Friday the 13th phobia no joke

BY MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 12:00 12/11/2009

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Afraid of being afflicted by a bout of paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Then it's probably best you stay in bed tomorrow, to avoid being struck down with the irrational fear of Friday the 13th.

Though it sounds like a joke, the phobia is documented – with symptoms from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

But at Massey University, academics weren't planning on shutting their cats indoors or wrestling the ladder off the caretaker just yet.

Senior lecturer in clinical psychology, Joanne Taylor said she was yet to meet anyone who suffered from a fear of Friday the 13th.

Though there were "hundreds of thousands" of documented phobias, many were more likely to be strong fears rather than full-blown phobias, Dr Taylor said. "A phobia is something quite severe, it is a fear that is really out of proportion to the danger of the situation."

Real phobias were so strong they interrupted everyday life. For example a person who is scared of driving because of an accident might take another route miles out of their way to avoid the scene.

Common phobias included fears of driving, flying, water or drowning, being in a crowd or stuck in a small space, she said. Younger children often had phobias of animals or the dark.

And it was unlikely a fear of Friday the 13th would cause a major problem for a sufferer – given that this year, they would have only three days to avoid, she said.

At Victoria University, senior psychology lecturer and superstition researcher Marc Wilson said a recent survey he conducted of more than 6000 New Zealanders suggested that about 10 per cent believed the number 13 was related to luck.

Pakeha were less likely to select the No13 for Lotto than other ethnic groups.

Though research has suggested women are more likely to die in car accidents on Friday the 13th, it is the subject of contention.

Critics say that has nothing to do with people actually being unluckier, but rather that people worry more about bad things happening and make anxiety-influenced bad decisions.

Whether residents of Palmerston North will buy into the ancient superstition is hard to predict.

But an archaic council bylaw which banned No13 from being used on mailboxes was recently overturned, suggesting the city is not as superstitious as it used to be.

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- Manawatu Standard

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