25/06/2012 13:21 BST | Updated 25/06/2012 14:06 BST

Phobias: How Buttons, Garlic, Chickens And Clowns Can Leave Us Fearing For Our Lives (PICTURES)

ronald mcdonald

No laughing matter: Extreme fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia

Imagine an existence where the prospect of buttoning a cardigan could send you running for the hills. One where a waft of garlic could send you spiralling into a panic attack and an encounter with a chicken could leave your heart pounding in terror.

For some people this is a reality, their lives ruled by seemingly inexplicable phobias which make every day a veritable obstacle course.

Take Hannah Matthews, a 21-year-old student who is receiving counselling for her fear of buttons - a condition known as koumpounophobia.

She told The Mirror: "I know it’s irrational and I obviously know a button can’t hurt me but there’s just something about the shape and the texture that freaks me out."

A fellow button-fearer was Steve Jobs, whose phobia was revealed by the Wall Street Journal in 2007. The brains behind the conspiciously button-free Apple empire apparently viewed buttons "as blemishes", his fear presumably leading to the sleek touch-sensing screens so prevalent today.

Clowns are no laughing matter either, with an irrational fear of the performers manifesting as coulrophobia, with the prefix "coulro" deriving from the ancient Greek word for "one who goes on stilts."

If the thought of the happy fellows brings you out in a cold sweat, you're in good company, as Johnny Depp also fears the funny fellows.

He told the Courier Mail, “I guess I am afraid of them because it’s impossible — thanks to their painted-on smiles, to distinguish if they are happy or if they’re about to bite your face off.”

Other bizarre phobias include fear of snow, clocks and knees. Click through our gallery for more examples of when the mundane turns monstrous.