Billion Dollar Phobia? Friday the 13th Fears Take a Big Economic Toll
Jan 13th 2012 7:00AM
Updated Jan 13th 2012 8:46PM
Oh, no! It's Friday the 13th!
Superstitious investors may remember the mini-stock market crash of Oct. 13, 1989, when a megabillion-dollar leveraged buyout of struggling airline carrier United Airlines hit the skids and contributed to the Dow plummeting nearly 7% on that fateful day.
And who can forget the massive 6.8 earthquake in northeastern Turkey on March 13, 1992, which resulted in more than 500 deaths and widespread damage to property, giving investors in insurance companies some reason to pause.
Friday the 13th fears have been around for eons, in part attributed to the ancient belief that 13 is an unlucky number. Friday also happens to be considered an unlucky day, according to a National Geographic report. Smash the two together and it's double trouble.
Pushing People Over the Edge
Fears about Friday the 13th can cause folks to take steps they may not otherwise take, say psychologists. Those steps can range from staying home from work to avoiding air travel, says Karen Cassiday, clinical director and owner of the Anxiety & Agoraphobia Treatment Center in Chicago.
Of the more than 300 million people in the United States, an estimated 10.5 million suffer from obsessive-compulsive behavior, and about a quarter of them have phobias related to superstitions that cause them to change their lifestyle or engage in avoidance behaviors, says Cassiday.
In addition, 21 million Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, which entails constant worrying about a variety of things and events. Of this group, Cassiday estimates a whopping 75% to 80% may be superstitious.
The Cost of Friday the 13th Phobias
All this worrying and fear leads to more than just gray hairs -- it also leads to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business on Friday the 13th.
Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., was quoted in the National Geographic report as saying: "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do."
The only folks who stand to make money from Friday the 13th are those who sell rosaries or amulets like lucky rabbit's feet. Most of these purchases are made days before a Friday the 13th, because those suffering from this type of phobia often don't venture out on those days, Cassiday notes.
When You Should Worry
Superstitions alone aren't enough to justify a call to a psychologist, but clinical treatment is needed when they begin to prohibit social or occupational functioning on a constant basis, says Lisa Hale, founder and director of the Kansas City Center for Anxiety Treatment in Kansas.
"Missing one day of work is not enough to be diagnosable. It's when it impairs your ability to do your job that clinical treatment is needed," says Hale, who also serves as a director of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and director of the Anxiety Research Program at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
"Anxiety disorders are very treatable, but people write them off as a quirk," Hale says. "If it starts to get in the way of living your life or doing your job, then it's highly recommended people get help."