Hylophobia (Fear of Forests)
Hylophobia is the irrational fear of forests. Someone experiencing this mental disorder may endure intense bouts of anxiety when near a forest. Depending on the severity of their particular condition, as well as other contributing factors, someone with hylophobia may also experience full-blown panic attacks as a result from their intrusive fear of forests. In severe cases, such an incident may even leave them hospitalized.
Someone suffering from this condition may make major life decisions based solely on their hylophobia. For instance, someone with an intense fear of forests may consciously decide to live near or in large cities to limit the chances of them coming into contact with a forest in some capacity. However, even though they may feel as though what they are doing is best for them, they may actually be reinforcing their fear. Thus, worsening their hylophobia in the long run.
Even the mere thought of a forest may give them immense feelings of dread and terror. This may also be the case when and if they see a picture or a video that contains a forest in the background. Such a depiction may be very difficult for them to experience. If they don’t have the necessary skills to effectively cope with their very intense emotions, then they may experience a rapid decline in their self-esteem, as well as their sense of control. Thus, exacerbating their hylophobia.
For instance, they may feel as though they have no choice but to panic at the sight of a forest. In other words, they feel as though they cannot control their reactions, but that their reactions control them.
Symptoms of Hylophobia
There are many different symptoms of hylophobia that can bring forth a great deal of discord into one’s life. As is the case with all phobias, intense anxiety will be one of the most profound and common symptoms of this condition. They may find it extremely difficult to go near woods and may resort to going to very inconvenient efforts to avoid them.
Even if someone with hylophobia decided to reside in a large city, forests and small patches of woodlands can still be commonly found everywhere. So, even if they decide to stay in towns and away from rural areas, they may still come across forests in some capacity whether they like it or not. It would be quite difficult for them to never see any type of forests unless they lived and stayed in the downtown area of a large city.
Someone with hylophobia may feel a great deal of helplessness due to their inability to control their intense emotions when around forests. Without the implementation of using therapeutic skills and techniques, their fear may merely intensify. They may also experience a great deal of shame as a result of their hylophobia as well. However, the specific symptoms of this condition are likely to vary significantly from person to person.
Below, you will see some common symptoms of hylophobia:
Intense anxiety when in or near a forest
Anxiety when thinking of forests
Avoidance of forests regardless of inconvenience
Muscle tension and shakiness
Ineptness at coping with strong emotions
Causes of Hylophobia
There are no known causes of someone developing hylophobia. However, genetics and environment may play significant roles. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness may also have a higher chance of developing hylophobia due to the increased risk of them being genetically predisposed for developing it. If this were to be the case, then it may only take them experiencing a traumatic event of some sort for them to develop full-blown hylophobia.
Such traumatic experiences that could lead someone to developing an intense fear of forests may be that perhaps they got lost in the forest as a child once or perhaps they were attacked by a wild animal and were badly injured. Such events may definitely be enough for someone to develop hylophobia insofar as they had the appropriate genetics to do so.
Other potential causes of hylophobia are that they may have already been suffering from a different anxiety disorder beforehand. For instance, they may have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). If this were to be the case, then it would not be implausible for them to then concentrate their fears toward one specific area (e.g. forests) due to a traumatizing experience of some sort.
For example, someone who has been suffering from OCD for much of their life may develop an obsession about the potential dangers of forests for no known reason. Thus, creating the spark for them to eventually develop full-blown hylophobia.
Hylophobia Treatments (abridged)
There are no known treatment methods that are specifically designed for hylophobia. However, like with most phobias, talk therapy, exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to help reduce the intensity of your symptoms. Talk therapy can be very advantageous for someone experiencing hylophobia as it can help them to have a better perspective, as well as learn several new and effective coping skills for when their anxiety flares up.
Another very beneficial form of therapy for this phobia is exposure therapy. Just as the name implies, exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to that which they fear. In the context of hylophobia, this will entail exposing them to forests in some capacity. Since therapy sessions typically occur in a professional setting indoors, there may not be many therapists who are willing to go outside into a forest with you.
However, there are other ways to “expose” you to forests without physically going into one. For example, the therapist can show you a picture or a video of forests. Depending on the severity of your hylophobia, chances are that these images of forests will be more than enough to bring forth unwanted amounts of intrusive anxiety.
If you think you may have hylophobia, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can get properly diagnosed and treated. Also, remember to always talk to your doctor before you decide to take any medication or partake in any sort of therapy.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Hylophobia
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 hylophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with hylophobia 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 hylophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Hylophobia
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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with hylophobia 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 hylophobia 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 Hylophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe hylophobia 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of hylophobia.
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 hylophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Meditation Techniques for Hylophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from hylophobia. 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia, 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 hylophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Consuming Less Caffeine for Hylophobia
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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Hylophobia
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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia. 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 hylophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Exposure Therapy for Hylophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as hylophobia. 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their hylophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with hylophobia 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 Hylophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including hylophobia. 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia, 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 hylophobia over time.
Yoga Practice for Hylophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from hylophobia. 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia 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 hylophobia.
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 hylophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.