PHOBIA: Metrophobia (3)

Some of the things we fear exist nowhere but where fear happens—Mokokoma Mokhonoana

This edition of “Phobia” features Metrophobia: the fear of poetry. It is probably one of the hardest phobias for people to comprehend and possible the most misunderstood. Because of its name, Metrophobia is typically mistaken for the fear of cities.

What exactly is Metrophobia?

First, let’s look at the word Metrophobia itself and clear up any confusion with agoraphobia (the fear of cities).

Metrophobia is derived from the British word “metre” and the Greek word “phobia.” In this case “metro” is a newer iteration of “metre.” “Metre” has an interesting etymology. It refers to prosody. Specifically, it refers to “the rhythmic arrangement of syllables in verse” and prose when writing. Throughout the years “Metre” has taken on different spellings and meanings; suffice it to say that its current incarnation (metro) is used to describe sentence structure, not cities or urban areas.

Next, we will look at the definition of Metrophobia and it’s causes? defines Metrophobia as “the irrational and disproportionate fear of poetry.” It is believed that Metrophobia starts at an early age probably while attending school. Although the exact causes of Metrophobia are unclear, most mental health experts believe that genetics and environment trigger this specific phobia.

Author Sharon Bryan believes that people develop an aversion to poetry because they “are afraid that a poem is full of ‘hidden meanings’ they can’t see, written in a code they can’t crack.”

Bryan’s analysis may be an oversimplification, but it does have some merit. It is generally accepted that phobias develop by external factors (traumatic events) and predisposition (hereditary); therefore, a student who had an overzealous teacher may develop a deep aversion to poetry because of pressure to explain esoteric terms and meanings of poems.

Likewise, a person who has underlying anxiety disorders or a family history of mental illness may develop a fear of poetry due to internal factors unrelated to classroom experiences. A Crow’s View believes others could be driven to Metrophobia by a host of other issues (public speaking, difficulty in writing, reading comprehension) that they wrongly associate with poetry.

Finally, how wide spread is Metrophobia?

It is hard to get exact numbers, but Metrophobia is probably underreported due to it being an object that can be easily avoided. It may be that Metrophobia is more wide spread than people know.

Data for specific phobias are surprisingly high among adults 18 or older. According to a 2017 report from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an “estimated 9.1% of U.S. adults had a specific phobia in the past year.” Metrophobia falls within that list.

If NIMH’s estimates are correct, it is feasible to conclude that Metrophobia could afflict several million people across the U.S. This extrapolation doesn’t count the varying degrees of aversion which could drive the numbers higher.

Metrophobia is a minor phobia, but its affect on sufferers is real. Symptoms include anxiety, tension, sweats, shakes and panic attacks. In extreme cases, a person’s health could be adversely affected just thinking about poetry or being in its presence. Hopefully those who have this phobia seek treatment and overcome this irrational fear. Poetry should be enjoyed by everyone.

Other Posts in the Phobia Series:

Metre Etymology

Metrophobia Treatment

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