Tetraphobia is the extreme and irrational fear of the number 4. This phobia is very common among East Asians, as the number is very similar to the Chinese word for “death.” Like the number 13 for Westerners, the number 4 can be seen as extremely unlucky and is thus used as little as possible. In buildings, there are no floors with this number, nor is the number 4 used on military vehicles. While a mild fear stemming from superstition is reasonable for children, when adults harbor such beliefs they may very well have a genuine disorder.
Causes of Tetraphobia
Unlike having a reasonable fear, tetraphobics are afraid of the number 4 to the point that their ability to lead normal lives is rendered nearly impossible. Like other phobias, there is no universally specific cause. Rather, various unique and specific troubling experiences are to blame for the disorder. Tetraphobia may be the result of superstitious parenting or lack of parenting altogether. Still, like other phobias and psychological disorders, it may be concomitant with bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of Tetraphobia
Like other mental disorders, if the sufferer begins to exhibit the following symptoms when presented with the source of fear, he or she may very well have tetraphobia. Some of these symptoms are:
- Feelings of dread or panic
- Automatic or uncontrollable reactions
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme avoidance
Treatment of Tetraphobia
Treatment for the disorder is usually best left to a mental health practitioner. The goal of any such expert is to first target the initial inciting factor that caused the person’s irrational and extreme fear. The patient and therapist talk about why the fear is unfounded, how they can come to terms with any traumatic experiences that caused the phobia, as well as ways to deal with the symptoms of the condition. This type of therapy is usually very effective, with a vast majority of patients completely overcoming or successfully coping with tetraphobia symptom-free for years, if not for the remainder of their lives.
Some therapists opt to use cognitive behavioral therapy. With this type of treatment, the patient meets with the therapist and in a systematic and gradual progression confronts the source of fear while learning to control the physical and mental reactions to it. By facing the phobia head on, the patient becomes accustomed to it and thus ultimately realizes that his or her initial fears were not grounded in real or imminent danger.
There are many therapists and peer groups willing to help not only with the disorder but also the psychological difficulties attendant with it. If self-help is not working, do not hesitate to reach out to these resources for support.
- American Psychiatric Association – info about phobias in general, causes, treatment.
- Wikipedia – general info regarding tetraphobia, including cultural references.