Afraid of Math? It Could be Arithmophobia

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Afraid of Math? It Could be Arithmophobia

specific numbers could incite fear in a person/ Photo By ESB Professional via Shutterstock


Numbers can also be a source of dread for certain people. Whether being part of math problems or by numbers itself, some individuals prefer to avoid it. This is what happens when one has Arithmophobia, which Healthline says is the “fear of numbers.” According to, it is derived from the two Greek terms “arithmo” which means “numbers” and “phobia” which means “fear” or “deep aversion”.

Some reasons for fearing numbers may not only have to do with having a hard time with math but can also be because of religious and cultural reasons or its link to bad luck. These fears are often made worse by folklore and media.


What Is Arithmopobhobia?

Arithmophobia is defined by as “the exaggerated constant and often irrational fear of numbers.” It is also known as Numerophobia.

Specific numbers could incite fear in a person or for certain cultures in religion because of how they are believed to be the cause of bad luck. Some examples of these are the fear of the number 666 also known as Hexakosioihexekontaphobia, the fear of number 13 also called Triskaidekaphobia, and the fear of the number 8 also known as Octophobia.

The phobic may also be afraid of all kinds of digits. This may be even more so if they are included in difficult math computation. Merely thinking about having to solve math problems in school or being pressured to do daily calculations may lead them to panic. Arithmophobia can be very limiting in many aspects of a phobic’s life. They may be embarrassed to discuss their problem with numbers and may result in them withdrawing and lessening their social contact.


The extreme fear of numbers can be caused by the following factors:

Historical causes

Several experts infer that this phobia may have originated from the period when people had begun keeping track of time and using calendars and numerical systems. Some of the contributors of these numerical systems and time-keeping methods are the Egyptians who were the pioneers of utilizing the solar calendar to and Aryabhatta who introduced the number zero. In turn,  this influenced people to believe that numbers are never-ending and infinite.

Over time, humans learned not only how to measure time associated with heavenly signs, but also in connection with numerical calculations and chronology. Due to these complex learning systems, the idea that numbers and time are complicated, hard to understand, varying and unknown was highlighted.

Traumatic events

Negative experiences associated with numbers and Math are also said to lead to Arithmophobia. They may have consistently failed their Math subject or barely managed to pass it in school. If they were shamed and bullied by their peers for doing poorly in Math or if their parents punished or scolded them for it, this may also make them more prone to developing this phobia. Parents may also unintentionally be inducing this fear in them by warning them that since Math is hard if they do not study for it, they are bound to have a failing grade.


The symptoms that someone suffering from Arithmophobia may experience are:

Avoidance behavior

Children who are affected by Arithmophobia may cry or scream when at the mere thought of having to attend classes. Since they are not capable of properly conveying these fears, this may lead to an improper diagnosis of anxiety.

On the other hand, adults who suffer from this phobia do everything they can to avoid having to deal with numbers. This may harm their career advancement or some parts of their personal lives. This may also cause them to be ashamed about themselves for having an issue with Math and numbers. This can lead them to conceal their weakness or lying about their phobia. As a result, this may destroy or cause tension in their relationships.

Anxiety attacks

An individual who is excessively fearful of numbers may experience symptoms of anxiety attacks. They may feel like escaping or looking for a hiding place, sweat, experience a rapid heartbeat and dry mouth, feel nauseous, be unable to form proper words or sentences and may be shaking. They may also feel numb and confused as well as feel disconnected from reality.

Working anxiously with numbers  

Some people with Arithmophobia may be able to confront numbers but may feel anxious while having to compute or calculate. Even just the sight of telephone numbers and written dates may overwhelm them. Doing practical computations, like adding up the prices of the items they bought or having to tip a waiter at a restaurant, may be too much for them to handle.

individual who is excessively fearful of numbers may experience symptoms of anxiety attacks/ Photo By perfectlab via Shutterstock



There are many treatment options a patient with Arithmophobia can choose from. They can select from a variety of therapies and should only resort to medicine as a last line of treatment.


Neuro-Linguistic Programming

This kind of therapy aids in changing the reaction of the brain to numbers and helps one become more confident in dealing with them.

Gradual Exposure Therapy

When subject to this type of therapy, the patient will be exposed to numbers by having a therapist show them numbers, make them think about numbers and little by little, help them compute simple to complex mathematical problems.

Other Therapies

The phobic may also decide to go through talk therapy, counseling, and hypnotherapy.


Medicines are not always prescribed since the phobic may experience side effects and could become drug dependent. However, for severe phobia cases, they may recommend mild anti-depressants.

The fastest and most effective approach to treating Arithmophobia is using a combination of psychotherapy and medication.



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