The American Psychological Association (APA) defines a phobia as “a persistent and irrational fear of a specific situation, object, or activity, which is consequentially either strenuously avoided or endured with marked distress.” You’ve probably heard of different versions of this before, such as agoraphobia or a phobia of dogs, heights, spiders, flying, etc. Phobophobia is a lesser known example but have several general characteristics of other phobias. Let’s take a look at what causes phobophobia, as well as symptoms and treatment options.
What Is Phobophobia?
Phobophobia comes from phobos, the Greek word for “fear” or “flight.” In other words, phobophobia is literally an extreme fear of fear. It refers to the fear of developing a phobia or experiencing the fear, anxiety, or other symptoms related to a triggered phobia.
People with phobophobia may find that their life is severely disrupted by it. Some may already have certain phobias and become afraid of potentially gaining more. Or, their intense fear of developing a certain, specific phobia could lead to actually developing it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. They may also be so terrified of experiencing the fear that comes with a phobia that they begin to avoid situations and daily activities where it might possibly arise, which can hinder them in work, relationships, and life in general. For example, some people living with phobophobia may avoid any situation where they may feel fearful, like watching horror movies or riding on roller coasters.
Learning to manage symptoms of phobophobia can also be helpful. A therapist may offer avoidance strategies for this, which you can practice as you continue to seek treatments for a debilitating phobia. Some of the following tips may also help:
Talk to a person you trust. Research shows that having a healthy social support system is vital for well-being, and this is especially true for those who are experiencing mental health disorders, including an anxiety disorder like phobophobia. Being listened to in a non-judgmental way by someone you trust, like a family or a friend, may help you feel less anxious about your phobia and less alone in your fear.
- Cultivate a mindfulness practice. A growing body of research suggests that mindfulness can help promote better mental health and even manage or diminish symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. Learning a few mindfulness techniques that you can practice regularly from wherever you are may be helpful in managing and treating the symptoms associated with a phobia.
Learn how to handle panic attacks. If you experience panic attacks as a symptom of your phobia, there are some techniques you can employ that may help you get through them. A few suggested by Anxiety Canada include calm, regular breathing through your nose, progressive muscle relaxation, and challenging unhelpful thoughts. Grounding yourself by paying attention to sounds, sights, smells, and sensations may also help reduce symptoms of your panic disorder.
Seek out a support group. Local or online support groups exist for a variety of phobias. Research ones in your area. Speaking with others who know your phobia may be helpful, since you might feel less alone and learn from what they’ve found works for them.
If any phobia becomes debilitating, it’s generally wise to seek treatment. Although it can seem all-consuming or overwhelming, effective treatment is available for those experiencing phobophobia or other similar conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
For examples of questions that might be beneficial to explore in therapy, please see below.
What is an example of a phobophobia?
What causes phobophobia?
What are symptoms of phobophobia?
What are symptoms of phobophobia?
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