Stare Down the Beak of Your Problems

What is your favorite word and why?

If you’ve never heard of the word Anatidaephobia, you’re going to think I made it up. It’s the fear that you are being watched by a duck. No, really.

I don’t have Anatidaephobia. I don’t know anybody with Anatidaephobia. I don’t hunt or fish. The last time I was even close to a duck, it was covered in orange sauce. But before you dismiss Anatidaephobia—or other obscure phobias from Nomophobia (the fear of losing cell phone coverage) to Aulophobia (the fear of flutes)—consider this: There are enough people in the world with this fear of fowl that it actually has a name. If you are constantly peeking nervously over your shoulder for a duck stalker, you are not alone. If you are afraid of cheese (Turophobia) or ferns (Pteridophobia) or even peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth (Arachibutyrophobia), there’s somebody out there who knows exactly what you are going through.

So if a community of Anatidaephobics can stare down the beak of their fears, why do my worries and anxieties sometimes feel so overwhelming—even though millions of teenagers are as afflicted as I am? Maybe it’s because there’s no word to define them: the panic over whether a B- in calculus will sink my chances of getting into my first-choice college...

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