Never Fear, Phobias Are Creeping Up on All of Us

Article excerpt

THE older my mother gets, the more fearful she becomes.

She's frightened of odd things, random things, pretty much everything. She won't drive in the rain. She thinks tall trees are going to fall on her home.

Recently she watched a late-night film about body-snatchers and thought, "yep, that's plausible". Didn't sleep a wink for two days.

It's almost ironic to be increasingly frightened when one has already survived cyclones, floods, cancer scares, childbirth dramas and three teenagers.

You'd think one would start to feel resilient, blessed, strong even. Instead mum simply thinks she's due. It's her turn and death could strike from any dark corner.

But, look, I get it. Fear is a shield of protection, albeit a false one, and if life is one big mind game, then it's not such a bad thing to be a head case. (And I don't mean to make her sound paranoid. She's just ridiculously aware. She spots the red-light chaser about 200 metres before his stupid decision.)

And she's in good company. The world is growing increasingly fearful. Psychiatrists' waiting rooms are full, pharmacists can't dispense anxiety medication quick enough and it's been estimated that about one in four of us harbours a life-affecting phobia of some sort.

Possibly the human race has always been inherently scared (the penance for being inherently self-destructive), but these days we're far more organised about the sources of our panic.

We have names for every type of phobia (well almost, but more about that later) and there are self-help groups and online dump sites for mental malaise. …