Fear of Names

Names are what we use to identify ourselves. It is how we address individuals we meet in order to help others know when we are talking to them and not simply addressing the group. When a person fears names they suffer from Nomatophobia.

The phobia is expressed when fear is attributed to the individual bearing the name. The fear can be so profound that simply saying the name would invoke multiple symptoms of the fear.

What Causes Nomatophobia?

This is a fear that often starts as a result of superstition. Sometimes names are not used in sporting events because of a fear of jinxing the team. Some individuals who have prominence in a community may not be referred to by their proper name because the individual fears the perceived power they may have. Many people cannot in good conscience speak of the devil. The name brings up fears they don’t want to deal with.

In some cultures it is not permissible to speak the name of their god. Even when they write they must be a bit cryptic in how they refer to the deity they follow.

The fear is essentially the result of the power the individual transfers to the importance of the name. That may be reverence and honor or the belief that speaking the name will result in the individual hearing about it and exacting retribution. This idea might be linked to a feared gang leader or even school bully.

It may even be difficult for someone who suffers from this fear to whisper the name.

Symptoms of Nomatophobia

One of the things that may allow this phobia to seem less severe than others is that those who live with this fear are able to simply avoid saying the name. The negative would be the reaction they might have if someone else speaks a ‘forbidden’ name out loud.

Common symptoms include…

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • A keen sense of panic
  • Furtive glances to see if the object of dread might appear
  • A desire to hide
  • Fainting
  • Trembling
  • Acute anxiety

Those who live with a fear of names may be very vocal about wanting you to stop using the offensive name and promise to never say it again. It may seem silly to someone who does not have the fear, but it is very important to the nomatophobe.

How to Overcome the Fear of Names

This fear may not be readily noticed until and unless an offensive name is brought up in normal conversation. An individual who has this fear may need to seek counseling where a root cause for the fear can be identified and a recovery solution developed.

It may not be enough to explain to the nomatophobe that the name they fear does not have any specific power. In their minds it does have power and that power can be used to cause them harm. In this respect they seek to protect themselves by seeking a name-free lifestyle. They have justified their response so a short lecture on faulty logic will not help as much as it might serve to distance you from that individual.

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