Do you think twice when you come across the number 13? The fear of number 13 is a strange phenomenon that affects some people. Although it may sound strange to many, the fear it has historical, cultural and psychological roots, making it a real experience for those who struggle with it. This phobia, in fact, has a special name, which medical experts describe as an “irrational fear” that exists in people who already suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
The fear is referred to as triskaidekaphobia in technical terms. Pronounced trĭs’kī-dĕk’ə-fō’bē-ə, the word is described as “extreme superstition about the number thirteen” in the Oxford Dictionary.
Triskaidekaphobia History and Cultural Significance
An important factor contributing to fear of 13 is its association with Friday the 13th, a day that some consider particularly unlucky.
“This belief is linked to various historical events and cultural stories. For example, in the Christian tradition, it is said that he had the Last Supper 13 visitors, with Judas Iscariot being the 13th person, adding a layer of negativity to numbersays Archana Singhal, the founder of Mindwell Counsel.
“Norse mythology also plays a role in perpetuating it fear of 13. Stories recounting the mischief wrought by the God Loki as the 13th participant in a gathering of gods contribute to the superstition. These cultural narratives, passed down from generation to generation, embody the fear from number 13 in the collective consciousness,” he adds.
Psychological aspect of the fear of the number 13
According to Dr. Valli Kiran, Consultant Psychiatrist at SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore, “Fear of the number 13, is an irrational fear that is often present in people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD. OCD consists of 2 components – obsessions and compulsions.”
Now, obsessions in the context of psychological disorders have a different meaning than the usual English dictionary meaning.
Explaining this, Dr. Kiran says, “Obsessions are recurrent intrusive irrational uncontrollable anxiety-provoking thoughts, images, sensations, or urges. Compulsions are the actions the patient takes in response to the anxiety caused by the obsessions.”
He adds: “The most common example of OCD generally given is repetitive hand washing in response to recurrent thoughts that the hands are still dirty despite adequate washing. Recurrent thoughts that the hands are dirty are obsessions and repetitive hand washing in response to Obsessions are compulsions Here the patient washes the hands even though he knows the hands are clean because the repetitive thoughts are stormy and very distressing and the patient gets temporary and momentary relief from the obsessions by washing the hands ».
In the same way, those who suffer from an irrational fear of the number 13 may have recurring thoughts about the number 13, thinking that they are doomed or that they or their family may be hurt in some way. They see 13 everywhere — on license plates, phone numbers they come across, etc.
“To deal with these thoughts of doom due to encountering the number 13, he may pray to God repeatedly, develop some avoidance rituals, or he may do some mental calculations to turn the number 13 into something else, etc. The fearful thoughts are the obsessions and the repetitive prayers and mental manipulations are the compulsions,” explains Dr Kiran.
There is a cure for Triskaidekaphobia?
Dr Pavana S, a consultant psychiatrist, relationship expert and sexologist from Bangalore, says that fear can be dealt with by “a personalized and holistic approach”.
“In clinical practice, the treatment of triskaidekaphobia involves an individualized and holistic approach. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy and relaxation techniques can be used to help people gradually face and overcome their fear,” he says, adding: “Understanding the cultural, religious and historical contexts of triskaidekaphobia allows psychiatrists to adjust their fear. therapeutic interventions to the unique needs of each patient, fostering a deeper understanding of the complex interplay between superstition and the human psyche.”
[Disclaimer: The information provided in the article, including treatment suggestions shared by doctors, is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.]
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