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Canal Story Lets Loose Phobias

Images of the Ever Given bothered people with certain fears
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2021 7:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Many people were concerned or awed when they saw photos of the huge Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal over the past week. But those with certain phobias were uncomfortable, even overcome with anxiety, the Guardian reports. "I'm genuinely terrified of large objects," said a woman living in the Isle of Wight who tried to avoid seeing images of the ship. "It's an overwhelming sense of feeling small and like that thing will fall on top of you or overshadow you. It makes my stomach feel empty and knotted, like if you drive over a hill really fast." The phobias triggered by the coverage vary. A Chicago man who says he has megalophobia, a fear of large objects, said he was OK until he heard the Ever Given is bigger than the Empire State Building and saw a photo of the solitary, relatively small excavator next to the ship. "The size comparison, it triggers me," he said.

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Other people were affected by submechanophobia, a fear of submerged human-made objects, and by a fear of ships and sea wreckage called naviphobia or navisphobia. There's no way to stop a phobia from developing, per Harvard Medical School. Sarah Hart, the Isle of Wight resident, thinks hers began when she went to London as a child and was overwhelmed by the big buildings. Experts said people with such phobias may not give them much thought until their fears are triggered. They can then become anxious or even have physical symptoms. There could be another reason people felt phobias intensely last week. A behavioral therapist said phobias can hit harder "when they are experienced alongside other events—such as the pandemic—that increase a person's baseline level of anxiety." (Read more phobias stories.)

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