My hands immediately begin to sweat, as I stare at the receipt. I silently cursed myself for coming on this outing with my 5 other friends; the problem that had been looming over me since I stepped into the restaurant had finally come to confront me. Since I had just received a PhD in Mathematics, I was expected to split the price in my head without even thinking about it. They had no idea that I actually had a psychological condition that meant I had an irrational fear of numbers and mental arithmetic. Except, it wasn’t irrational, the numbers seemed to all swim off the page at once, and it was painful to look at them. Since I was mostly working with algebra and letters, I was fine during my work for my PhD.
Now, I was really beginning to panic, my friends had started to stare at me and the waitress was getting impatient. I tried to concentrate even harder, but that just seemed to make the figures jump and twirl even faster. Eventually, I just gave up. I slipped my hand into my pocket and deftly pulled out my iPhone. I loaded the calculator app and I sighed with relief- I was saved.
This fictional story was based on a real life condition that causes victims to feel severe distress/ discomfort. Psychologists have found that although maths presents no real danger, it has a very real, physical response, including the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which are characteristic of the fight or flight response.