Triskaidekaphobia (Fear Of The Number 13)

Triskaidekaphobia (Fear of the Number 13) is a psychological condition which causes extreme fear of the number 13. Often seen as superstitious, patients with Triskaidekaphobia will go to extreme lengths in order to avoid the number.

What is Triskaidekaphobia?

Although Triskaidekaphobia (Fear of the Number 13) is not particularly uncommon, it is not easily classified. The term ‘specific phobia’ is usually used to refer to a phobia of a particular object, item or situation, such as a fear of dogs. Alternatively, the category ‘social phobias’ can be used to refer to phobias which cause fear of certain social situations, such as parties or speaking in public.

Triskaidekaphobia, however, cannot be easily classified as any particular type of phobia. Although it is, perhaps, most closely aligned with other specific phobias, the number 13 can occur anywhere or in any scenario.

Due to the prevalence of the number 13, Triskaidekaphobia can be difficult to manage. Whilst sufferers will typically go to any length in order to avoid the number, it is not always obvious where they will encounter the number. As a result, people with Triskaidekaphobia may experience an on-going sense of dread. They may be preoccupied with encountering the number 13 or spend an excessive amount of time worrying about seeing or hearing the number.

Triskaidekaphobia is more than a simple dislike. The phobia is pervasive and affects every area of the patient’s life. As well as causing an extreme phobic response, the fear can affect the day-to-day activities of individuals. A person with Triskaidekaphobia may feel unable to dial a phone number if it contains the number 13, for example, or they may refuse to visit the 13th floor of a building.

For some people with Triskaidekaphobia, the phobia only affects them in certain situations but, for others, their condition is so severe that it prevents them from living their life as they would like to.

What causes Triskaidekaphobia?

The origins of Triskaidekaphobia (Fear of The Number 13) are largely unknown but there are various theories as to why people suffer from the condition. In some cases, Triskaidekaphobia may be caused by:

  • Learned behaviour
  • Excessive superstition
  • Media exposure
  • Genetic predispositions

If people are exposed to others who have a fear or phobia, they may ‘learn’ this behaviour and take on the fear as well. If a child has a caregiver who is afraid of the number 13, for example, they may also avoid the number. If their fear becomes all-encompassing, Triskaidekaphobia may occur as a result of the learned behaviour.

Alternatively, excessive superstition may play a significant role in the development of the condition. The number 13 has been used extensively in historical and religious texts, sometimes with negative connotations. Due to this, people have avoided the number 13 for decades. For most people, this is a simple aversion or dislike but, in extreme cases, this could develop into Triskaidekaphobia.

Friday the 13th, in particular, is noted as being unlucky and many people will actively avoid planning significant events on this day. Whilst fear of Friday the 13th is referred to as Paraskevidekatriaphobia or Friggatriskaidekaphobia but can also contribute towards the development of Triskaidekaphobia.

Whilst media exposure can fuel any type of phobia, it is particularly relevant to Triskaidekaphobia. The number 13 is often portrayed as being unlucky, frightening or dangerous in films, television shows and books. Although this may not cause Triskaidekaphobia in all patients, it can certainly exacerbate existing fears and reinforce the negative connotations surrounding the number.

Furthermore, the fears of Triskaidekaphobics are often reinforced by other people, as well as businesses, corporations and companies. Building companies will often leave out the number 13 when erecting new houses, for example. Similarly, some airline companies refuse to have a row number 13 in their planes as they believe people will not want to sit on row 13. There are many famous examples of notable people and companies avoiding the number 13 and this could have contributed to the rise in Triskaidekaphobia.

In addition to this, experts believe that some people are more prone to phobias. If an individual has a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and fears, they may be more likely to develop Triskaidekaphobia.

What are the symptoms of Triskaidekaphobia?

When confronted with the number 13, people with Triskaidekaphobia often have a very severe reaction. As well as feeling emotionally and psychologically uncomfortable, people may exhibit a range of physical symptoms, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Nausea
  • Gasping for breath
  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Feelings of faintness

Often referred to as a panic attack, these acute periods of anxiety can last a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the patient and the stimulus. Although people with phobias do become familiar with the sensations of a panic attack, they are extremely distressing and can result in a myriad of physical symptoms.

Depending on the severity of the phobia, the individual may try and escape the situation they’re in so that they can avoid the number 13.

How is Triskaidekaphobia treated?

Like most other phobias, Triskaidekaphobia can be treated in a variety of ways. Although medication can sometimes be prescribed to phobic patients, this is not always advisable in the treatment of Triskaidekaphobia. Whilst anti-anxiety medication can lower the patient’s anxiety in general, it will not necessarily ease the fear of the number 13. Instead, the medication helps to reduce the patient’s symptoms. As it can be difficult to know when patients will encounter the number 13, they may not feel that medication is the right course of treatment for them.

Alternatively, a range of therapies may be used to alter their response to the number 13. These may include:

  • Exposure therapy
  • Neuro-linguistic therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Hypnotherapy

In addition to taking part in structured therapy sessions, people with Triskaidekaphobia may also benefit from self-help methods. Often, meditation and relaxation techniques can help people to reduce their anxiety and may enable them to approach their fears in a different way.

By seeking help from a professional, patients with Triskaidekaphobia can overcome their fears and can learn to respond to the number 13 in a more appropriate way.

Preventing Triskaidekaphobia (Fear of the Number 13)

Triskaidekaphobia can be a difficult condition to diagnose, treat or prevent. As many fears form during childhood, limiting a child’s exposure to negative media portrayals of the number 13 could reduce their risk of developing Triskaidekaphobia. Similarly, preventing young people from watching inappropriate films and television shows could help to prevent Triskaidekaphobia from occurring. As the number 13 is often portrayed negatively or dangerously in the media, reducing a child’s exposure to this information could prevent them from establishing an ingrained fear.

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Last Reviewed:
June 22, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018