The Unexplainable Perpetual Fear of the Unknown

The Unexplainable Perpetual Fear of the Unknown

Eva Iskhakova

Everyone is scared of something, whether it be flying, large bodies of water, or hospitals. Though many people exhibit irrational fears, the likelihood of them happening in real life is minimal at best. An irrational fear is a persistent or abnormal fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it.

For the purpose of determining the most popular fears amongst Gen Z, a questionnaire was filled out by the freshmen and sophomores (9th and 10th graders) at the Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey. The students were given the choice of several fears, as well as an “other” option where they were able to input any other fears that were not previously mentioned.


What Are You Afraid Of?

The results showed that spiders were the most prevalent of all the fears listed, with 16.6% of all the responding students exhibiting that particular fear. This is interesting, because though there are several types of spiders common to New Jersey (common house spider, wolf spider, black widow spider, etc.), their bites aren’t typically fatal to humans. This information arises the question of why, then, are teenagers so terrified of spiders as opposed to more reasonable fears.

In comparison, according to the State of New Jersey Department of Health, there are approximately 600 motor vehicle-related deaths in New Jersey every year, making motor vehicle crashes the second leading cause of injury in New Jersey. It it curious, then, why only 6.7% of the students surveyed at the Bergen County Academies were scared of car crashes or driving in general, seeing as deaths related to a motor-vehicle are extremely more common than deaths induced by a spider’s bite.

In an article published on The Atlantic during 2014, Olga Khazan stated that humans tend to be scared of things that they are not comfortable with, making unexpected situations very common irrational fears. This could explain why for instance, one can be terrified of elevators and be perfectly content with driving a car, even though the death rates related to cars are drastically higher.  

Several sophomores from Bergen County Academies confirmed that a majority of their fears are less realistic than others, but due to the face that they are less “used to” unrealistic fears, they are more terrifying to them.

Emily Lee, a sophomore in the medical academy, stated, “People tend to be irrational and are inclined to be afraid of things that do not happen on a daily basis. It can also be due to superstitions and stereotypes towards certain fears that causes the mentality that it must be feared.”

Sasha Shefter, a sophomore in the engineering academy had a different take on the issue, saying that if you are afraid of heights, you are less likely to go cliff jumping, meaning that dying from cliff jumping becomes less common entirely.  She stated, “This is probably because you tend to avoid anything that has to do with your common fear and that is why it is less likely to occur.”