What Is the Fear of Numbers?

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Question: What Is the Fear of Numbers?

Answer: The fear of numbers is arithmophobia. This fear is somewhat unusual in that it encompasses a wide variety of specific phobias. For example, a generalized fear of numbers - that is to say, a fear of all numbers - can seriously affect the ability of a person to do math, which limits both educational and professional opportunities. The fear of particularly large numbers is usually much less limiting, allowing sufferers to perform basic computations.

Arithmophobics also comprise people who are fear specific numbers. In cases like these, arithmophobia is usually rooted in superstition or religious phobias. The best-known example is a fear of the number 13, which is also called triskaidekaphobia. This fear has been linked to early Christians, and the number 13 appears in a lot of Biblical traditions. (There were 13 people at the Last Supper, for example, and Judas is said to be the 13th person to join the table.) But the number 13 is also an unlucky number in other cultures - Loki, the Norse god of mischief, is also said to be the 13th god of the pantheon. Today, many hotels omit the 13th floor and room 13, and the fear of Friday the 13th (which is called paraskevidekatriaphobia) combines the fear of Friday as an unlucky day with the fear of the number 13.

The number 666 is another number that's widely feared in Western cultures. For example, former President Ronald Reagan had the street number of his home in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, changed from 666 to 668.


Further East, meanwhile, 4 is considered an especially unlucky number in countries like China, Vietnam, and Japan because it is something of a homophone for the word "death" in the local languages. Just like in the West, hotels are prone to leaving the number 4 out of their floors and room numbers, and corporations have even followed suit: the serial numbers of Canon cameras don't include the number 4, and Samsung phones no longer use model codes with 4 either.

These kinds of arithmophobia have real world consequences, even if the fear is based on what might seem like harmless suspicion. A 2001 study in the British Medical Journal, for example, found that Asian Americans in California were 27 percent more likely to die of a heart attack on the fourth day of the month - it was hypothesized that the psychological stress of an unlucky day can tip the superstitious over the brink.

For this and many more reasons, if you find yourself suffering from debilitating arithmophobia, it's a good idea to seek advice from a trained professional in mental health.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5™ (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

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