Step right up and pick a phobia

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 2, 2002

The video arrived. I opened the package and read the facts sheet accompanying the tape.

Phobias, it said, are emotional and physical reactions to feared objects or situations. It continued, "A 'specific' phobia is the intense irrational fear of specific objects or situations that pose little or no danger."

Then it listed phobias featured on the National Geographic Channel's weekly series "Phobia." The show airs on Monday nights and each episode focuses on a different phobia.

The first one, ophidiophobia, dealt with the fear of snakes. In this episode, a woman who fears snakes has a big breakthrough. As I watched, I kind of related to her fear, but while I don't like snakes, they don't give me a panic attack. I respect them more than I fear them.

So onto another featured phobia, arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Nope, not my phobia. In fact, I like spiders with all the web spinning and bug catching they do.

Coulrophobia, fear of clowns, and amaxophobia, fear of driving, were two more of the phobias. Clowns don't affect me one way or another, and driving is no problem unless it's maneuvering at the Winn Dixie intersection. That's enough to give anyone a phobia.

Claustrophobia, fear of tight spaces, and acrophobia, fear of heights. I thought I might have a touch of the tight space phobia until I remembered crawling under a house to retrieve Irish setter puppies. There wasn't enough space to lift my head without bumping it, and I was fine.

And there was the time I flew in a helicopter strapped to little seat that was basically outside the aircraft. Oh, and I climbed halfway up an oil rig once wearing heels. I guess those are heights, and I don't remember any irrational fear, although not being scared was probably the abnormal response.

Astraphobia, fear of lightning and thunder. Gephyrophobia, fear of bridges. I am good; bridges are no problem and lightning doesn't bother me either.

Musophobia, fear of rats and mice. I'd classify my feeling more as intense dislike. Nyctophobia, fear of the night or the dark. My only night-fear is of stepping on a rat in the dark.

And the last featured phobia, bacillophobia, fear of germs. Please, I have four children and three grandchildren. Germs are a way of life.

According to the Surgeon General, 8 percent of adults suffer from one or more specific phobias. The most common phobias – animals, insects, heights, flying, automobile driving, water, storms, blood or injections and elevators.

I was feeling good about myself until I read "elevators." That triggered thoughts of another word, one that makes my palms sweat and my heart pound.

ESCALATORS – those horrible moving stairs.

I walk miles to avoid an escalator. Once I walked the length of a large department store searching for an elevator to take me to the second floor. When I found one, it looked and sounded like it was on its last legs. My husband even questioned its safety.

I did not care. It was not an escalator; that was all that mattered. I might fall down an elevator shaft, but I was not risking my life on an escalator.

Then there was the time I thought I was going to die in the Atlanta airport. Have you seen the size of the escalators in the Atlanta airport? And they are the only way to get where you are going. This massive thing goes up and up forever, and then it's straight down. Steps undulating like a giant snake, sucking at your feet, hoping you make a misstep; pure evil in the form of a staircase.

Oh my, I got a little carried away there, didn't I?

Back to the subject. While watching Phobia, people experience anxiety from a phobic's point of view. The series also explores ways to overcome phobias by facing the fear.

Maybe I'll call the National Geographic Channel and suggest one more episode dealing with escalataphobia.

I could use a little help with that one.