Triskaidekaphobia (Fear of the Number 13)

Triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 13. People who suffer form this phobia may find it extremely difficult or utterly impossible to do anything that has to do with the number 13. For example, they may make sure that all of the “like items” in their home are either less than 13 or more than 13 in quantity. For instance, if they realize that they own 13 shirts or have 13 items in their refrigerator, then they may simply throw one item away so to make the total number of times 12 instead of 13.

People with triskaidekaphobia may realize that their fear of the number 13 is irrational, but the intense dread they experience from the number overpowers their ability to think logically about it. Their obsessive fear of the number 13 may somewhat resemble obsessive compulsive disorder. However, the compulsions experienced with those suffering from triskaidekaphobia nearly always include avoidance of the number 13, as opposed to performing some irrational compulsion.

People with triskaidekaphobia may make sure that absolutely nothing they own or come across has the number 13 on it. They may go to painstaking efforts to ensure that this doesn’t happen. For instance, they make make sure that the number 13 is not in their address, so this may force them to move to a location based solely on their triskaidekaphobia.

They may also make sure that their license plate on their car doesn’t have the number 13 on it, as well as the model of the car itself not being a 2013. Essentially, anything that includes the number 13 or is in anyway associated with it may give someone with triskaidekaphobia an immense amount of fear to the point to where they may even experience a full blown panic attack. If they were to allow such things to happen, they may feel extremely unsafe and believe that something terrible or unlucky will eventually happen to them.

Symptoms of Triskaidekaphobia

There are many different symptoms of triskaidekaphobia. There may be slight variations of how triskaidekaphobia affects each person, but the underlying fear of the number 13 will prevail regardless. Someone with triskaidekaphobia may find it impossible to go to the 13th floor of a building or order the 13th item on a menu at a restaurant. They may even feel uncomfortable if there happens to be 13 tables at a restaurant also. Thus, forcing them to leave.

When they come across the number 13 it will give them intense feelings of anxiety. Typically, the only way that they know how to reduce this mental anguish is to avoid the number 13 regardless of how much it inconveniences them or anyone else. For the person with triskaidekaphobia, their avoidance of this number is a way to “help protect” themselves from the “potential dangers” that the number 13 can ensue.

Below, you will see some of the most common symptoms of this phobia:

  • Intense anxiety when looking at or thinking about the number 13
  • Unable to own 13 of the same thing (e.g. shirts, plates, etc.)
  • Fearful to go on the 13th floor of a building
  • May buy something else if their total is $13
  • Hyper-aware of numbers and counting things
  • Will only live in a zip code/address that excludes the number 13
  • Fearful of the 13th day of every month

Causes of Triskaidekaphobia

There is no known cause of triskaidekaphobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant roles in the development of this mental illness. Someone with a family history of mental illness may have an increased risk for developing triskaidekaphobia, especially if those disorders are anxiety or phobia related.

This would mean that they may be predisposed to develop triskaidekaphobia. When someone is predisposed do develop mental illness, it may only take a traumatic experience for them to develop a disorder. With the case of triskaidekaphobia, this would mean looking at environmental factors.

Growing up as a young child in a very superstitious family may be enough for someone to slowly develop triskaidekaphobia. The fears that one’s family may have had could have perhaps made a permanent imprint on the mind of a young child, especially if those fears and superstitions were asserted often. Also, growing up in a very stressful environment may be a potential factor for the development of this disorder too.

Other things that may contribute to someone developing triskaidekaphobia may be that they also suffer from an additional mental disorder. They may also have OCD, generalized anxiety disorderdepression, or even other specific phobias like myrmecophobia (fear of ants) or aerophobia (fear of flying). So, it is important to look at the entire scope of someone’s mental health before coming up with a verdict as to what causes triskaidekaphobia, because many different factors can be the cause of it.

Triskaidekaphobia Treatments

There are no specific treatments for triskaidekaphobia. However, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and (anti-anxiety) medication may be able to help minimize the symptoms of triskaidekaphobia. CBT would work by having you and your therapist discuss skills to help you cope with your illness, as well as learning new ways to think about your intense fear of the number 13. To get the best results, you may want to find a therapist who specializes in treating phobias or a therapist who has experience treating people with phobias.

Exposure therapy may be very effective at treating triskaidekaphobia, unlike other phobias such as the fear of sharks or the fear of vampires. Exposure therapy would work by having the therapist slowly expose you to the number 13. The therapist may first start off by having you think of the number 13 for a couple minutes and to then have you observe the way your body feels as a result of you thinking of the number.

Then, she may write down the number 13 on a piece of paper and have you look at it or hold it. Essentially, the goal is for you to slowly realize that nothing bad will happen when in the presence of the number 13. Thus, helping to desensitize you from your irrational fears.

Exercise for Triskaidekaphobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including triskaidekaphobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.

According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of triskaidekaphobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.

There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of triskaidekaphobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with triskaidekaphobia over time.

Practicing Yoga for Triskaidekaphobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from triskaidekaphobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with triskaidekaphobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.

There are many different types of yoga that someone with triskaidekaphobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with triskaidekaphobia.

If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of triskaidekaphobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Reducing Caffeine for Triskaidekaphobia

It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with triskaidekaphobia to experience panic attacks.

So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.

Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with triskaidekaphobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Triskaidekaphobia

DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like triskaidekaphobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.

One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with triskaidekaphobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.

Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with triskaidekaphobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.

Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with triskaidekaphobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your triskaidekaphobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Psychiatric Medications for Triskaidekaphobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe triskaidekaphobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.

These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their triskaidekaphobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.


These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as triskaidekaphobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of triskaidekaphobia.

These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of triskaidekaphobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Triskaidekaphobia

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with triskaidekaphobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.

CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with triskaidekaphobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with triskaidekaphobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.

Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with triskaidekaphobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Triskaidekaphobia

MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from triskaidekaphobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with triskaidekaphobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.

Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of triskaidekaphobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Practicing Meditation for Triskaidekaphobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from triskaidekaphobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.

Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from triskaidekaphobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.

For someone with triskaidekaphobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.

To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of triskaidekaphobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.

Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with triskaidekaphobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Triskaidekaphobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as triskaidekaphobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with triskaidekaphobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.

The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with triskaidekaphobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their triskaidekaphobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with triskaidekaphobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.

4 ways to test your fear of the number 13

There are many ways that people with triskaidekaphobia will be tested. Such experiences may be them making a purchase that ends up having the number 13 somewhere in the total, making an important announcement on the 13th of any month, and any other arbitrary situation which in someway can be associated with the number 13.

There is a plethora of different ways that someone can test whether or not they have triskaidekaphobia. This brief list of 4 ways are just some of the more common ways in which someone with an irrational fear of the number 13 would experience this fear in their day to day life. If you have not experienced any of the following examples, then perhaps you may want to try to experience them or try to become more aware of when they can happen. Doing so may help you to unveil whether or not you may be suffering from triskaidekaphobia.

1.) When your change is 13 dollars/cents

People suffering from full blown triskaidekaphobia will often have a very difficult time with seeing or being involved with anything that has to do with the number 13 in any capacity. One common way that people suffering from this phobia is by enduring the unfortunate fate of getting back change from a cashier which either has the number 13 in the dollar amount or the number 13 in the cents amount. Although most people will never squawk at the sight of money, for people with triskaidekaphobia this may certainly not be the case.

A person who has an irrational fear of the number 13 who finds themselves in such a situation can expect to endure an immense amount of dread at the mere thought of accepting something that has to do with the number 13. Although most people don’t even pay attention to the change they get after getting groceries or after making any arbitrary purchase for that matter, when someone with triskaidekaphobia does notice this, what will follow immediately after will almost always be intense anxiety or at least feeling very unsettled.

2.) When an event is on the 13th of the month

Special events such as someone’s marriage, baby shower, or retirement party is often never on the 13th of any month. This is due to the fact that many people associate the number 13 with bad luck. So, those who are superstitious enough to believe it may withhold convictions that their marriage, baby shower, or retirement party may fail or that something terrible will happen if things events occur on the 13th of any month. Although someone who is merely superstitious will likely be able to rationalize their way out of enduring the unnecessary amount of anxiety which may be associated with the number 13, this is not the case for someone with full blown triskaidekaphobia.

So, someone suffering from triskaidekaphobia may make a conscious effort to avoid doing anything significant to “ensure” that nothing bad will happen. Although doing so will likely give them immediate relief from their anxiety, it will also likely worsen their triskaidekaphobia in the long term seeing as how they would be then reinforcing their fear of the number 13 by actively avoiding doing anything of importance on the 13th of any month.

3.) When you need 13 of something

Although most of us don’t count by 13 or purchase things by the 13, we often will not be faced with needing 13 of something. Be that as it may, there are indeed some instances where either by mistake or on purpose they end up with 13 of something. If this were to be the case for someone suffering from triskaidekaphobia, then it will not be uncommon for them to add or take one item away before purchasing the them all or they may throw the 13th item away if it is something that they already own. Such destructive behavior will likely be commonplace among those suffering with triskaidekaphobia.

Although someone with triskaidekaphobia may realize that doing something as irresponsible as trashing an item they own in an attempt to ensure that they only own 12 of that particular item may give them immediate relief from their irrational fear of the number 13, their fear of this number will likely deepen due to them reinforcing their fear. In addition to this, someone with triskaidekaphobia may in fact even realize that their fear of the number 13 is irrational. However, when they are in the midst of the number 13 in any capacity, they will likely fall right back into their old habits of avoidance and anxiety.

4.) Achieving a goal on the 13th of the month

Some people who are superstitious or who have full blown triskaidekaphobia may make conscious efforts to not announce anything or accomplish anything of great importance on the 13th of any month. Doing so may make them feel as though their announcement or achievement would then be tainted or cursed to meander in mediocrity or to fail altogether as time goes on. Such unsettling worry thoughts is more than enough motivation for someone with triskaidekaphobia to either make certain that their special event does not occur on the 13th of any month.

To test out your own fear of the number 13, you can notice whether or not you alter the days in which you would normally do something due to it being on the 13th. For example, you may have a first date with someone and plan to have it on this upcoming Saturday. However, after the plans are made you notice that this Saturday is on the 13th of the month, then you may feel as though this will mean you will have a terrible date or that they aren’t the right person for you. Being more aware of what you do on the 13th of any given month may intimate whether or not you may be suffering from triskaidekaphobia symptoms.

If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.

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