(by Anna Lisa Antonucci) (ANSA) – ROME, MARCH 19 – KATE SUMMERSCALE, ATLAS OF PHOBIAS AND mania (DeAgostini Libri, 9.99 Euros). Some are almost harmless and do not interfere or limit our lives too much, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s for eggs, or Johnny Depp’s for clowns, but the phobias from which mankind suffers are many and some very serious. The book that comes out on April 4th for Utet editions, “Atlas of phobias and delusions”, written by Kate Summerscale, lists 99 of them, distinguishing between phobia, i.e. the impulse to avoid something, and mania, the impulse to do something, such as compulsive shopping or trichotillomania, which leads to hair pulling.
The Atlas lists them in alphabetical order and grouped by theme such as phobias towards animals, among the most common fear of spiders, cats, birds, frogs, horses; or those towards objects, the repulsion for wadding, feathers, furs, or for parts of the body, the fear of blood, the dentist or vomit.
“I’m afraid of eggs” confessed to journalist Oriana Fallaci in 1963, the director of “Birds”. “That white thing, round, with no holes… Brrr!” Hitchcock said, adding that eggs weren’t his only phobia. In fact, he said, he was “the scariest and most cowardly man” you could ever meet. He claimed to lock himself in his room every night, “as if on the other side of the door there was a madman ready to slaughter me” and said he was also afraid of his films: “I never go to see my films. I I don’t understand how people see my films.” Actor Johnny Depp said he suffered from a morbid fear of clowns, as reported in the book. “I’ve always had the impression that a darkness dwells within them,” he told the “San Francisco Examiner,” “a real evil potential. I think I’m afraid of them because, thanks to those painted smiles, it’s impossible to tell if they’re happy or if they’re about to bite your face off.” According to the book, coulrophobia is also shared by many children: this was demonstrated by a survey of 250 young patients at the Sheffield hospital from which the Association of Hospital Clowns disagreed according to which doctor clowns reduce tiredness, pain and stress in children . But most of the entries in the atlas, drawn up by Kate Summerscale, English writer and journalist, and translated by Costanza Prinetti, instead describe real pathologies, the most common anxiety disorders of our day: one of all that towards of the cell phone between the phobia of losing it and the fear that it will ring. To be diagnosed as a phobia, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2013), a fear must be exaggerated, irrational, and have lasted for six or more months; and must have caused the sufferer to avoid the feared situation or object so as to interfere with normal functioning.
Salvador Dalí, for example, suffered from such an entomophobia (from the Greek ‘entoma’, insects), that he found some insects more terrifying than death itself. “If I were on the edge of a precipice and a large grasshopper jumped on me – he said – I would rather throw myself into the abyss than endure that horrid ‘thing'”. Even movie star Scarlett Johansson confessed to having been terrified of her cockroaches ever since she woke up to find one on her face as a child. In fact, the book says that certain phobias are much more common in children than in adults, that the percentages are halved in the elderly, but also that women are twice as phobic as men. On average, therefore, one in ten women and one in twenty men suffers from a specific phobia. But, there is a way to heal from phobias and delusions, the book finally suggests, and it is cognitive behavioral therapy. (HANDLE).