Then Again, Perhaps 2013 is NOT Such a Happy New Year for All…….
Is this your year of fear? Perhaps you suffer from triskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia (tris•kai•deka•pho•bia, tris-kī-de-kə-ˈfō-bē-ə, or tris-kə-de-kə-ˈfō-bē-ə) is defined as a fear – either rational or irrational – of the number 13. The word is derived from the greek “tris”, meaning “three”, “kai” meaning “and”, “deka” meaning “10” and “phobia” meaning “fear”.(1) Actually, the word itself could be perceived as a bit intimidating – perhaps even a little frightening. However, it is not so bad once it is reduced into and defined by its component syllables.
Regardless of the professed origin, the number 13 has long been associated with all things big, bad, scary and superstitious for thousands of years. Early indicators of superstitious links to the number 13 can be traced to the ancient Babylonians. The Code of Hammurabi was a source of early law dating from approximately 1750 B.C. in the ancient Babylonian kingdom upon which the evolution of modern law was partially derived. Interestingly, of note medically, the Code of Hammurabi was also one of the first documents – if not the first – to outline basic tenets of managed medical care in its text. Despite this, the Babylonians considered the number to be unlucky. Thus, the Code of Hammurabi skipped the number 13 in its enumeration system. (2, 3)
Some believe that the concept of the unlucky 13 originated from the presence of the Apostle Judas – who later betrayed Christ and facilitated his crucifixion – at the Last Supper as guest number 13.(4) Still others associate the superstition with a series of unfortunate events in ancient Norse mythology which caused the earth to be blanketed in darkness.(5)
Random events with poor or misfortunate outcomes are associated with the number 13. People who have 13 letters in their name are said to have the “Devil’s Luck.” (6)
Tarot Card players know that the Grim Reaper Death Card is card number 13. Also associated with death is the Hangman’s Noose, which has 13 turns in its knot. (6)
A coven consists of 13 witches.(7)
Purported bad luck attributed to the number 13 often precludes builders from including a 13th floor in tall buildings such as hotels, apartment buildings, office buildings, and hospitals. (5, 8, 9, 10)
Fear of the 13th day of the month has even been associated with financial losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to people’s apprehension about carrying on with their normal activities on this day. (2) The Greeks observe Tuesday the 13th as an unlucky day.(11) Mexico shares a belief in the same unlucky day.(12)
North America and most of Europe, including the United Kingdom, recognize Friday the 13th as a day of imminent doom. This day has been glorified in film and in print, and the truly superstitious strive to be especially careful and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Folklore states that children born on this day will not fare well in life, and associations with death have even been linked to Friday the 13th. (2)
What?! Yes, it gets more complicated, and yet another tongue-twister appears on the scene. A severe manifestation of fear of Friday the 13th is dubbed as either Paraskevidekatriaphobia or Friggatriskaidekaphobia. The moniker for the latter denotes a reference to witchcraft and sorcery performed by the Norse goddess Frigga that, according to legend, occurred on Friday the 13th. (13, 14)
Years ago, a group of British researchers conducted a study which noted a marked increase in traffic accidents on Friday the 13th. (15) Another study noted gender-related differences for becoming involved in serious traffic accidents on this fated day, with women’s risk being higher. (16) Seriously? As might be expected, the scientific validity of these studies is questionable, as another study debunks the gender disparity issue and emphatically denies Friday the 13th as the definite cause of certain road-related calamities. This group conducted a retrospective study of a Finnish database that contained actual traffic accident and road-related death records over a time period of (you guessed it) 13 years. No increased Friday the 13th-associated danger from road accidents was noted. It is far more likely that mere coincidence or increased superstition-related anxiety resulted in these dangerous traffic outcomes. (17) Fortunately, Friday the 13th occurs only in September and December of 2013.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and a Possible Cure for the Fear of 13
The DSM IV does not list triskaidekaphobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia, or friggatriskaidekaphobia as ICD-9 or ICD-9-CM-coded psychiatric diagnoses. Currently they are classified as “Other isolated or specific phobias” under 300.29. There are no plans to include any of these syndromes in the highly anticipated DSM V that will be released in May 2013. Either “Phobic anxiety disorder, unspecified” (F40.9) or “Other specified phobia”(F40.298) will be used to classify triskaidekaphobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia, or friggatriskaidekaphobia by ICD-10 standards. (18, 19, 20)
The Mayo Clinic defines a phobia as “an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger.” Symptoms include excessive anxiety in the presence of the feared source, hypervigilant avoidance of the feared entity, functional impairment, and feelings of helplessness. More severe cases are also marked by rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, and sweating. A visit to a healthcare professional is recommended if any of these symptoms are present.(21)
Desensitization therapy-graduated exposure in increasing increments of intensity- is a mainstay of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or retraining the brain to respond differently to the source of phobia, can be quite effective, as well. Both forms of behavioral therapy can also be supplemented with medications such as beta-blockers, anti-depressants, and sedatives.(21)
It is said that there is strength in numbers. Famous triskaidekaphobes included Napoleon and Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. (12)
1. Merriam Webster Online – 2013. “Triskaidekaphobia” Retrieved January 9, 2013. http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/triskaidekaphobia
