We Asked People to Sum Up Their Most Irrational Fear in Six Words

"Unknowingly being 'muffin top epidemic' b-roll."
Illustrations by Brandon Celi

If you’ve ever held an irrational fear, you know how much it sucks: Full-on panic washes over just thinking about a common place, situation, or object. Heartbeats flutter and breaths get shorter just imagining whatever horror you’ve conjured in your head (vermin, being in a plane crash, touching a cotton ball). You might feel silly because your logical brain knows you’re not in genuine peril, although your body is reacting as if you were.


The National Institute of Mental Health defines specific phobia is an “intense, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Although adults with phobias may realize these fears are irrational, even thinking about facing the feared object or situation brings on severe anxiety symptoms.” According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, specific phobias affect 19 million adults, or 8.7 percent of the U.S. population, and women are twice as likely to experience the phenomenon as men. We asked friends and co-workers about their most unreasonable fears. Here’s what they said.

“Snakes coming out of my toilet.” - Chelsea, 31

"The Phillie Phanatic! What is it!?" - Cassidy, 24

"All mascots, honestly. Every. Single. One." - Ali (Friend of Cassidy), 24

“Cotton. I feel sick just typing that.” - Joslyn, 36

“Any size frog hopping onto me.” - Rachel, 32

“I find huge national monuments imposing.” - Allie, 25

“Being impaled on a broken signpost.” - Tom, 41

“Getting Achilles tendon sliced Pet Sematary-style.” - Courtney, 39

“Saying 'Love you!' in professional settings.” - Kaity, 27

“Unknowingly being ‘muffin top epidemic’ b-roll.” - Lia, 29

“A massage therapist breaking my toes.” - Laura, 29

“Terrifying: running out of toilet paper.” - Wanda, 45

“Eating spiders while asleep is real.” - Laura, 26

“Someone popping a balloon near me.” - Marcie, 32

“Slice finger open on soda can.” - Kevin, 30


"Fuck fish. Slippery, slimey, scaley bastards." - KT, 26

“Seeing a dead body at beach.” - Allison, 33

“Pigeon horde pecking my eyes out.” - Will, 32

“Driving wrong direction on highway.” - Caitlin, 30

“Mermaids freak me the fuck out.” - Heather, 37

“Getting slashed ala Psycho in shower.” - Kristen, 38

“Snakes slithering into bed while sleeping.” - Annie, 33

“Cat mauling me in my sleep.” - Tom, 34

“Sharks while swimming in pool, lakes.” - Jane, 29

“Cars crashing through my bedroom wall.” - Andrew, 31

“Anytime my mom calls, someone died.” - Amber, 35

"Terrified the WiFi will go out." - Nicolas, 22

"Small talk with strangers. Kill me. - Wendy, 23

“Biting my finger off by accident.” - Fiona, 26

“Can’t handle anything touching my eyeballs.” - Dave, 29

“Bridge collapsing while driving over it.” - Amy, 32

"Charlie Brown's one hair. Seriously WTF." - Dre, 24

“Smashed by fallen window AC unit.” - Alex, 34

"Hidden cameras in apartment from landlord." - Janae, 24 Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

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