Triscaidecaphobia (phobia number 13): symptoms, causes and treatment

Triscaidecaphobia is the phobia at number thirteen; the subject who suffers from it experiences such an intense and irrational fear of this number that he avoids it at all costs.

In this article we will talk about triscaidecaphobiaand we will see how this phobia is defined, what is its relationship with superstition and what examples are linked to it.

What is triscaidecaphobia?

Triscaidecaphobia or phobia at number thirteen is an intense and irrational fear of the number 13. If we look at the etymology of the term “three”, it is translated as three and “ten” ten can be translated as “triscaideca” as thirteen. To consider the fear as a phobia, it must be verified that it is excessive, that it generates discomfort or an alteration in the functionality of the subject, that is, that it affects his life.

To see the scope of the negative evaluation of the number thirteen, it should be noted that 10% of the general population refers to prefer not to make a connection with this number, despite the lower percentage of subjects who can be diagnosed as phobic.


The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Manual (DMS 5) categorizes phobias as an anxiety disorder. Specific phobias are defined as an intense fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation, this fear is almost always observed disproportionately, and the phobic stimulus is avoided. As with most anxiety disorders, symptoms must have been present for at least 6 months.

Triscaidecaphobia is classified as a specific type of phobia because it does not fit any of the specific specifiers. Considering the impact that phobic symptoms have on a person’s life you will have to go to psychotherapy.

We must bear in mind that to meet the criteria and, therefore, to be able to make a diagnosis and consider it a phobia, there must be discomfort or deterioration in the quality of life; therefore, the intervention will be essential to be able to recover the functionality.

Avoid the number thirteen

We also see how the use of the number 13 is avoided in different places or professions. Some skyscrapers don’t have the thirteenth floor, they go straight to the fourteenth. This avoidance is also observed in the streets, house number, rows of planes, by jumping directly from twelve to fourteen or even in the hotel room number.

The national identity document, the DNI, does not include the number thirteen either. The famous writer John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, in his book The Hobbit, tells how the dwarves ask to find one more to join them on the journey in order to avoid being thirteen years old. Singers and songwriters have also avoided using the number thirteen to number their songs.

We also see this avoidance in sports like motorsport or motorcycling, where its participants refuse to wear the number thirteen. This relationship of thirteen to bad luck in superstitious beliefs is also reinforced when, instead of avoiding this number, one uses it, since it is done in order to detach him from the bad luck attributed to him socially.

Triscaidecaphobia and superstition

Triscaidecaphobia has been linked to superstition. We understand superstition as an irrational belief, contrary to reason, which we could explain as magical thought without scientific basis, that is, we cannot objectively prove it. Although such beliefs may seem innocuous, they can affect the subject and end up affecting his daily life if he fails to perform certain activities because of such superstitions.

These superstitions have their origin in cultural or social learning, that is to say that they do not appear innately in the subject, he learns from the cultural influence of his environment. This belief in appearance makes sense, because we realize that different superstitions arise in different cultures, and subjects of the same culture may show similar superstitions.

Since then, the field of psychology has attempted to explain the appearance of superstitious behavior. Psychologist Frederick Skinner observed in an experiment with pigeons that by randomly presenting a reinforcement, the animals associated it with a behavior performed before it appeared, repeating it to obtain the reinforcement. These behaviors have been called superstitious.

Later, psychologist Michael Mahoney pointed out that superstitious behaviors were not those practiced before, but after receiving reinforcementbeing valued as biases, cognitive distortions of perception and evaluation of reality.

Thus, we could consider triscaidecaphobia as a superstition, an irrational and scientifically unfounded belief. Subjects perform specific behaviors to try to avoid or neutralize the effects of the number thirteen.


The technique that has shown the best results and the greatest effectiveness in the treatment of specific phobias is live exposure., which consists in directly exposing the subject to the phobic stimulus. Regarding triscaidecaphobia, we will expose the patient to number thirteen.

The mode of exposure can vary according to the intensity and the duration of the exposure, we will try to expose at the maximum intensity that the subject can support and increase gradually. The duration should be long enough for the anxiety to decrease.

Examples of triscaidecaphobia

As we have seen, triscaidecaphobia is the intense fear of the prime number thirteen. Thirteen has been linked to various happenings or occurrences, and is currently an unlucky number that many try to avoid for fear of a catastrophic event. This relationship with negative facts is seen in different cultures and at different historical times.. Let’s see what examples and references of rejection or fear of the number thirteen exist.

We will divide them into different categories depending on whether they are related to death, religion, historical events or avoidance behaviors.

1. Deathbound

Number thirteen has been linked with death. Egyptian culture posited life as a cycle divided into different phases, coinciding with phase thirteen with death.. On the other hand, in the deck of tarot cards, used to predict the future, card number thirteen coincides with death. In either case, death is not understood as something negative, because the Egyptians believed that after death a better life begins and the tarot card of death indicates that the subject will experience a change, a transformation , which can be positive.

2. Relating to religion

Another area that has linked thirteen to bad luck or described it as a number to avoid is religion. The Christian religion refers to the fact that at the last supper there were thirteen people, the twelve apostles and Jesus, and this happened shortly before Jesus was betrayed and executed. As well, Chapter 13 of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, the holy book of Christianity, is dedicated to the Antichrist, as its name suggests, a figure contrary to Christ, to God.

The Vikings believed that Loki, a god in Norse mythology who was considered the god of fraud and cunning, was the thirteenth god in the pantheon. Likewise, Christians have reconnected thirteen with evil by emphasizing that Satan, who is associated with sin, was the thirteenth angel.

3. Historical Events

The number thirteen has also been linked to historical events that have reinforced the bad luck this number brings and the connection to negative events.

friday the thirteenth

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in different Western cultures because there have been various negative events on this date. This irrational fear of Friday the 13th is also considered a type of phobia called parascevedecatriaphobia. Negative events that took place on Friday the 13th: One of the most notable events was the capture and condemnation of the Knights Templar on Friday October 13, 1307. More recently, on December 13, 1939 in Victoria, Australia, one of the worst fires in human history took place.

Subsequently, on Friday, October 13, 1972, a Uruguayan Air Force plane crashed. On Friday, November 13, 1992, one of the most notorious crimes in Spain took place, that of the “daughters of Alcàsser”. Twenty years ago, on Friday January 13, 2012, the cruiser Costa Concordia crashed into a rock, killing some of its passengers. One of the most recent events, on Friday November 13, 2015, was the first terrorist attack in Paris, France.

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