What is Quadraphobia?

Quadraphobia, also known as Tetraphobia, is an irrational or unjustified (and often uncontrollable) fear (and sometimes terror) of things that come in fours.

This phobia is very common among East Asians, as the number is very similar to the Chinese word for “death.” Like the number 13 for Westerners, the number 4 can be seen as extremely unlucky and is thus used as little as possible. In buildings, there are no floors with this number, nor is the number 4 used on military vehicles. While a mild fear stemming from superstition is reasonable for children, when adults harbor such beliefs they may very well have a genuine disorder.

The root word 'quadra' is Greek meaning 'four' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Quadraphobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

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Causes of Quadraphobia

Quadraphobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Quadraphobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Unlike having a reasonable fear, Quadraphobics are afraid of the number 4 to the point that their ability to lead normal lives is rendered nearly impossible. Like other phobias, there is no universally specific cause. Rather, various unique and specific troubling experiences are to blame for the disorder. Quadraphobia may be the result of superstitious parenting or lack of parenting altogether.

Still, like other phobias and psychological disorders, it may be concomitant with bipolar disorder.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Quadraphobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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