In this blog we will summarize the causes, symptoms and treatment of Triskaidekaphobia.
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13.
This is one of the very common fears in the western society and has its roots in ancient Egyptian mythology, initiating from the code of Hammurabi.
As the History Channel quotes; ‘According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, more than 80 percent of hi-rise buildings in the United States do not have a 13th floor, even a lot of hotels, hospitals and airports avoid using the number for rooms and gates as well.’
The number 13 is very hard to avoid and people who suffer from Triskaidekaphobia very often develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and impacts their lives.
Triskaidekaphobia is an irrational fear of the number 13 and is solely based on superstitions.
Superstitions that arise from history and are consolidated over the years due to a chain of events that are conditionally linked with one another.
It can also border towards Delusional Disorder as well.
Causes of Triskaidekaphobia
Triskaidekaphobia is an old and pervasive fear. The number 13 appears in certain Biblical traditions where it is rooted that there were 13 people present at the Last Supper, Jesus and his 12 Apostles.
It is also thought that the betrayer Judas was the 13th person to join the table. This may be the origin of the superstition that states that when 13 dine; one will die within the year.
Other historical mythological roots can be found in some other traditions too. In Viking mythology, Loki was the 13th god.
He intruded on the Banquet of Valhalla, and only12 gods were invited.
Later due to the addition of the 13th god, the god Baldr was soon terminated accidentally by his brother, and behold! He was terminated by a spear given to him by Loki.
Triskaidekaphobia is widely accepted among Western cultures now in modern times.
Many airlines do not have the 13th row seating. Some cities and towns skip the 13th Street.
Fear of Friday the 13th, known as paraskevidekatriaphobia is also connected to Triskaidekaphobia.
Scientists believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and other biological and environmental factors could cause such fears to develop.
As is common in specific phobias, the cause Triskaidekaphobia may lie deep in the person’s childhood or its onset may be due to an environmental factor.
Genetics also plays a pivotal role in the cause of developing Triskaidekaphobia.
Other causes can be as follow:
• Learned behavior
• Traumatic experiences
- Behavioral Model
According to this model, irrational fears may be caused through behaviors that are learned by replication.
Children often replicate unique behaviors of their adults, parents or a favorite aunt or uncle.
If a family member is already suffering from anxiety or is scared of one or another thing, then chances are higher that only by observing this, the child may develop fears.
- Biological (Genetic) Model
Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families.
The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted states can cause anxiety like symptoms.
Symptoms of Triskaidekaphobia
To avoid the experience of anxiety itself the individual may develop Triskaidekaphobia,
so as to avoid the very cause of the uncomfortable condition.
Even the image of the number 13 brings about the symptoms with an intensity that reels the sufferer.
- dry mouth
- ringing in ears
- raised in blood pressure
The Psychological Symptoms
During panic attack the person suffering from Triskaidekaphobia may experience the following
- fear of fainting
- feelings of dread
- fear of dying
- fear of losing control
- fear of harm
- fear of illness
- feeling Of hopelessness
- feeling of disconnect
- lack of concentration
- mood swings
Treatments of Triskaidekaphobia
Triskaidekaphobia can be treated through different treatments.
These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.
1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.
This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to changes in life.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.
CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation.
Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.
Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.
For the treatment of Triskaidekaphobia, the therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions.
- What thought is invoked at the number 13?
- How do you feel when you see the number 13?
- What do you do when you experience being on the 13th floor or in a room numbered 13s?
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is.
These are intense and can begin without any prior warning.
The person suffering from Triskaidekaphobia experiences the full physical intensity of either all of these or some of these in combination with others.
- hot flashes or chills
- shortness of breath a choking sensation
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- feeling faint
In Triskaidekaphobia, the person thinks of joy and gets anxious because there is a fear of a disaster, injury that may leave him/her confined or crippled for life.
2) Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Triskaidekaphobia.
In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.
To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a flashcard of number 13.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.
In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is happy.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.
These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation.
This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
3) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)
In this therapy the client is asked to
- Access the phobia in a safe environment.
- Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
- Disassociate from the phobia.
4) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.
We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.
We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
In Triskaidekaphobia treatment, the client is made conscious to pay attention to his thoughts when he is thinking of what he is afraid of.
Awareness helps to alleviate the stress symptoms.
For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts.
The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought.
The client will meditate during the thoughts of death and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus.
6) Self-Help Groups
Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.
These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias.
They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.
7) Changing Lifestyle
Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well.
• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:
Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.
• Indulging in an exercise regime:
Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better.
This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.
• Altering eating and drinking habits:
Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem.
This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.
• Improving the sleep cycle:
When we get proper rest, our concentration improves.
8) Psychiatric Medication
There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Triskaidekaphobia are severe.
Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Triskaidekaphobia as well as other phobias.
Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
9) Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions.
A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind.
Apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.
Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.
We are always here to answer if you have any query
What we recommend for Phobias
- If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.
Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes the fear of the number 13?
Fear of number 13 is caused by superstitions and is also genetically inclined.
What is the spiritual meaning of 13?
According to spirituality inclined, the number 13 represents the combined energy of the numbers 1 and 3.
It is thought to be a number with very strong symbolism and has great power.
Is the number 13 lucky?
No numbers are lucky or unlucky, they are just numbers.
Where is 13 a lucky number?
13 is considered a lucky number in Italy.
Titles To Read
by Ron J Varman | May 1, 2016
by Robert Maurer and Michelle Gifford
- Stress Management and Anxiety Relief: Tips and Tricks for Mindfulness and Resilience to Fear in Hard Times
by N. Robert
Examples of other interesting phobias