Numerophobia (Fear of Numbers)
Numerophobia is the irrational fear of numbers. Someone experiencing this mental disorder may find it extremely difficult to be around numbers or to see depictions of numbers. Though they may realize that their fear of numbers is completely irrational, they simply aren’t able to logically convince themselves of this in the midst of a panic attack. Their inability to achieve this task is a significant cause of their distress.
Someone with numerophobia may find day to day life to be quite stressful seeing as how numbers can be seen virtually everywhere, even when there is no literal depiction of a number near them. Such is the case with common tasks like simply counting how many seats are available at the bar or how many ounces your steak weighs before you put it on the grill.
Numbers are everywhere and some people even argue that the universe itself is comprised entirely of mathematics. Such hypotheses only exacerbate the symptoms of those suffering from numerophobia.
Someone experiencing numerophobia may find that the “best” way for them to minimize the amount of anxiety they experience is to simply avoid numbers. Though this may sound like a helpful and easy endeavor, it is anything but. Though avoiding numbers may give them instant relief from their painstaking anxiety, doing so will only reinforce their fear and make it even more difficult to think logically in the long-term.
With such a strong emotional response to numbers, it may seem nearly impossible for someone with numerophobia to control their emotions so that they can objectively work through their fears.
Symptoms of Numerophobia
There are many different symptoms of numerophobia that can cause immense distress and fear. As mentioned before, avoidance will often be one of the main “tools” that will be used to try and minimize their anxiety. Even though they may see avoiding numbers as an effective method for obtaining instant relief from their anxiety, they may be abruptly mistaken.
This is due to the fact that numbers are literally everywhere (e.g. the time, the date, road signs, the price of something, etc.) When we look at the realization that items themselves can be counted, this makes isolating oneself in their home more like a prison sentence as opposed to hiding out in their “safe zone”.
It is also not uncommon for someone suffering from numerophobia to channel their fear toward a specific number or numbers. For example, triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) and hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (fear of the number 666) are quite common phobias where people will go through painstaking efforts to avoid these two numbers, regardless of how much it inconveniences them.
Intense anxiety and feelings of helplessness may also be common symptoms for someone experiencing numerophobia. Depending on their genetic makeup, they may also suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It is actually quite common for people suffering from OCD to obsess about numbers.
For instance, they may believe that if they don’t do something a certain number of times (e.g. touch their phone) then something very bad may happen. This is not to say that if someone has numerophobia that they must then have OCD. It is merely to say that there seems to be a connection between these two illnesses.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of numerophobia:
Intense anxiety when looking at numbers
Anxiety when thinking about numbers
Reluctant to count things
Inability to control heightened emotions
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
Causes of Numerophobia
There are no known causes of numerophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant roles. Someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders or phobias may have an increased chance of developing numerophobia. If this is the case and you also had a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then it may only take a traumatic experience of some sort for you to develop numerophobia.
Such traumatic experiences may be that they were teased as a child about their ineptness in mathematics or perhaps they were raised in a very superstitious family where certain numbers where thought to be “bad luck”. Such cognitive conditioning may be more than enough for someone to develop numerophobia insofar as they have the genetic makeup to do so.
Some other reasons as to why someone may develop numerophobia is that they were already suffering from a mental disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or OCD. Already being a highly anxious person may mean that there only needs to be some sort of significant environmental experience to occur for them to develop full-blown numerophobia.
Thus, why it is imperative that you get a full psychiatric evaluation if you haven’t already to ensure that you get properly treated for all of your symptoms/disorders. This is very important as treating one disorder (e.g. OCD) may be able to help reduce the symptoms of another disorder (e.g. numerophobia).
Numerophobia Treatments (abridged)
There are no treatments that are specifically designed for numerophobia. However, talk therapy, exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to significantly reduce the many symptoms associated with this mental illness. T
alk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be very effective at treating the symptoms of numerophobia by getting the patient to think more productively about their fears, as well as learning new and effective coping skills for when their anxiety flares up.
Exposure therapy is another very pertinent form of treatment for those suffering from any given phobia. In the context of numerophobia, the therapist would try and slowly expose the patient to numbers overtime in an attempt to desensitize them from their fears. Theoretically, the more you are exposed to something you fear, the less it bothers you. This is essentially how exposure therapy works.
If you think you have numerophobia or if you’re 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. Remember, you should always talk to your doctor before you decide to take any medication or embark in any sort of therapy to ensure its safety and effectiveness.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Numerophobia
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 numerophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with numerophobia 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 numerophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Numerophobia
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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with numerophobia 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 numerophobia 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 Numerophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe numerophobia 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of numerophobia.
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 numerophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Meditation Techniques for Numerophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from numerophobia. 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia, 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 numerophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Consuming Less Caffeine for Numerophobia
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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Numerophobia
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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia. 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 numerophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Exposure Therapy for Numerophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as numerophobia. 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their numerophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with numerophobia 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 Numerophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including numerophobia. 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia, 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 numerophobia over time.
Yoga Practice for Numerophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from numerophobia. 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia 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 numerophobia.
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 numerophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.