Pediophobia is the irrational fear of dolls. Someone suffering from this disorder may find it extremely difficult to simply think of dolls, let alone be in the same room with one. Their fear of dolls may be so intense and intrusive that they may even experience panic attacks which may force them to be hospitalized. However, such extreme cases are likely to be outliers.
Throughout the years, horror films have wasted no time taking advantage of the creepy, uncanny look that most dolls have. This becomes blatantly obvious when we look at one of the most popular horror franchises in America: Child’s Play, which stars the horrifying murdering doll named Chucky. There have been dozens if not hundreds of movies made about possessed dolls who go on killing sprees. So, there is definitely a mainstream appeal to pediophobia.
This phobia is actually quite common, as far as phobias go. It is likely to be just as common as aerophobia (fear if flying), cynophobia (fear of dogs), and achluphobia (fear of the dark). Pediophobia is likely to affect children more than adults. However, this is not always the case.
Depending on the severity of someone’s pediophobia, they may eventually develop an additional disorder due to their intense fear of dolls. For instance, it is not implausible to conceive that someone with an irrational fear of dolls may eventually develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), among other disorders.
Symptoms of Pediophobia
The main symptom that someone with pediophobia can expect to experience is anxiety. They will often feel extremely intense amounts of fear when they are near dolls. When in the presence of a doll, they may feel extremely vulnerable and their body may respond physiologically as if they were actually in real danger. They may experience a higher blood pressure, heart rate, and rate of breathing. They may also feel very tense and even begin to perspire when near a doll. Essentially, they may experience a fight or flight response to their pediophobia.
Someone with this disorder may find it extremely difficult to cope with their condition if they have children with dolls. They may feel uneasy throughout the day due to irrational fears that the dolls may actually be secretly alive. As far as children go, they may be much more irrational with their fears of dolls. Their pediophobia may be heavily influenced by horror films or other outside influences.
If someone suffering with pediophobia is also suffering from additional mental disorders, such as OCD or GAD for instance, then the symptoms they will experience from their irrational fear of dolls may be greatly exacerbated. For instance, someone who is suffering from OCD may find themselves obsessing about dolls to the point to where the majority of their daily thoughts is comprised of their intense fear of dolls.
Below, you will see more common symptoms of this phobia:
- Intense anxiety when thinking of dolls
- Anxiety when in the presence of a doll
- Unable to cope with strong emotions
- Muscle tension, sweating, and shaking
- May experience panic attacks
Causes of Pediophobia
There is no known cause of pediophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may both play very significant roles in the development of this phobia. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness may have a higher chance of developing pediophobia. This has to do to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness. However, it should be noted that everyone who has a family history of mental illness does not by default mean that they will indefinitely have the genetics to develop mental illness.
If someone were to have a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown pediophobia. This is the environmental part of the Nature/Nurture equation. For example, someone may have developed this disorder due to them being traumatized as a child after watching a horror film depicting a possessed, evil doll. It is also possible for someone to merely develop pediophobia due to their belief that dolls simply look creepy insofar as they have the genetics to develop this disorder.
If someone is also suffering from an anxiety disorder such as OCD or GAD, then they may develop pediophobia due to them merely specifying their anxieties toward dolls. For example, someone with GAD may be a very anxious person in their day to day life. They may find themselves overreacting to most things. So, this may be the slippery slope which can open the door for them to develop pediophobia insofar as they experience some sort of traumatizing event involving dolls.
There is no known treatment method for pediophobia. However, exposure therapy may be very beneficial for someone suffering from an irrational fear of dolls. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to their fear over time. Though this will likely give the patient a large amount of anxiety, by exposing themselves to their fear they are also working on desensitizing themselves from their fear as well.
In context to pediophobia, the therapist may expose the patient to dolls by bringing a doll into the therapy session. She may ask the patient to observe the doll or even touch it. The goal with exposure therapy is to gradually build up the amount of exposure so that the patient doesn’t get overwhelmed. This is very important because doing so can be counterproductive and may even worsen their pediophobia in the long run if they are exposed to too much too soon.
Besides exposure therapy, anti-anxiety medication may be very beneficial as well. Doing so may be able to help minimize the amount of anxiety someone with pediophobia may experience. Be that as it may, it may be best to also partake in some sort of therapy. However, this is something that you should discuss with your doctor.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Pediophobia
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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia. 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 pediophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Yoga for Pediophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from pediophobia. 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia.
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 pediophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Pediophobia
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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with pediophobia 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 pediophobia 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 Pediophobia
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 pediophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with pediophobia 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 pediophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Exposure Therapy for Pediophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as pediophobia. 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their pediophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with pediophobia 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 Pediophobia
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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia.
Psychiatric Drugs for Pediophobia
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 pediophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of pediophobia.
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 pediophobia, 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia 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 Pediophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including pediophobia. 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia, 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 pediophobia over time.
Meditation for Pediophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from pediophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia 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 pediophobia, 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 pediophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.