Triskaidekaphobia, the Fear of the Number 13

Triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 13. Most people with triskaidekaphobia have an immersive and ongoing phobia / fear of the number 13.

The premise of phobia or fear of the number 13 is usually challenging to explain, but in some cases, its causes are linked to panic-related experiences or genetic conditions.

The term comes from Greek, where tris means “three”, kai means “and”, deka means “ten” and phobia means fear from the Greek “phobos”.

Airline - Fear of number 13
Airline / Fear of number 13

Number 13 Meaning

The number 13 wasn’t always bad-famed, quite the contrary. In ancient China and Egypt, thirteen was considered a lucky number. It is unclear when exactly did 13 become an unlucky number.

Some attribute it to the Bible, where the Last Supper was attended by 13 people, and some speculated that the 13th person at the table was Judas, who later betrayed Jesus. However, there is no reference to support this theory.

Another belief is that the phobia of number 13 is caused by it being an irrational number and 12 being the number of perfection.

There are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiacs, 12 hours in a clock and there were 12 tribes of Israel.

Recent polls and studies show that around 9-10% of Americans are superstitious about the number 13. However, not all of them are triskaidekaphobes. Similar studies for other countries do not exist, however it is prevalent in western culture mainly.

In China the number 13 is not considered bad, but instead the number 4 is considered unlucky. The term for the fear of number 4 is called tetraphobia.

Tetraphobia, Fear of number 4 in China
Tetraphobia, Fear of number 4 in China

Even if it may seem trivial, triskaidekaphobia is an issue that affects western societies economically. Because of the superstition, some people delay doing business on the 13th of any month, while statistically there are more people who do not go to work on the 13th day of any month because of this superstition.

Friday is also considered to be an unlucky day in western culture.

Although it is unsure where the origin of the fear of Friday comes from. It may be based on the belief that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Thus, the number 13, associated with Friday is considered especially unlucky.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia – Fear of Friday the 13th

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th. It is closely associated with triskaidekaphobia, but it is believed more people suffer from it. There is no reference suggesting that Friday the 13th was considered unlucky before the 19th century.

In 1307, on Friday, October 13th, Philip IV, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar as well as other members of the templars.

They were later tortured and executed, but there is no reference suggesting that this event has anything to do with how ill-fated Friday the 13th is considered.

The first reference appeared in a biography of composer Gioachino Rossini (published in 1869) who considered 13 an unlucky number and Friday an unlucky day. Eventually he died on 13th November 1868.

But not even in the lengthy 1898 edition of “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” written by E. Cobham Brewer, Friday the 13th does not appear as a superstition (although both Friday and the number 13 are mentioned).

We can conclude that the fear of Friday the 13th is a newer one who developed extensively in the 20th century, partly helped by popular culture.

How to treat the fear of number 13

Although there is no 100% sure method to treat triskaidekaphobia, if you feel it affects your life, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor who could recommend you a therapist. You will probably be exposed to your fear and make you understand your phobia. In many instances the treatment is successful, although it may be challenging to find a good therapist if you don’t live in an urbanized area.

If you don’t have access to a therapist, it is a good idea to talk about your fear and try to understand it yourself. At the end of the day, even with a therapist involved, you are the only one who can cure your phobia.

Facts about triskaidekaphobia

Many hospitals have no room number 13, while many tall buildings skip the 13th floor. Instead they either have floor 12A or M (the 13th letter of the alphabet).

Triskaidekaphobia Missing number 13 elevator
Triskaidekaphobia Missing number 13 elevator

The former U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to travel on the thirteenth of any month and would never sit with thirteen people at table.

Other famous people who have had triskaidekaphobia are Napoleon or the former US president Herbert Hoover.

It has been estimated that around $ 800 – $900 million is lost in the U.S. annually because of triskaidekaphobia as people will not fly or do business as usual.

40 percent of real estate agents admit that houses that have 13 in their address are difficult to sell – and often must be sold at a lower price than similar houses with a different house number?

According to a British study that compared traffic accidents over a period of 2 years, there are actually more accidents on Friday the 13th than other Friday the 6th, probably because many drivers are more nervous in traffic that day. A similar study in the Netherlands did not sustain the findings of the British though.

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