The complex phobias knew they were superior. They conquered adults, not mere children. They were difficult to treat. They fucked up big chunks of people’s lives. Someone with arachnophobia or aerophobia could pretty easily avoid spiders or planes. But try making a decent life with agoraphobia.

The simple phobias usually accepted their inferiority. But sometimes they had issues. Dentophobia felt he should be higher on the hierarchy; there were real reasons to fear dentists. Nerve damage, sinus perforation, tooth extractions leading to infected sockets and bone infections. He and Iatrophobia—fear of doctors—teamed up to make their case before KP, King Phobia. The king was strict about appearances, so Dentophobia polished his eight rows of teeth so they gleamed. Iatrophobia used her best diamond sharpener for each strand of her silver scalpel hair. The meeting did not go well. KP threatened to move them even lower. Everyone knew that irrational fears carried more clout.

KP researched and ranked each phobia annually with remarkable precision. He checked their hygiene and appearances. He checked the symptoms, treatment and demographics. He prided himself on this yearly report. The DSM—Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—was revised only every five years. The phobias looked forward to KP’s report on the highs and lows of each new DSM edition. They cheered when phobias were differentiated and got their own names. Aulophobia—fear of flutes— was furious that he was still lumped in with the general fear of music.

Of course, the phobias had their own fears. The worst: that treatments would continue to improve. Hypnotherapy, exposure therapy, beta blockers, cognitive behavioral training—this shit really worked with growing numbers of people. This kept the phobias up at night, with many of them getting insomnia. Which turned into somniphobia. And it would be even worse if they knew about the brewing revolution. Which started with Anthophobia—fear of flowers.

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