In Technical Terms
There are countless phobias to describe the fears that people have; some are rational, while others seem very irrational. For example, two of the most common phobias are arachnophobia: the fear of spiders, and acrophobia: the fear of heights. These seem rational because both are linked to danger. Spiders can bite and harm you, and falling from a distant height can result in death. Other phobias are less common and are seen by some as being completely irrational. For example, my best friend has sidonglobophobia: the fear of cotton balls. (I was shocked that there was actually a name for this.) Cotton balls cannot harm you in any way, so in my eyes, there is no reason to fear them. Another uncommon and irrational fear is thaasophobia: the fear of being bored. It is common for people to feel discomfort when bored, but some people experience this uncomfortable feeling even at the thought of being bored. It probably seems irrational to many people because boredom cannot harm you, however, no one necessarily chooses what they fear.
So why might someone fear boredom? Typically strong fears form due to a previously traumatic experience. For example, I knew that the 10a drivers were never very cautious, but I never expected to get into an accident. Nevertheless, after being in an accident due to the negligence of a 10a driver, I have started to get anxiety about other people’s driving. I hate the feeling of not being in control because I never truly know whether the other person is paying attention or not. The fear of boredom, on the other hand, might not necessarily be from a “traumatic” experience. I cannot think of a moment in which boredom felt traumatic and a person became afraid of it. It could have been a moment in which a person was forced into something that made him so bored, he began to fear ever feeling that way to that extent again. One time I had to sit in the lobby of a dorm building for four hours during move-in week to help anyone who was unable to get into their rooms because of keycard issues. Of all the people who moved in, only three of them needed help during the entire four hour shift. Knowing I had the same job the next day gave me a feeling of distress because I did not want to have to go through that level of boredom again. It was not necessarily a traumatic experience, but it did create a bit of discomfort.
What are the symptoms of thaasophobia? I said above, anxiety is the most common symptom, as it is with nearly all phobias. Anxiety can be minor, such as worrying, dread, and stress, but it can also affect a person much more and cause sweating, rapid heart rate, and nausea. The level of anxiety varies on the intensity of fear. Therefore, if I were asked to work that boring job during move-in week again, I would be dreading the thought of sitting in that lobby for another four hours. And while that is just one example of a slight case of thaasophobia, it can arise in many others as well. (More information here.)
I’m Bored of You
“Never become involved in marriage.” Philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard voices this opinion very strongly in his case, The Rotation of Crops. One might suggest that Kierkegaard has his own case of thaasophobia. Throughout his entire work, he summarizes his avoidance theory on boredom with multiple examples such as friendships, marriage, and work.
Kierkegaard believes that one should not get married because it is important to be able to break off a relationship at any moment, particularly at the moment in which it becomes boring. He stresses that even friendships can be dangerous, and a key step in avoiding boredom is ensuring that no friendship is too close not to drop whenever necessary. In addition, he does not agree with the idea of taking a position in the workplace that is not easy to leave. It seems as though he is driven to escape all forms of commitment in fear that he may get bored of it. He is so afraid that he could become bored with his wife, friends, or job position that he avoids putting himself in that situation to begin with. Distance is ideal in order to cope with thaasophobia.
A good use of Kierkegaard’s theory is shown in the song “Bored of Your Love” by Meg & Dia. The song is about a girl who is breaking things off with her boyfriend because she has decided that she is bored of his love. While she sings about being bored, he sings about being in love with her.
“I’m bored of your love.
(I’m in love with your love.)
I’m bored of your face.
(I’m in love with your face.)
I’m bored of your random all over the place attitude.
I’m bored of you.
(I’m in love with you.)”
It is interesting because it is as if she has no interest in him; meanwhile, he is professing his love for all things about her. He might be all-in with their relationship, but she does not want to be bored of him anymore, so she realizes it is time to break it off. She is so against committing to him that she even denies his request of going on one last date:
“(Can I take you out just this one last time?
We could pretend I never met you.)
Well I’d love to, sounds like a lovely time,
But I’m sorry; I just can’t let you.”
She goes on again expressing that she is up to her neck in the boredom and she cannot take it anymore. The girl in this song fears the boredom that is entailed in her commitment and she deems it necessary to just cut all ties. She leaves as soon as the relationship bores her, similar to the way Kierkegaard would act in this situation. Thaasophobia is relevant to commitment in that it controls the way people react. While most would choose to work on the relationship, thaasophobia makes a person want to avoid commitment in order to ultimately avoid boredom.
