Saturday, December 26, 2009
Pantophobia is not just the fear of pants
Pantophobia is not just the fear of pants, although it certainly could include the startlingly green jeans shown above. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a condition characterized by groundless or irrational fears; fear of everything; generalized anxiety.” In current terminology this condition is known as generalized anxiety disorder. It is given the acronym GAD. You can read about it at the Mayo Clinic or NIMH.
Pantophobia is mentioned in A Charlie Brown Christmas, the 1965 animated TV special, which airs annually. You can watch that scene here on YouTube, starting about four and a half minutes from the beginning. In the scene Charlie Brown goes to see Lucy, who has a booth labeled “Psychiatric Help 5 cents.” They have the following dialog:
Lucy: All right now, what seems to be your trouble?
Charlie: I feel depressed. I know I should be happy, but I’m not.
Lucy: Well, as they say on TV, the mere fact that you realize you need help indicates you are not too far gone. I think we better pinpoint your fears. If we can find out what you are afraid of, we can label it. Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.
Charlie: I don’t think that’s quite it.
Lucy: How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats you have elurophobia.
Charlie: Well, sort of, but I’m not sure.
Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacophobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean. Or, gephyrophobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or, maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?
Charlie: What’s pantophobia?
Lucy: The fear of everything.
Charlie: That’s it!