April 13, 2012 5:57 am

Irrational fear of Friday the 13th may lead to obsessive disorder

Fear of Friday the 13th may be superstitious to some, but to others,
it can be taken to an extreme where it devolves into a debilitating
disorder, according to social phobia experts.

There even is a clinical term for the phobia: “friggatriskaidekaphobia.”

Queen’s
University psychology professor Kate Harkness says extreme fear of
Friday the 13th can severely affect work, travel and relationships where
people avoid leaving the house on that day.

“There’s nothing
wrong with believing that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, as long as
it’s not interfering (with your life),” she said.

The Friday the 13th horror movie franchise continues this negative association with the day.

In
extreme cases, severe “delusions” about the day or other related
superstitions may escalate to become an obsessive compulsive disorder or
schizophrenia, Harkness said, and may require treatment through
anti-psychotic medication. But for the most part, the day is pretty
harmless, referred to in pop culture as a time associated with bad luck
and nothing more, she said. According to Harkness, pathological types of

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superstitious behaviour have been associated with higher levels of the
brain chemical dopamine. Medication may reduce these dopamine levels,
she explained.

Harkness noted that believing in superstitions
doesn’t necessarily mean you are suffering from an extreme phobia. For
instance, athletes often carry good luck charms, believing they may help
them win games. In these instances, superstitions can be used for good
to help motivate people.

On the origins of the Friday the 13th
superstition, Harkness referred to the medieval classic The Canterbury
Tales which associated misfortune with occurring on a Friday.

There
are other references for tragic events occurring on a Friday, such as
the market crash of the Great Depression, ominously known as “Black
Friday.” In the Christian tradition, Jesus’s crucifixion was also on a
Friday, Harkness said.

In western culture, the number 12 is seen
as a number of “completeness,” she added, referring to 12 months of the
year and the 12 apostles, with an extra addition seen as breaking that
notion of “perfection.”

Harkness said negative beliefs about
Friday the 13th may have started with people’s lack of scientific
knowledge about the natural world where people “developed the ritual of
superstition.”

Over time, coupling Friday and the number 13 has been seen as “double bad luck,” she explained.

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