Mastigophobia is the irrational fear of punishment. Someone suffering from this condition can expect to experience a very high amount of anxiety when merely thinking of being punished. In some extreme cases, their anxiety may be so extreme and intrusive that they may even endure full blown panic attacks as a result of their mastigophobia. However, this will vary from person to person, as well as how severe their mastigophobia is.

If someone were to experience a panic attack due to their mastigophobia, then they can expect to experience an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased rate of breathing, muscle tension, shakiness, and excessive sweating, among other symptoms.

Someone with this condition may be overly concerned with doing the right thing even in the most mundane of situations. For example, it is plausible to conceive that someone suffering from mastigophobia may feel opposed to picking up a quarter on the ground for fear that they are stealing it, which will then come with some sort of punishment. Essentially, any action that has the potential to have punishments may give someone with mastigophobia a very high influx of anxiety.

This phobia is quite rare as it may be just as common as eleutherophobia (fear of freedom) or epistemophobia (fear of knowledge), as these two phobias are also quite uncommon. With this being said, it may also not be uncommon for someone with mastigophobia to also suffer from additional phobias as well, although this will vary from person to person.



Symptoms of Mastigophobia

As is the case with virtually every other phobia that exists, someone with mastigophobia can expect anxiety to be one of the most prevalent symptoms of their condition. Their intense and irrational fear of punishment will likely cause a great deal of distress in their day to day life as they may make decisions which are based solely on their mastigophobia. Such decisions may include them being morally conscious to the point of paralysis, meaning that they may refrain from making decisions due to their fear of experiencing any consequences, regardless of how small.

Although someone with mastigophobia can expect to experience less acute anxiety when refraining from making decisions or when refraining from doing things, such actions or inactions will likely only worsen their mastigophobia in the long run. This has to do with the fact that by avoiding their fear of punishment by actively avoiding situations where punishments would be possible, they will then be reinforcing their fear of punishment to themselves, unintentionally of course.

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

  • Anxiety when thinking of punishments
  • Intense anxiety when being punished
  • Difficulty making decisions insofar as it relates to the potential punishment which they may experience
  • Unable to cope with their anxiety
  • Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
  • May experience panic attacks

Causes of Mastigophobia

There are no known causes of mastigophobia. Be that as it may, genetics and one’s environment may both play very pertinent roles in the development of any given mental disorder, including mastigophobia. For example, someone with a family history of mental illness may have a higher chance of developing mastigophobia. This may be due to them then having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness in general.

If someone were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown mastigophobia. For example, someone may develop mastigophobia as a consequence of enduring a very brutal punishment once in their past to the point of leaving them injured, physically or psychologically. Such intense experiences, along with the right genetics, may be enough for someone to develop an irrational fear of punishment. Although they may realize that such a fear is irrational, when they are faced with a punishment or when thinking of punishments, they will likely not be so pragmatic.

Although we do not know the exact causes of mastigophobia, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and one’s environment play very significant roles in the development of virtually any mental illness. So, it may be advantageous to take a closer look at these two different parameters as they may shed some light as to whether or not you may be at risk for developing mastigophobia.



Mastigophobia Treatments (abridged)

Just as there are no definitive causes of mastigophobia, there are also no forms of treatment that are specifically designed to treat this condition. However, there are still several forms of treatments which can significantly help to treat the various symptoms associated with mastigophobia. Such treatments are exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and some anti-anxiety medications, among other treatment methods.

Exposure therapy is one of the most common forms of treatments for people suffering with phobias. Someone with an irrational fear of punishment engaging in exposure therapy may come across some issues though as there are not many ways that a therapist can ethically expose their patient to punishment. Nevertheless, some ways this can be done is by showing the patient videos of people experiencing minor consequences for minor offenses, such as showing them mock footage of an employee at a company being terminated due to stealing company merchandise, for example.

CBT may be a more effective form of treatment for someone suffering from this condition. With CBT, the patient can expect to better understand why it is that they think and feel the way they do about punishment. This will likely be a new exercise for them as they probably don’t spend much of their free time dwelling on why they are fearful of punishment due to the mere fact that people who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to try to avoid thinking about their fears.

If you think you may have mastigophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms 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, you may be referred to see a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further treatment.




Treatments (expanded)

Reducing Caffeine for Mastigophobia

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 mastigophobia 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 mastigophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Mastigophobia

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

Meditation for Mastigophobia

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

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Mastigophobia

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 mastigophobia 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 mastigophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with mastigophobia 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 mastigophobia 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 Mastigophobia

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




Exposure Therapy for Mastigophobia

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

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

Medication Therapy for Mastigophobia

Antidepressant drugs

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

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

Anti-anxiety drugs

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

Yoga for Mastigophobia

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

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