If You Fear Friday the 13th, This Is What Science Says about You
If Friday the 13th has you worried about rolling streaks of bad luck, from elevator breakdowns to earthquakes, here’s what experts know about your personality.
You embrace long-held cultural traditions
Your fear of this day likely didn’t arise from all of those chilling mask-wearing scenes in the movie Friday the 13th, one of the scariest movies of all time. It stems from something much older and more historical, rooted in a generations-old belief with ties to cultural and religious backgrounds, including the number of people at the Last Supper (13) and the related betrayal of Jesus, says Elizabeth Ochoa, Chief Psychologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City.
The fear may also have numerology origins, according to Fearof.net. There are 12 months in a year, and 12 is an even number, therefore 13 represents something evil that disrupts the perfection of 12. In British culture, it’s said that there were 13 steps to the gallows, and Friday was often associated with punishment; in Roman culture, it’s thought that the 13th witch to come to a gathering of 12 was considered the devil.
So, fear of this day has been around for ages. Check out some other common superstitions.
You might have fears about what you can’t control
Don’t discount fear of the unknown as a driving factor. “Even though the majority of people have never personally experienced unlucky phenomena on this specific date, the possibility of something uncontrollable happening causes intense fear,” says Aneisa Hanson, a licensed mental health counselor at Hanson Complete Wellness in Tampa, Florida. She explains that if you alter plans on this day in an attempt to avoid unlucky fate—especially if they’re drastic measures like canceling a trip or avoiding work—you’re likely clinging to a false belief that doing so will prevent bad things from happening. “This phenomenon is also known as a causal fallacy or magical thinking.” Ochoa adds that “for everyone with sense of superstition or magical thinking, having a ritual often provides a greater sense of control and comfort.”
It’s true that some odd and creepy things have happened on Friday the 13th through history.
If you’re a little on edge about Friday the 13th, you’re normal
Ochoa says that most people wake up on Friday the 13th, recall that it’s a day associated with superstition, and leave it at that. People might take some protective measures—carrying around a lucky rabbit’s foot, not walking on cracks, or opt to not sign any important contracts, she explains, but that those actions fall within the realm of typical ritualistic behaviors associated with this day rather than reflecting a mental illness.
You should know, however, that there are at least eight days that are unluckier than Friday the 13th.
If the day paralyzes you with fear, deeper issues may be at hand
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On the other hand, if you stay in bed all day for fear that anything you do on Friday the 13th will be hexed, Ochoa says that could be indicative of more serious issues. “There are people who believe that this is a dark, sinister day,” she says. They may become so fearful that they engage in repeated rituals to the point of compulsion—and that could end up becoming a diagnosable mental illness. For something to become a mental health disorder, the issue must be so problematic that it interferes with daily life function or renders someone unable to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not, Ochoa says. Here’s what everyone needs to know about coping with anxiety.
There’s a label for your fear: Friggatriskaidekaphobia
The panic or anxiety that sets in on Friday the 13th has a name: Friggatriskaidekaphobia. Say that three times fast. Or not. Either way, it’s the official word that the Association of Psychological Science uses to describe fear of Friday the 13th, and it’s been around for hundreds of years. Then again, it might just be easier to tell others you’re just not a fan of this creepy day.
… Or, you could just have Triskaidekaphobia
Turns out, Friday might not have anything to do with getting a case of nerves. You could have a fear strictly of the number 13, which could explain why the spooky set of digits leaves a bad feeling in your gut no matter what day it is. If encountering the odd number freaks out, you might want to chalk it up to Triskaidekaphobia, which is what a fear of 13 is called, according to the appropriately-named site Triskaidekaphobia.info. (Check out more fancy words that make you sound smarter.)
Your bad luck may come from your thoughts, not this “unlucky” day
Ever hear of a self-fulfilling prophesy? That could be what’s happening on Friday the 13th. According to the Association for Psychological Science, falling down the stairs or missing a taxi have nothing to do with the unlucky day. Instead, your anticipation of an unlucky day may be what’s causing unfortunate events to unfold. Some experts believe that merely thinking that something could happen may set certain circumstances and behaviors in motion that cause them to actually take place. So think positive… just not too positive. Here are some clear reasons why having an excessive Pollyanna-like attitude can backfire.
You’re disrupting the economy
If you’re panicked to the point of canceling flight plans—from visiting grandma to attending a work meeting—know that you may be part of the reason why it’s estimated that upwards of $900 million is lost in business on Friday the 13th. Experts at The Stress Management Center in North Carolina told NationalGeographic.com that people who avoid Friday the 13th at all costs may spell trouble for commerce; they say significant amounts of money are lost on this specific day because of people who decide not to fly or conduct business as usual. If it’s getting on a plane that you’re afraid of, and not Friday the 13th, check out these life-changing tips to help you conquer the fear of flying.
You probably overgeneralize
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Think you had a horrible day at work because it’s Friday the 13th? Did the doctor tell you your triglycerides are high during your Friday the 13th physical followup (and do you believe they’re high because of the day and not because of your ability to down a block of cheese in one sitting?) “Since culturally this date holds a wicked reputation, even experiences that have no causal relationship to this date are negatively associated due to an overgeneralization,” Hanson says. Be sure to truly assess why certain things occurred during the course of your day before jumping to superstitious conclusions that likely can’t be justified. And if you do happen to have concerns about your high triglycerides, here are heart-healthy tips doctors want you to know about.
You could have a good handle on coping with fears
If you have a fear of Friday the 13th and purposely throw yourself into scary situations on that very day, opting to watch Halloween movies that will scare you senseless or check out grandma’s creepy attic, you might be doing yourself a favor. People who take these risks, Ochoa says, could be helping themselves overcome an anxiety—in this case, fear of this particular day. She says thrusting yourself into the very thing you fear in an effort to overcome it is a common way many people attempt to cope with uncomfortable feelings. So your need to dim the lights and break out the Ouija board on this very day, even if it freaks you out a bit, may be perfectly appropriate.