Cacophobia (Fear of Ugliness)
Cacophobia is the irrational fear of ugliness. Someone suffering with this condition may experience extreme amounts of anxiety when they encounter something that they deem as being ugly. They may even experience very uncomfortable emotions when merely thinking of such things. Attractiveness or ugliness is subjective, thus meaning that everyone suffering with cacophobia will experience different symptoms of varying degrees.
This is much different than most phobias which fear one objective thing and one objective thing only, such as with selachophobia (fear of sharks), aerophobia (fear of planes), or achluphobia (fear of the dark). One person with cacophobia may find an object to be quite grotesque and terrifying, while another person with the same illness will think nothing of it. This is clearly a rarity in the realm of phobias.
Someone suffering with cacophobia may experience anxiety so intense to where they may need to be hospitalized. Though this may not be typical and may be on the more severe end of the spectrum, it is still plausible for it to occur nonetheless. Someone with cacophobia may be very judgmental toward others, as well as being very self-critical. Withholding such convictions over a long period of time may cause other issues to manifest, such as the development of depression for example.
Merely being a pessimistic or judgmental person does not therefore mean that they have cacophobia. Rather, phobias are sub-types of anxiety disorders and are likely the result of their individual genetic makeup and environment, among other things.
Symptoms of Cacophobia
Anxiety will be the most prominent symptom for someone suffering with cacophobia. This is primarily the case with all phobias. Someone with this condition may also experience other emotions such as disgust when looking or thinking about something that they deem as being ugly. They may in fact be able to rationalize that attractiveness is subjective, yet still be unable to practice such a disposition in real time due to their in ability to control their deep anxiety and distaste for things they feel are ugly.
Depending on the individual’s personality, it is not implausible to conceive that they may also suffer from a very low self-esteem and may have a very poor self-image. This would make sense when we look at the root causes as to why most people cast judgments on objects or on other people. Sometimes it is done as a way to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. This type of behavior can be clearly seen in narcissists. However, this is not to say that people with cacophobia are also narcissists.
Cacophobia may truly be a very insidious mental disorder as it can evolve into many other issues such as lowering one’s confidence, making them more self-critical, making it difficult to make or maintain healthy relationships with others, as well as to have feelings of deep insecurity.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of cacophobia:
Intense anxiety when seeing something that is “ugly”
Anxiety when thinking about something that is “ugly”
Inability to cope with strong emotions
May be very judgmental and self-critical
Causes of Cacophobia
There are no known causes for someone developing cacophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play a very significant role. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders, then they may have an increased chance of developing cacophobia. This has to do with them also having an increased chance of having a genetic predisposition for developing mental illness.
If this were to be the case and someone had a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic experience for them to develop full blown cacophobia.
Though we can definitely look at the many potential causal factors for someone developing cacophobia, the reality is that we do not definitively know the exact causes of it. The development of cacophobia, like all other phobias is quite complicated and will likely vary greatly from person to person. So, honing in on two or three proven causes of any given disorder is not yet possible.
However, with that being said, the best we can do at this point is look at where the evidence points to, and as of right now the evidence points to genetics and environment being very relevant when looking at why people develop certain mental disorders.
Cacophobia Treatments (abridged)
There are no treatments that are specifically designed for cacophobia. However, engaging in some sort of therapy, as well as perhaps taking an anti-anxiety medication may be able to help reduce the symptoms associated with this condition. Talk therapies may be very advantageous for someone suffering from cacophobia as it can be a way for them to become much more cognizant of the many faults in their thinking patterns, as well as how to implement new and effective coping skills for when their anxiety flares up.
Another very effective form of therapy that can be used to help treat cacophobia is exposure therapy. This form of therapy is commonly used to help treat people with phobias as it works by trying to desensitize the patient from their fear by repetitively exposing them to their fear. Theoretically, the more they are exposed to something they fear, the less of an impact it will have on them.
So, in context to treating cacophobia, the therapist may bring in items into the session that the patient sees as being “ugly”. The therapist may ask the patient to look at them and even hold them. This will inevitably give the patient very uncomfortable amounts of anxiety. However, the goal is that the amount and intensity of their anxiety would subside over time.
If you think you may have cacophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms outlined 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, you may be asked to see a specialist such as a therapist or a psychiatrist.
Yoga Poses for Cacophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from cacophobia. 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia.
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 cacophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Cacophobia
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 cacophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with cacophobia 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 cacophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Cacophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from cacophobia. 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia, 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 cacophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Cacophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as cacophobia. 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their cacophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with cacophobia 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.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Cacophobia
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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with cacophobia 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 cacophobia 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 Cacophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe cacophobia 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of cacophobia.
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 cacophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Exercise for Cacophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including cacophobia. 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia, 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 cacophobia over time.
Limiting Caffeine for Cacophobia
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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Cacophobia
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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia 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 cacophobia. 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 cacophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.