Do You Have Podophobia, the Fear of Bare Feet?
What Is Podophobia?
For as long as I can remember, I have had a phobia of bare feet. There is no rational reason I can think of for this, but it does impact on my life in quite surprising ways that many without this phobia may not have considered. In fact, this phobia is far more common than I had realized.
The phobia of feet is called podophobia or petaphelaphobia—the latter being the fear of people touching your feet—and can consist of a fear of not only your own feet but also other people's. In extreme cases, some sufferers of podophobia can't even go into a shoe or sock shop without a problem. This actually made me feel a little better, mainly because I am not literally scared of feet—they just make me cringe, but not in the same way as, say, a large house spider would. In other words, a bare foot would not have me clinging to the ceiling, shaking like a leaf.
I am more what I have seen described as a 'foot-o-phobe', i.e. I feel uncomfortable or even irritated when I look at feet. I hate people touching my feet and I don't like discussing feet or problems with feet on a face-to-face basis. I certainly would not enjoy watching any kind of TV documentary on feet, and I don't even like adverts on the television where they talk about 'Happy Feet' etc. I don't even find children's feet tolerable, so when I see a mum playing with her baby's feet, nuzzling them with her nose and blowing raspberries on them, I squirm.
Symptoms of Podophobia or Podiaphobia
- Sweating and breathlessness
- Change in body temperature
- Change in blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- A headache or dizziness
- A full-blown panic attack
- Feeling exceedingly terrified and queasy
Therapy Might Help You Get Over Your Phobia
If this phobia has become a real problem in your life, there are plenty of treatment options available, such as:
This especially suitable for people who suffer from panic disorders. The long-term success of this kind of treatment is proven.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Apparently, this is one of the most effective methods of treatment for feet phobias. This assists in dealing with difficult situations. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), has suggested that 7-14 hours of CBT with a patient suffering from agoraphobia or a panic disorder is will help the problem within four months.
In this kind of therapy, patients are gradually exposed to the element they fear. They are taught to control their reaction through deep breathing and positive thinking.
For those capable of being hypnotized, this is an option that could be very successful and is certainly worth considering.
The main aim of support groups is to make people discuss and share the experiences which are unpleasant to them. This should help them to connect with others having similar feelings.
Podophobia is difficult to cure with only counseling and behavioral therapies. Some medication might also be necessary in order to help the patient deal with their phobia.
- Antidepressants: These are used to treat depression and can take several weeks before they become effective
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are also a type of antidepressant that increases the level of serotonin in the brain.
- Tricyclic antidepressants: These also work as antidepressants, keeping the brain and mind calm.
- Beta-blockers: These can control anxiety and its symptoms, such as sweating and trembling. Beta-blockers slow down the heart rate, which lowers blood pressure and reduces the chances of a panic attack.
There is no guarantee that these treatments will work, but until the patient tries them they won't know. It is worth persevering until your therapist concedes that the current choice of therapy is not succeeding.
I Have Had a Fear of Feet for as Long as I Can Remember
When I was young, my hatred of bare feet made me very uncomfortable doing sports in the gymnasium at school because when using much of the gym equipment and the landing mats we were required to go barefoot. I was very self-conscious about my feet, even though they are perfectly normal and petite in size. When being bullied at school I desperately wanted to take up a martial art for self-defense but was put off after one judo lesson, when I realized that it was essential to go barefoot. I never went back, and the bullying continued.
As the years have gone by, my foot phobia has not diminished, and even now I will never walk around the house in bare feet—I always choose to wear shoes or slippers. When in bed at night, I keep my own feet well away from my husband's. Occasionally, his feet will accidentally touch mine at night and I will flinch as if I have been stung, instinctively moving my feet to the opposite end of the bed. In many ways, I am not sure if this reaction is because I can't stand the contact from his bare feet, or if it is because I can't bear him touching my bare feet. Either way, I dislike it intensely.
Unfortunately for me, my husband has a bad habit of walking around the house with no socks or slippers on. This makes me cringe, and even though I have bought him slippers, I still find him walking around barefoot. It is frustrating—he knows I hate feet! There is no point in having a bath and then walking around with no socks on because his feet will quickly end up filthy from simply walking on the kitchen floor tiles. I point this out to him, but he continues to walk around barefoot without wearing the new slippers I bought for him.
I was at my own mother's house on one occasion when my stepfather had to cut her toenails for her. Witnessing this made me feel quite nauseous, and there is no way I can imagine ever doing this service for her myself. The very idea of bare feet just makes my nose wrinkle up in distaste and my whole body cringe. I cannot understand for the life of me how people enjoy foot fetishes or can cope with foot massages. When I see a bare foot, all I see is the most unattractive part of the human body—with the potential to smell truly appalling, the ability to contract fungal infections, a verruca haven. In general, they're just an ugly, knobbly pair of appendages. In fact, l won't even buy or wear open-toed shoes or sandals of any kind, nor can I see why others choose to draw attention to their feet by painting their toenails. Yuck!
If This Phobia Affects Your Everyday Life, Seek Treatment
Although my phobia of bare feet is annoying and at times frustrating, I was relieved to find out that I am not an extreme case. My advice to anyone who is suffering from this would be to judge carefully how much this impacts on your day to day life. If the answer is "too much", then seek out one of the therapies above.
To anyone who has a friend, partner, or family member who suffers from this phobia, please be considerate. Don't play the fool and do idiotic things such as pinning the person down and rubbing your bare feet on them or surprising them by draping your bare feet over their shoulders when they least expect it. Whilst these immature actions may seem funny to you, remember that to them this is serious and distressing. Consider how you would feel if they exploited a phobia of yours in a similar way.