Eleutherophobia is the irrational fear of freedom. Someone experiencing this condition may endure extreme bouts of anxiety when even thinking of having freedom. This phobia is much different than most as it is the fear of something that almost every single human being desires to have: Freedom. Virtually all of us deeply desire freedom. We desire the freedom to express ourselves, the freedom to speak our minds, the freedom to choose our own paths in life, and so on and so forth.

The very rare phobia that is eleutherophobia is much less common than many other phobias such as cynophobia (fear of dogs), achluphobia (fear of the dark), and aerophobia (fear of planes).

This should not come to much surprise as the three foregoing phobias bring with them their own potential risk for danger. Being afraid of freedom is completely illogical and may be the result of something much deeper than having a family history of mental illness.

Someone with eleutherophobia may have been brainwashed into believing that freedom is something to not only be undesired, but that it is also something to be feared as well. We can clearly see this in many societies that are ruled under a dictatorship. In such regimes, the people of that society are often taught that their captive way of life is “normal”. They are often conditioned from a very young age, especially if they were born into such a society, that life in a captive dictatorship is what they really want.



Symptoms of Eleutherophobia

Someone suffering from eleutherophobia may endure extreme bouts of anxiety as a result of their fear of freedom. They may be in captive or imprisoned somewhere, yet earnestly feel heightened anxiety at the thought of being released from their current situation. Such an irrational desire is a large part of why they may suffer to the extent that they do.

Besides being unable to think logically about their fear of freedom, they may also find it extremely difficult to cope with strong emotions. This is the perfect storm for someone to develop and experience panic attacks. Panic attacks are not uncommon for people suffering from phobias and may also be commonplace for those suffering with eleutherophobia in particular.

Besides experiencing intense anxiety, someone with eleutherophobia may also develop other phobias or other anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) insofar that they have the genetic makeup to do so.

It is not implausible to conceive that someone with eleutherophobia may eventually develop OCD, especially if they find themselves becoming fixated with the fear of freedom. They may become so obsessed with their fear of freedom that they may actually develop full blown OCD. Just as an environmental factor of some sort may cause eleutherophobia, obsessing about one’s eleutherophobia may be the environmental factor to cause OCD to develop.

Below, you will see some more common symptoms of eleutherophobia:

  • Intense anxiety at the thought of freedom
  • Unable to control intense emotions
  • May experience panic attacks
  • Muscle tension and increased heart rate

Causes of Eleutherophobia

The exact cause of eleutherophobia is not known. However, there are several factors that we can look at that may shed some light as to why someone may or may not develop eleutherophobia. For instance, genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles in the development of this illness.

Someone with a family history of mental illness may have an increased chance of developing eleutherophobia, especially if it includes anxiety disorders or phobias. Their chance of developing an irrational fear of freedom may be based in whether or not they have a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness. If they were to have such a genetic predisposition, it may then only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown eleutherophobia.

A traumatic experience that may make someone develop this condition may be that they were brainwashed at a very young age. They may have grew up in a dictatorship where they were taught as children to fear the “outside world”. It is very plausible to conceive that such conditioning may actually cause someone to develop eleutherophobia.

Other traumatic experiences that may cause someone to develop eleutherophobia may be people who are serving life sentences in prison. There is no question that such a sentence would likely affect someone’s mental state. Some people live nearly their entire lives in prison. Such a person may be greatly fearful of freedom because they are unaware of what it is. Though this may not be the norm, it is still possible insofar that they have the genetic makeup to develop mental illness in the first place.



Eleutherophobia Treatments (abridged)

There is no treatment specifically designed for eleutherophobia. However, exposure therapy may be able to help. Exposure therapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment for those suffering from phobias. Just as the name implies, it works by having the therapist expose the patient to that which they fear. Theoretically, the more they are exposed to their fear, the less it will bother them over time.

In context to eleutherophobia, it may be quite difficult to expose them to freedom depending on their situation. Someone in prison will obviously not be able to undergo such a treatment, but someone who is feeling trapped in a relationship for example, may be able to. The term freedom can mean many different things. So, depending on what their current situation is, exposure therapy may be extremely advantageous for them.

Besides exposure therapy, someone with eleutherophobia may benefit from anti-anxiety medication as well. Though this may help to reduce the amount of anxiety that is associated with this phobia, it may not be a very effective form of treatment in the long run. So, you should first talk to your doctor before you take it upon yourself to take any medication.

If you think you may have eleutherophobia 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 get properly diagnosed or treated.




Treatments (expanded)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Eleutherophobia

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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Eleutherophobia

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 eleutherophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Meditation for Eleutherophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from eleutherophobia. 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia, 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 eleutherophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Eleutherophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as eleutherophobia. 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their eleutherophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with eleutherophobia 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.

Exercise for Eleutherophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including eleutherophobia. 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia, 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 eleutherophobia over time.



Yoga for Eleutherophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from eleutherophobia. 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia.

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 eleutherophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Reducing Caffeine for Eleutherophobia

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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Eleutherophobia

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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia. 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 eleutherophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Psychiatric Medications for Eleutherophobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe eleutherophobia 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 eleutherophobia 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.

Antidepressants

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 eleutherophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of eleutherophobia.

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 eleutherophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.