A student says she will be hiding behind the sofa until Halloween is over because a rare phobia makes her absolutely terrified of MASKS.
Jessica Parmiter, 20, suffers from rare masklophobia which makes her recoil from masks and mascots.
The business student, of Portsmouth, said: “Halloween is always a total nightmare. I hate this time of year.
“I daren’t go anywhere near the front door in case trick-or-treaters surprise me.
“It affects my life quite seriously.”
Miss Parmiter said she was only two years old when she reacted badly to a mask.
She said: “When I was two years old my mother took me to my local supermarket around Easter time.
“I’m too young to remember it, but I’ve been told that when I saw some Easter chicken masks which were on sale, I completely freaked out and had to be taken out of the store.”
When she was four Miss Parmiter accompanied her family on a holiday to Disneyland in California, where the phobia took root.
She said: “We were watching the Jungle Book parade when a group of performers dressed as orangutans and wearing masks came running towards us.
“One of them crept up to my pram and jumped out in front of me from underneath. Apparently I made such a disturbing noise that people thought there had been some kind of accident or emergency.
“I cried all the way back to the hotel room, which I refused to leave.
“The next morning there was a breakfast which all the characters walked through, meeting people. I had another breakdown and had to be led away in floods of tears.”
Miss Parmiter, who does not suffer with any other phobia apart from a mild fear of spiders, said her unusual fear has affected her social life in adulthood.
She said: “When I see a mask I go very cold and get goosebumps. At the same time I get hot and panicky and no matter where I am, I have to just run away.
“I’m filled with a fear over what’s underneath the mask. Very often costume masks have exaggerated, twisted features. They are extremely unnatural in my eyes, and that’s something I can’t cope with.
“I can’t go anywhere near my local shopping centre at Easter time because I know there will be people in costumes and wearing masks in the area.
“If my friends want to organise a day out to Chessington World of Adventures or Thorpe Park or anywhere like that, I have to retreat into my shell and make my excuses.
“I tried hypnotherapy six years ago. I was hopeful that it would be enough to fix the problem, but it came back soon afterwards.”
Today, Miss Parmiter is supported through her anxiety by her friends, family and boyfriend James, 21.
She said: “James tries to calm me down whenever I’m confronted with a mask. If I’m out with a group and we’re in a place with someone in costume, they’ll ask them to not come near me, or take the costume head off if possible.”
Miss Parmiter said no other members of her family share her fear and she has no idea as to its origins.
She said: “It’s a complete mystery as to why I’m fixated on this. It’s a tricky thing to explain. I’ve had negative reactions from people who have told me not to be so silly.
“I know it’s irrational but I can’t help it.”
In medical jargon, fear of masks is termed masklophobia. Other unusual phobias include papyrophobia, the fear of paper, bibliophobia, an irrational fear of books and euphobia, the fear of hearing good news.
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