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First off, I'm not *really* a caregiver. I'm an adult living with my senior parents. My dad is 64 and has been spiraling mentally and physically for the past few years. He has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety(not sure when he was diagnosed).
Last night he admitted a phobia to me that he is terrified of forks being prong-up in the drying rack because he believes he'll be stabbed in the eye.
He says not even my mother knows, and that he's suffered from this fear his whole life. My mom has been married to him for 26 years! Do you think he's been good at hiding the phobia, or that depression has made him need pity and care so he's developed a new phobia?

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To answer your questions:
He's been unemployed since '07 or '08, he was a printer repair technician and after a decade of employment got anxiety and paranoid about being fired so he quit. He occassionally finds projects like glass work or wood work but works so hard on perfection that he doesn't eat(and he's Type II Diabetic) and gets sick and grumpy.
Also we have been facing forclosure since my mother stopped getting unemployment benefits. Our mortgage company worked with us but apparently didn't lower our payments as much as they are legally required to.

He unloaded the forks yesterday but was sure to tell me that he was the one to do it and that it was really hard.
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Hi Erin654, as most know by now I have OCD and anxiety so I understand irrational fears-and actually like to point the forks and knives down in the dishwasher myself-- but it is not too much of a worry just a , um, a conscious thought. I actually looked up the best way to load a dishwasher and , I believe Martha Stuart said it is to alternate flatware so they don't stick together to get cleaner- not the point of your post, I know, but how funny that I had looked that up before?

Anyway-is your Dad going through any changes, like Jinx asked?-retiring?-refinancing?-anything?---changes of any kind can bring out anxieties more. I also believe that as one ages and is less physical and active they have more time to worry. Idle hands and all that .... I know if I am bored I will find something to worry about. And now that my Mom has very limited physical activity her OCD is way worse.

If that is his only fear-a true phobia -I would not worry too much - if he starts to exhibit other fears, like OCD stuff- well, it is good not to get into the enabling game. This coming from someone who has a list of persons I can call who will enable me! ( I am truly a manipulative person when it comes to feeding my OCD--and I hate it! It is a cycle of dependeny and self loathing) Also if he starts making you check the dishwasher two or three times to make sure the forks are turned down that is a problem. That is getting into the enabling game. Once you sign up for that one it is hard to get out of.

Good luck!
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Sometimes both things are true, for example, wanting and NEEDING extra attention, and having had the phobia for years. At the young age of 66, I find there are things that I could deal with 20 years ago that I have to walk away from now. I have always been likely to stumble, but almost always catch myself. Recently, I have become very conscious of how a bad fall could cripple me or, worse yet, wreck my brain. I am much more afraid than I used to be. (Am I therefore more careful? No way! I do avoid obviously dangerous situations, however.)

His phobia could be "made up," but still be very incapacitating. I would give him the respect of believing him unless his prior behavior includes manipulative behavior on a regular basis.

Oh! your father is 64. Is he facing retirement? That's a big adjustment. I found turning 60 to be much worse than turning 50, in terms of physical changes. You don't have to dance to his tune, but consider giving him some slack.
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I think you may be a future caregiver. You do at least care about your parents, so that's good.
I guess the test would be just make sure to put forks down & see what happens. If he suddenly has another "lifelong" phobia appear you'll have your answer. I do know that there are some phobias are long-seated from some early "something" If glass broke anywhere in the kitchen my Grandmother would get rid of ALL open food everywhere in the entire kitchen, convince that glass shards "might" have gotten into the food, would cut up a person's stomach and they would die. Turns out there were rumors of that type during WWII (the Japanese supposedly put glass shards into food to kill people, or something like that). Don't know if that is what her fear was based on, but your Dad's phobia could be based on some similar child-hood horror story (a la "the hook on the car door and the teenagers making out" in all of it's local variants!).
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