Meningitophobia (Fear of Brain Disease)
Meningitophobia is the irrational fear of brain disease or meningitis. Someone suffering from this condition will experience a great deal of anxiety at the mere thought of brain disease. Their fear may be so intrusive that they may even experience full blown panic attacks. Brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, amnesia, and others may consume their thoughts as they may be gravely fearful of one day developing them.
Someone may be extremely fearful of developing brain disease due to them having someone close to them who suffered from it. Such an experience may be enough for someone to develop this condition insofar as they have the genetics to do so. It is also important to note that merely being fearful of getting brain disease is not intimation that they then have meningitophobia as this is a mental illness and not merely an aversion.
Meningitophobia is likely to be much less common than other phobias such as cynophobia (fear of dogs), gatophobia (fear of cats), thalassophobia (fear of the sea), and coulrophobia (fear of clowns), among several other common phobias. Given the specificity of meningitophobia, it is likely that environmental factors greatly influence someone to develop it.
Someone who is irrationally fearful of brain disease may obsess about their mental health to the point to where they believe they are ill when they really aren’t. They may be so consumed with the thought of them developing brain disease that they may even leave the door open for them to develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), insofar as they have the genetic makeup to do so that is.
Symptoms of Meningitophobia
Anxiety will be the main symptom experienced with someone suffering from meningitophobia. Due to the fact that it is often difficult to recognize if a stranger is suffering from brain disease or not, their fear may be mainly comprised of the possibility of they themselves acquiring it as well as merely thinking about it throughout the day.
As previously stated, someone with meningitophobia may experience anxiety that is so intense that they may experience a panic attack. If this were to be the case, then they can expect to experience an increased heart rate, increased rate of breathing, muscle tension, shakiness, perspiration, and sharper senses, among other things.
If someone’s meningitophobia is severe enough and is left untreated, then they may also have the potential to develop other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), among others. However, this will vary greatly from person to person.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of meningitophobia:
Intense anxiety when thinking of brain disease
Anxiety when around someone with brain disease
Unable to cope with strong emotions
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Meningitophobia
There is no known cause of meningitophobia. However, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that genetics, as well as environmental factors play significant roles in the development of virtually all mental disorders. For instance, someone with a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders may have a higher chance of developing meningitophobia. This may be due to them having a genetic predisposition to developing mental illness.
If they were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown meningitophobia. An event that may be traumatizing enough for someone to develop an irrational fear of brain disease may be that someone they love was diagnosed with it or perhaps they may have found out that they themselves are at risk for developing some form of brain disease.
Though we do not definitively know what causes certain mental disorders to develop, it is thought that both genetics and environmental factors play crucial roles in the development of virtually all mental disorders. So, looking closely at these two different parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you may be at risk for developing meningitophobia.
Meningitophobia Treatments (abridged)
Someone suffering from meningitophobia may benefit from talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), among other forms of therapy. Exposure therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for people suffering from most phobias. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist gradually expose the patient to that which they fear over a given period of time.
Though doing so will likely give the patient a lot of anxiety, they will also be desensitizing themselves from their fear as well. This is one of the main goals therapists try to accomplish with exposure therapy. It is very important that the therapist implementing exposure therapy is very adept and has a lot of experience with treating phobias due to the fact that if they were to expose the patient to too much too soon then this may only worsen their symptoms, as opposed to improving them.
With regards to meningitophobia, it may be a little more challenging to expose the patient to their fear, as opposed to other phobias such as achluphobia (fear of darkness), pediophobia (fear of dolls), and triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13), among others. However, there are still ways to go about using this form of treatment.
For example, the therapist can “expose” the patient to their fear of brain disease by showing them pictures or videos of people who have severe brain disease. Though doing so will inevitably give them an influx of unwanted anxiety, it will also help them to become desensitized from their fear for when they get exposed to the same stimulus in the future.
Anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may also be advantageous for someone suffering from meningitophobia. However, merely taking medication alone may not be as effective as taking it with some form of talk therapy or exposure therapy, though this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor. If you think you may have meningitophobia 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 for your symptoms.
Yoga Poses for Meningitophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from meningitophobia. 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia.
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 meningitophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Meningitophobia
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 meningitophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Meningitophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from meningitophobia. 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia, 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 meningitophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Meningitophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as meningitophobia. 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their meningitophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with meningitophobia 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 Meningitophobia
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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia 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 Meningitophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of meningitophobia.
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 meningitophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Exercise for Meningitophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including meningitophobia. 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia, 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 meningitophobia over time.
Limiting Caffeine for Meningitophobia
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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Meningitophobia
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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia 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 meningitophobia. 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 meningitophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.