Metathesiophobia (Fear of Change)
Metathesiophobia is the irrational fear of change. People suffering from this condition may find change that naturally occurs in their life to be unacceptable and dreadful to the point to where they may even experience a full blown panic attack because of it.
The loss of a loved one through death or a divorce is enough for someone to develop full blown metathesiophobia. Highly emotional instances such as these can be even more traumatizing for those genetically predisposed to develop mental illness.
Change is a natural part of life. However, not all of us are adequately equipped for it. In some extreme cases, people with metathesiophobia will do anything they can to keep the status quo going, even if the change is a good or healthy one. Change itself is often associated with the fear of the unknown. We don’t know what the future holds, which makes us unable to directly control it, thus causing us anxiety.
Most people don’t like change because they become accustomed to the norm. The status quo makes us feel comfortable and we as a species would typically rather feel comfort than pain. Be that as it may, someone suffering from metathesiophobia may not be able to handle even the most minuscule of changes. For example, something as small as having to go to a new grocery store due to the old one closing down may give them a lot of unwanted anxiety.
Symptoms of Metathesiophobia
Someone suffering from full blown metathesiophobia can expect to experience a lot of anxiety when their surroundings change, even if just a little bit. This anxiety may motivate them to try their hardest to control their life and all of the events in it to ensure that no unexpected change occurs. In short, this will inevitably fail. Thus, leaving the person with metathesiophobia to feel even more anxiety as they are not able to control all of the events in their life.
This, in turn, may cause someone who has an irrational fear of change to not take as many chances in life and to “play it safe” most of the time. Though doing so surely will reduce some of the acute anxiety that would have been otherwise experienced as a result of their metathesiophobia, it will also greatly hinder their life as they will not be able to truly experience all that life has to offer, as well as them missing out on opportunities that can only appear when one doesn’t resist change.
When change is inevitable and uncontrollable, such as being forced to relocate to a new job location due to the current job location being closed down, they may be unwilling to accept such a reality, digging their nails into the dirt throughout the entire transition process. When resisting it to such a degree, it is likely done in an attempt to have some sort of control on their environment, when in reality such a situation doesn’t allow for any.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of metathesiophobia:
Intense anxiety when thinking about changes
Intense anxiety when experiencing changes
Unable to accept changes
Deep desire to control their environment
Unable to control their anxiety
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Metathesiophobia
As is the case with virtually all other mental disorders, there is no definitive cause of metathesiophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles. For example, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially of phobias may have a higher chance of developing metathesiophobia. 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 require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown metathesiophobia. As previously touched upon, someone experiencing the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, or perhaps a new career may find such events to be quite traumatizing, especially if they are not very adept at coping with stress. It is also plausible for someone to develop metathesiophobia due to them moving to a new part of the country where they don’t know anyone, for example.
Though we do not definitively know what causes any given mental illness to develop, there is a consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and one’s environment play very significant roles in the development of any given mental disorder. So, taking a closer look at these two parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you may be at risk for developing metathesiophobia.
Metathesiophobia Treatments (abridged)
There is no treatment method that is specifically designed for metathesiophobia. However, exposure therapy may be able to significantly help reduce the symptoms associated with this disorder. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist gradually expose the patient to their fear over a given period of time. Theoretically, the more someone is exposed to something they fear, the less it will bother them over time. This is essentially what is thought to occur with exposure therapy.
As it relates to metathesiophobia, the therapist may expose the patient to their fear by engaging them in an open discussion about some of the changes that have occurred in their life, as well as go over some new potential changes that could occur in their life. Though such an experience will inevitably give the patient a high amount of anxiety in the short-term, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear in the long-term.
Anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants may also be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of this condition. However, this is something you will want to first discuss with your doctor.
So, if you think you may be suffering from metathesiophobia or if you are experiencing 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, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further treatment.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Metathesiophobia
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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia. 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 metathesiophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Yoga for Metathesiophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from metathesiophobia. 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia.
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 metathesiophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Metathesiophobia
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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia 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 Metathesiophobia
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 metathesiophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Exposure Therapy for Metathesiophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as metathesiophobia. 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their metathesiophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with metathesiophobia 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.
Reducing Caffeine for Metathesiophobia
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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia.
Psychiatric Drugs for Metathesiophobia
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 metathesiophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of metathesiophobia.
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 metathesiophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia 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.
Exercise for Metathesiophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including metathesiophobia. 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia, 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 metathesiophobia over time.
Meditation for Metathesiophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from metathesiophobia. 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia 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 metathesiophobia, 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 metathesiophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.