe, 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 gephyrophobe, 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 gephyrophobes 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 gephyrophobes to question the structural integrity of any bridge and deepen their fear. When confronted by a bridge, gephyrophobes 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 phobe 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 phobe 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 gephyrophobe 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 Gephyrophobes

Although not a conventional gephyrophobe, 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