You could say the history of phobias goes farther back than we humans, and our consciousnesses. Animals develop fears of things all the time. Fear of something and stress reactions are probably THE most fundamental and primitive of all emotions. They enable folks to go after important goals and react accordingly to dangerous situations. 

Above is a  Roman mosaic of Phobos, god of fear. The name from which the word phobia derived. Phobos, the Olympian Greek god of fear and panic, and his twin brother Deimos where the sons of Aries the Greek god of war. Phobos does not appear as a character in any myths, he is more of a personification of the fear brought by war. As sons of Aphrodite, goddess of love, the twins also represented the fear of loss.

In 600 BC a Byzantine Emperor named Heraclius had a phobia of bodies of water large enough to drown in (Thalassophobia) because of a horoscope cast by a trusted astrologer named Stephanos.

Somewhere around 440 BC The earliest records of phobic behaviors were left by a Greek physician named Hippocrates, but he was not responsible for the term phobia.

63 BC Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar suffered from astrophobia (fear of lightning) after witnessing someone near him get struck by lighting. It was because of this phobia He built the temple of jupiter to apes the gods and hide underground whenever there was a thunderstorm.

Around 50 AD a Roman doctor named Celsus used the term phobia to describe a different person with a fear of water that he then called hydrophobia.

Many phobias now have technical terms starting with a Roman or a Latin word. Such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), tetraphobia (fear of the number 4), or aviophobia (fear of flying). Nowadays we have a much higher understanding and clear classification of phobias and anxieties so don’t take it for granted, back then you could have easily just been deemed some kind of crazy! Good thing that doctors started discovering how many of these psychological problems, although different, are in fact the same basic problems.

Okay, let’s take a look at more phobias throughout history..

In 1162, Genghis Khan, great Khan of the Mongol Empire dealt with cynophobia (fear of dogs). Mongolian dogs were actually known for being quite big loud and violent animals. Still the fearless leader was criticized for fearing and avoiding them.

In 1786, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word phobia was defined as meaning “A fear of an imaginary evil, or an undue fear of a real one”,  Phobia was seen again in print in 1801. By the late 1800s, people started using the term phobia a lot.

In 1895, as a young man, Winston Churchill had glossophobia (fear of public speaking) as he worried that his stuttering would affect his ability to go into politics.

In the 1920s, Franklin D Roosevelt suffered from pyrophobia (fear of fire) from childhood. After he lost the use of his legs his phobia intensified by his concern of being unable to escape a burning building.

In the 1940s, Hitler suffered from a range of oral health problems due to his dendrophobia (fear of a dentist). Hitler was squeamish about teeth, he didn’t like the pain and complained about his sweet tooth. As a result he ended up with yellowing teeth, abscesses and gum disease. He was also known for having bad breath, maybe it just had something to do with his odd fixation with poop.

In 1947 phobias became a separate diagnostic category in the International Classification of Diseases. Then Classified by the American Psychiatric Association in 1951.

In the 1960s, we officially divided phobias into three different kinds of phobias.

  1. Agoraphobia
  2. Social Phobia
  3. Specific Phobia

Nowadays countless modern psychoanalysts agree that psychological issues such as phobias can be overcome by resolving conflicts in the mind. Often times, people are frequently unaware of all the internal conflicts that are happening within them.





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