The fear of feet is known as podiaphobia. People with podiaphobia typically become frightened or disgusted whenever they are around feet, even their own. They often don't let anyone else touch their feet and sometimes wear shoes or socks all day and night so they never have to see their own feet. Like most phobias, the fear of feet is usually an irrational fear. Many people can overcome irrational fears with a cognitive-behavioral therapy tactic called systematic desensitization. This method can help people overcome fear by being exposed to their phobia triggers in a safe and controlled environment.
During a typical therapy session, a person with podiaphobia gradually encounters feet with the help of a therapist. For example, in an early session, the patient may simply be asked to draw a picture of feet or read about feet. Later, he may watch a video of feet or look at someone's feet through a doorway. Finally, the person typically has a real-life encounter with feet.
The point of systematic desensitization is to make the person realize that the fear of feet is irrational. This therapy, combined with relaxation techniques, often help the person see that feet are usually not harmful or dangerous. In many cases, the person begins to gain control over his fear, which is an important step toward overcoming the fear of feet.
People with podiaphobia typically experience severe anxiety whenever they encounter feet. This can happen even if they're not in contact with actual feet. They may start to have anxiety symptoms when faced with a photograph of feet, seeing feet on television, or hearing other people talk about feet. Fear of feet can sometimes become so severe that it interferes with a person's social life and business.
Typical symptoms of podiaphobia include shortness of breath, trembling, pounding heart, sweating, nausea, or chest pain whenever the person is around feet. The person may feel lightheaded, dizzy, or like they may pass out. Some people with podiaphobia feel like they're crazy or losing touch with reality. Anxiety symptoms may be so severe that the person may feel like he's dying.
In addition to therapy sessions, people with podiaphobia can take steps on their own to conquer their fears. For example, simply learning about phobias sometimes goes a long way toward overcoming anxiety. Many people feel comfort in knowing that other people have irrational fears, too.