2. Suddath, Claire. “A Brief History of Friday the 13th.” Time. February 13, 2009.
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1879288,00.html. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
3. Spiegel AD, Springer CR. “Babylonian medicine, managed care and Codex Hammurabi, circa 1700 B.C.” Journal of Community Health. 1997 Feb;22(1):69-89. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9120048. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
4. Somers, Meredith. “Fear of 13 traced to Judas, myths.” The Washington Times. December 31, 2012. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/31/fear-of-13-traced-to-judas-myths/?page=2. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
5. Roach, John. “Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History.” National Geographic News. Updated August 12, 2004. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0212_040212_friday13.html. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
6. Kanalley, Craig. “Friday The 13th Superstitions: What You Need To Know.” The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/friday-the-13th-superstitions_n_1424140.html#slide=51638. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
7. Merriam Webster Online – 2013. “Coven.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coven. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
8. Barclay, Shelly. “Why Isn’t There a 13th Floor in Hotels?” USA Today. http://traveltips.usatoday.com/isnt-there-13th-floor-hotels-107585.html. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
9. “Spooky superstitions of the 13th floor.” Standard Digital. Updated Thursday, July 28 2011. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000039723&pageNo=3&story_title=. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
10. Chowdhury, Tanushree Roy. “Why developers don’t like the number 13.” The Times of India. January 25, 2011. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/Why-developers-dont-like-the-number-13/articleshow/7356619.cms. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
11. “Traditional superstitions in Greece.” http://www.greekembassy.org/embassy/content/en/Article.aspx?office=7&folder=1004&article=23878. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
12. “13 Freaky facts about Friday the 13th.” Live Science. July 12, 2012. http://www.livescience.com/19666-13-freaky-facts-friday-13th.html. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
13. Emery, David. “Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky – Paraskevidekatriaphobia: Friday the 13th Origins, History, and Folklore.” About.com Urban Legends. August 31, 2012. http://urbanlegends.about.com/cs/historical/a/friday_the_13th.htm. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
14. Di Domizio, Tony.”Holy Friggatriskaidekaphobia, It’s Friday The 13th!” Haverford-Havertown Patch. July 13, 2012. http://haverford.patch.com/articles/holy-friggatriskaidekaphobia-its-friday-the-13th. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
15. Scanlon TJ, Luben RN, Scanlon FL, Singleton N. “Is Friday the 13th bad for your health?” British Medical Journal. 307.6919:1584-6. December 18-25, 1993. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8292946. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
16. Näyhä S. “Traffic deaths and superstition on Friday the 13th.” American Journal of Psychiatry. 159.12:2110-1. December 2002. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12450968. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
17. Radun I, Summala H. “Females do not have more injury road accidents on Friday the 13th.” BioMed Central Public Health. 4:54. November 16, 2004. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15546493. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
18. “DSM-IV-TR® Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/book.aspx?bookid=22. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
19. “ICD9Data.com.” http://www.icd9data.com/2013/Volume1/290-319/300-316/300/300.29.htm. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
20. “ICD10Data.com.” http://www.icd10data.com/ICD10CM/Codes/F01-F99/F40-F48/F40-/F40.298. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
21. The Mayo Clinic Staff. “Phobias.” Mayo Clinic Online. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phobias/DS00272/DSECTION=prevention. Retrieved January 13, 2013.