What Phobia Is the Fear of Numbers?

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The fear of numbers is called arithmophobia. This fear is somewhat unusual in that it encompasses a wide variety of specific phobias, including a generalized fear of all numbers and fear of specific numbers. It is also sometimes called numerophobia. It is classified as an anxiety disorder.

Generalized Arithmophobia

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.

This limits both educational and professional opportunities. The fear of particularly large numbers is usually much less limiting, allowing the person to perform basic computations.

Fear of Specific Numbers

Some people with arithmophobia may 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. It is said to be the "number of the beast" as translated into English versions of the Book of Revelation verse 18. For example, former President Ronald Reagan had the street number of his home in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, changed from 666 to 668.

In Asia, 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.

Consequences of Arithmophobia

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 that fear of numbers in general or specific numbers is creating problems in your life, it's a good idea to seek advice from a trained professional in mental health. Your problem may be addressed with talk therapy, anti-anxiety medications, or a combination.

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