Equinophobia (Fear of Horses)
Equinophobia is the irrational fear of horses. Someone suffering from this condition will find it extremely difficult to be around horses as they may believe something bad will happen such as them being attacked or injured in some way. Though horses, like virtually any other animal can be harmful, most horses are not dangerous, especially in the sense that a shark or a poisonous spider would be.
Someone suffering with equinophobia may have such an intense fear of horses that simply being in the presence of one may force them to have a full blown panic attack. Though this may not be very common, it is still possible to happen insofar as they have the genetic makeup to do so. Nevertheless, someone who has an irrational fear of horses can expect to endure a high amount of anxiety when around them.
Even though it is pretty unlikely that a horse would harm someone out of the blue, riding them does bring with it a much higher risk for injury. There are many instances where people become severely injured due to a horse-ridding mishap. Though such events may be outliers, they still occur and may be part of the reason why some people develop full blown equinophobia.
Someone suffering from this condition may experience a fight or flight response from just watching horses on TV or when looking at pictures of them. Such an extreme reaction to something so harmless may be intimation of equinophobia as opposed to them merely having an aversion to horses.
Symptoms of Equinophobia
Anxiety will be the main symptom experienced with equinophobia. As is the case with most phobias, avoidance will also be a behavior that someone with this condition may try to use in an attempt to reduce the possibility of them coming into contact with horses, thus limiting their anxiety. Though avoiding horses may give them immediate relief from their fears, by doing so, they will also be reassuring to themselves that horses are something worthy of being feared and avoided.
In addition, someone suffering from an irrational fear of horses may also make a conscious decision to move or to live in a large city as opposed to a more rural area where farms are more prevalent. This would be done in an attempt to limit their chances of seeing a horse and experiencing unwanted anxiety, and as previously mentioned, this will likely cause more harm to themselves than not in the long term.
It may also not be uncommon for someone suffering from equinophobia to also be irrationally fearful of other animals such as dogs (cynophobia) for example. Though, this will depend on many different factors, such as the environment they grew up in, what they were exposed to, as well as their genetic makeup.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of equinophobia:
Anxiety when around horses
Anxiety when thinking about horses
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May have panic attacks
Causes of Equinophobia
As is the case with virtually all other mental disorders, there is no definitive cause of equinophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may both play significant roles in the development of this condition. For example, someone with a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders, may have a higher chance of developing equinophobia. This may be due to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness in general.
If someone were to have a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown equinophobia. For example, someone who was kicked by a horse or who was bucked off of one may develop this disorder insofar as they have the genetic makeup to do so.
Though we do not definitively know what causes all mental illnesses to develop, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and one’s environment play significant roles in the development of any given mental disorder. So, taking a closer look at these two different parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you are at risk for developing equinophobia.
Equinophobia Treatments (abridged)
There is no treatment method that is specifically designed for people suffering from equinophobia. Nevertheless, exposure therapy may be very advantageous for someone suffering from this condition. With exposure therapy, the patient would likely be exposed to horses by first having them look at pictures or videos of horses. Though this may not seem like it would be very anxiety provoking, for someone suffering from an irrational fear of horses merely watching a video of a horse may be enough to give them a high amount of anxiety.
Eventually, the therapist may have the patient actually expose themselves to a real horse insofar as the patient is ready to do so, it is practical for them to do so, as well as whether or not it is safe. Though being exposed to their fear in such a way will give them a high amount of unwanted anxiety, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear of horses in the long-term. Such desensitization is the main goal of exposure therapy.
Besides this, anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may also help to reduce someone’s symptoms of equinophobia. However, merely taking medication without any form of therapy may not be very effective for long-term treatment. Nevertheless, this is something that should be discussed with you and your doctor to ensure that it would not only be effective to do so, but that it would also be safe to do so as well.
If you think you may have equinophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms that have been described in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further treatment or for a second opinion.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Equinophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from equinophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with equinophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of equinophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Equinophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with equinophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with equinophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with equinophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with equinophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Psychiatric Medications for Equinophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe equinophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their equinophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as equinophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of equinophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of equinophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Meditation Techniques for Equinophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from equinophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from equinophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with equinophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of equinophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with equinophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Consuming Less Caffeine for Equinophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with equinophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with equinophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Equinophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like equinophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with equinophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with equinophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with equinophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your equinophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Exposure Therapy for Equinophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as equinophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with equinophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with equinophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their equinophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with equinophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Working Out for Equinophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including equinophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of equinophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of equinophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with equinophobia over time.
Yoga Practice for Equinophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from equinophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with equinophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with equinophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with equinophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of equinophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.