I have a rat phobia, but could I have a music phobia as well?

Trevor Laffan reflects on people's phobias, in his weekly column
I have a rat phobia, but could I have a music phobia as well?

There is a term called specific musical anhedonia which means some people lack the typical emotional responses to music. Picture Stock

‘I’M A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! was on our TV screens again recently, but instead of spending a few weeks in the heat of the southern hemisphere, the contestants were confined to Gwrych Castle in North Wales, where the weather wasn’t so pleasant.

In fact, it was so bad at one point that filming was stopped after Storm Arwen damaged the production area and the celebrities had to be relocated.

I would have been delighted with the break in filming if I had been one of those contestants, but I’m never likely to find myself in that situation for a couple of reasons.

In the first place, I’m not a celebrity, but even if we could find a way round that, I wouldn’t last five minutes in there, and I’ll tell you why.

I could tolerate the rough conditions, and the hardship and I might even cope with eating some of the critters, but as soon as the first rat made an appearance, I’d be off. I can’t stand the sight of them, even from a distance, and the thought of coming into contact with one makes me heave.

No amount of money could tempt me to share a space with a rat, never mind letting it crawl all over me - and I’m not the only one.

There’s a whole bunch of us, and we suffer from a thing called Musophobia, an excessive fear and aversion to rats or mice.

Mice don’t bother me, but they say that because rats are traditionally linked with dirt, rot, and serious diseases, some people experience repulsion at the sight of them and I’m one of those.

But there’s another reason I could never go near that TV show. I have a slight touch of claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces, which could pose a few problems for the producers. It’s not severe in so far as I don’t mind small rooms or crowds, but I hate being restricted in tight spaces. An MRI scanner is a good example.

I’m broad shouldered so when I’m in that thing, my shoulders touch both sides and my nose almost touches the roof. That makes me uncomfortable and having to stay there for 20 minutes doesn’t help either.

It reminds me of a photograph I saw online of a guy assisting with a cave rescue. He was crawling through a space so tight he had to turn his head sideways to fit through. My chest was tightening just looking at the image so I can’t imagine being comfortable in a locked box full of rats on I’m a Celebrity, so I’ll give it a miss, thank-you very much.

While reading up on phobias, I came across another little nugget that explained why I have little interest in music. I’ve often wondered about that. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good song or a good singer, because I do, I just can’t be bothered listening.

Garth Brooks, U2 or the Rolling Stones could be playing across the road from me, and I wouldn’t leave my recliner.

The only time I ever went to a concert was when Michael Jackson performed at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1988 and that was simply because I was on garda duty in the stadium that day.

I usually have the radio on all day when I’m at home or in the car, and it’s always tuned to talk shows. I rarely listen to music, and I don’t have a CD player or a record player. I’m told vinyl is making a comeback, which is great for those with record collections, but I don’t have a single record to my name.

I think I’ve always been like this even though, back in the seventies, in my teenage years, I was known to strum a guitar occasionally using the three-chord trick.

Singing was a problem though because I never knew the full words of any song and I still don’t. I know a couple of verses at best and probably the chorus of a few more but that’s it.

Even if I wanted to learn a few songs, I’d struggle because I can’t make out the lyrics most of the time. I couldn’t be bothered either.

If you’d like to watch me squirm, take me to a pub with live music. I realise I’m in the minority and some of my friends think I’m an oddball. For years, I even agreed with them, but now I’ve discovered there may be an explanation for this too.

A woman was discussing this issue on the radio. She didn’t have much interest in music either and it turns out it’s not uncommon. There is a medical term for it called specific musical anhedonia.

People with anhedonia lack the typical emotional responses that most people show when listening to music.

The inability to derive pleasure from music can stem from a real neurological condition and new research suggests it is rooted in differences in how the brain’s auditory processing and reward centres are connected.

A person with musical anhedonia can listen to an extremely emotionally charged song and not feel anything at all, even if they show normal emotional responses in every other way. Which basically means it’s not my fault; it’s just the way my brain is wired.

I also came across a blog by Carissa Holmes who wrote about ‘Why Some People Don’t Like Music’. She talks about musical anhedonia being a brain condition that causes people to feel apathetic toward music, and she says about 3-5% of the population experience it.

See, I’m not such an oddball after all. I’m just basically indifferent to music and it’s not my fault.

It’s all down to my auditory processing thingies, but fear not, I’m happy to march to my own beat.

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