Facing My Fears
Think of the most paranoid person you know. Now multiply that by 10 and you have me. It wasn’t until recently that I started to pick up a paranoid state of mind. Like I said before, a recent 10a accident instilled into me a fear of other people’s driving. I’m also currently taking a class on natural disasters, and the thought of Yellowstone National Park being the largest volcano in the world (with the ability to kill off the entire world) makes me nauseous. Even the smallest things—like trying sushi for the first time—make me anxious. I am not entirely sure why all these fears have built up over the years.
Going to college at Pitt was a big fear of mine. I was the only student from my high school graduating class who decided to go here, and the idea of not being able to make friends here made me nervous. My best friend at home and I are really weird, and I assumed that people in college would think I am too weird to be friends with. I do not think that I fear boredom to the point of claiming that I have thaasophobia, but I definitely do fear boredom to some extent. I was afraid of not making friends in college and in turn, I was afraid that I would be bored, spending every day by myself. There are many times in which I love the idea of being alone, but lack of social interaction makes me feel like I am going crazy.
Fortunately, I did face my fear of going to a school four hours away from home, without knowing anyone. I have made an abundance of friends here, and they do think I am really weird, but they embrace it anyway. Attending the University of Pittsburgh was something that I really wanted to do, and I was determined to not let my fears get the best of me. Now, I have a similar situation as well. I plan to go to Barcelona in the fall semester, but I do not know a single person who is going. On a side note, I have never even been in an airplane, so this study abroad experience is going to be a huge deal for me. My friend, Tiffany is currently in London, and she says all the time that it is great, but it would be significantly more enjoyable to have these experiences with people that she cares about. She finds some of the excursions boring. I fear that, by not knowing anyone else who is going to Spain, I will become bored too, even though I know that the trips and sights there are going to be amazing. Part of me thinks that I am being totally ridiculous because I probably will make awesome friends and the places I will go to are going to be awesome. However, there is also another part of me that is freaking out because as Tiffany quotes, “It is not about where you are, it is about who you are with.”
Although I fear the idea of leaving the U.S. and only being with strangers for four months, I am still forcing myself to do it because I feel that it is important for one to face his fears. I know that I am being a little bit irrational in thinking that I will not make any friends abroad, considering I will be living in an apartment with multiple other students. Some people might let the fear of boredom linked to new experiences keep them from what they really want to do, but I plan to get out of my little bubble of fear and do what I want, with no regrets.
Do You Ever Get A Break?
Dean is a senior in high school. He is the class president, quarterback on the football team, captain of the basketball and lacrosse teams, and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, Spanish, and yearbook clubs. When he is not playing a sport, he is either doing something for one of his clubs, working on his homework that is not due for another week, or catering to his cheerleading captain girlfriend, Cali. Dean is always ahead of the game when it comes to schoolwork and his activities. His friends often wonder how he can keep up with all of his obligations, as they can barely keep up with their one or two clubs.
Somehow, Dean manages to keep up with all his commitments, though he rarely has extra time to waste. He typically goes home around 10 pm each night, just in time to grab a snack and go to bed. He then wakes up at 6 am, even on the weekends, and starts his busy day. Lately his family has become frustrated with the lack of face-to-face communication and stopped him to find out why he is never home. The answer was obvious; with so many activities under his belt, Dean does not really have time to be home until it is time for bed. Concerned of his work overload, Dean’s mom reached out to her psychologist to try to get to the bottom of why he puts so much on his plate.
The psychologist told her that Dean has thaasophobia. He fears the idea of being bored, so he makes sure to participate in as many activities as he can in order to avoid ever getting bored. This way, instead of coming home around 6 pm and watching tv in void, he can keep himself active all day until he can justify going to sleep.
Dean is not the only person who does this. There are plenty of people who fear boredom and rack up their lists of activities to ensure boredom never will arise. Sometimes though, they might also do this for fear of how people view them. Doing nothing all day can be considered pathetic, and no one wants to be viewed in that way. In this case, Dean may never really get a break, but this is because he does not want one. A break means he has nothing to do, which means he will be bored, and this idea makes his stress level rise. He is not doing anything wrong, unless he is running himself too thin. If that is an issue, finding help against thaasophobia is important.
Never Thought of it That Way
Thaasophobia may not be a common phobia, but I believe that at some point, all people have experienced the symptoms that are linked to it. No one enjoys the feeling of being bored, and when you know you might have to do something boring, some feelings of discomfort are most likely going to occur. These feelings might be indirectly induced by many situations, including boredom from a commitment, new experience, or even a lack of commitment. Many people probably have never thought of the fear of boredom even being a phobia, but it is a very possible phobia. Since anxiety is the main symptom connected to thaasophobia, there are ways to help treat it with medicine. Though some people may not be able to fight thaasophobia on their own, I believe that the best thing to do is force yourself to fight it and embrace boredom for what it is.