A personal trainer says normal life is impossible for her – because she is absolutely terrified of SUNFLOWERS.
Since the age of 11, Daneen Longmore has suffered a severe, irrational fear of sunflowers which leads to panic attacks if she encounters the plants without warning.
Miss Longmore, 23, of Ealing, west London, said her phobia is so powerful that she dreads Mother’s Day because of the abundance of sunflowers in shops.
Miss Longmore, a personal trainer, said: “At school classmates bullied me by putting sunflowers right into my face. They thought it was hilarious and just laughed while I broke down in tears.
“I know they’re just harmless plants and I think the situation is ridiculous, but I can’t control it. I hate it – doing normal things, like going into Marks and Spencer, is terrifying.”
Miss Longmore suggested the sudden onset of the phobia when she was 11 years old could be linked to childhood emotional trauma.
She said: “From the age of six to 11, I slept in a bed with my favourite soft toy – a life-size sunflower.
“My mum and dad would argue a lot. After they separated when I was 11, my half-sister and I had to witness my mother going through new relationships and breakups.
“It was emotionally tough and I felt alone frequently. It’s possible that the phobia is connected with those feelings.
“It came on suddenly. I started feeling panicked when I went florists, and before long I was freaking out whenever I saw sunflowers.
“Now I hate going into big supermarkets because the flowers are so popular and they’re always on sale.
“It’s just the middle section of the flower I’m worried about – the dark brown, furry section at the centre. It appears to me like an inescapable vortex which is trying to suck me into another world.
“I’m unnerved by the way the brown furry section is surrounded by bright yellow petals, which seem designed to lure you in. For me, it’s the most terrifying kind of venus fly-trap.
“When I’m confronted with one it’s as if there’s nothing else in the room – everything disappears and it’s just me and the flower, face to face, and I can’t get away.”
Miss Longmore does not suffer any other phobia.
“I’m not scared of spiders. I’m not afraid of any other type of flower – just sunflowers. I can’t stand to see them on t-shirts or posters.
“A few years ago in Harrods I had a particularly bad panic attack. It was around Mother’s Day, when the shop was full of sunflowers. I was with a friend who was simply trying to buy a gift when I started crying uncontrollably.
“My friend shooed me out of the shop but everyone in the store wondered what I was hysterical about.
“I can’t do normal things. For most people, buying flowers is a normal, nice thing to do. But for me, it’s a nightmare.”
Miss Longmore said her fiance Katie Padfield, 25, a music teacher, and her family and friends have become accustomed to her unusual hang-up and are supportive.
She said: “On walks Katie will be on the lookout for sunflowers coming into view so she can warn me to look away.
“She doesn’t understand my fear, but she’s respectful of it.”
Fear of sunflowers is termed helianthophobia – the Latin name for sunflowers is helianthus.
Miss Longmore said she is keen to reach out to other suffers.
She said: “I haven’t gone to a therapist because I’m just too embarrassed. I’m worried I’ll be laughed off.
“I know the phobia has been given a Latin name, so presumably someone out there has the same fear, but I’ve never been able to contact someone in the same situation as me.
“I would love to talk to another person with the problem – to find someone else would make me feel less like a freak.”
Other unusual phobias known to medical science include papyrophobia, which is fear of paper, arachibutyrophobia, fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth, and euphobia, which is fear of hearing good news.
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