Traumatophobia is the irrational fear of having an injury. Someone suffering from this phobia may find that they have extreme amounts of anxiety at the mere thought of having an injury. They may go to painstaking efforts to avoid becoming injured. In extreme cases of traumatophobia they may stay home-bound to reduce their risk. In such an extreme case, they may even become self-loathing and depressed.
Someone suffering with traumatophobia may find themselves to be hyper-aware of any ailment they may experience, regardless of how minuscule it may actually be. It is not implausible to conceive that someone with traumatophobia who has a minor ailment such as a small cut will blow it way out of proportion. For example, they may react to a tiny cut as if they were bleeding out profusely.
Such an inability to think rationally is a major cause of their mental anguish. Besides being inept with thinking logically when it comes to being fearful of acquiring an injury, someone with this condition may also find that they are unable to cope with strong emotions. This may only exacerbate their symptoms of traumatophobia, thus opening up the door for potentially developing additional anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.
Traumatophobia may in fact be more common than most phobias such as cacophobia (fear of ugliness), sciophobia (fear of shadows), or dextrophobia (fear of objects at the right side of the body). This is most likely due to the fact that virtually all of us at some point in our lives will suffer from some sort of injury, whether minor or major. This inevitability brings with it a sort of “rationality” with those suffering from traumatophobia.
Symptoms of Traumatophobia
As is the case with virtually all other phobias, the main symptom that you can expect to experience with traumatophobia is anxiety. Someone with this condition may experience intense bouts of anxiety at the mere thought of them becoming injured. They may also experience similar feelings when seeing someone else who is injured as their empathy for another person may be greatly dramatized to the point to where they literally feel as though they are the one who is injured.
Besides experiencing intense bouts of fear and dread at the thought of becoming injured, they may also make decisions that negatively affect their day to day life. Such decisions may be that they won’t leave there house much due to the many potential dangers in the outside world. They may also be irrationally cautious when driving or when going to certain places. Though someone with traumatophobia may realize that their fear is irrational, in the midst of heightened anxiety, they will likely not be able to think coherently enough to calm themselves down.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of traumatophobia:
Intense anxiety at the thought of becoming injured
Intense dread when and if they become injured
May be overly cautious during most activities
Inability to cope with extreme emotions such as fear
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
Causes of Traumatophobia
The exact causes of traumatophobia are not known. This is the case with virtually all phobias. However, there are some factors that we can observe which may shed light as to why someone may develop traumatophobia while another person will not. For instance, someone with a family history of mental illness may have a higher chance of developing this phobia due to them potentially having a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness.
If someone were to have the proper genetics to develop mental illness, then it may only take some sort of traumatizing experience for them to develop full blown traumatophobia. For instance, someone may develop this disorder as a result of them suffering from a very debilitating injury that left them in the hospital or in a cast for several weeks. Someone experiencing any sort of serious injury is more than enough for them to develop traumatophobia insofar that they have the genetics to do so.
Besides having the right genetics and experiencing a traumatizing event that inflicted some sort of injury upon them, it is also plausible to conceive that someone may develop this disorder due to them suffering from a different anxiety beforehand such as GAD or OCD. This is very possible to happen as it may only take some sort of outside influence for them to concentrate their anxiety toward a specific area, such as with traumatophobia.
Traumatophobia Treatments (abridged)
There is no treatment that is specifically designed for traumatophobia. However, the various forms of talk therapy, exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medications may be able to help reduce many of the symptoms associated with this very intrusive disorder. Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may deem to be a very advantageous form of treatment for those suffering with traumatophobia. CBT can be beneficial by helping the patient to become more aware of their faulty thinking, as well as how to improve it.
Exposure therapy is another very effective and common form of treatment that is used to treat people suffering from phobias. However, exposure therapy can only be used to a certain degree with traumatophobia for obvious reasons. It would not be wise for the patient to expose themselves to being injured.
So, in such a circumstance, the therapist may “expose the patient to being injured” by showing them photos of injuries or videos of people injuring themselves. Though this will likely give the patient immense amounts of anxiety, the goal is to desensitize them from their fear by repetitively exposing them to their fear.
If you think you may have traumatophobia or if you suffer 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 get properly diagnosed and treated. Upon doing so, your doctor may refer you to see a specialist such as a therapist or a psychiatrist to get a second opinion.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Traumatophobia
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 traumatophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Traumatophobia
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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia 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 Traumatophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of traumatophobia.
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 traumatophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Meditation Techniques for Traumatophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from traumatophobia. 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia, 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 traumatophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Consuming Less Caffeine for Traumatophobia
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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Traumatophobia
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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia. 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 traumatophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Exposure Therapy for Traumatophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as traumatophobia. 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their traumatophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with traumatophobia 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 Traumatophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including traumatophobia. 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia, 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 traumatophobia over time.
Yoga Practice for Traumatophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from traumatophobia. 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia 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 traumatophobia.
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 traumatophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.