Tuberculophobia is the irrational fear of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT), which mainly affects the lungs. MT can be easily spread from one person to another via coughing and sneezing. The ease to which this disease can spread is likely to be a factor for why people with tuberculophobia are so fearful of it.
According to research, In 2016, there were more than 10 million cases of active tuberculosis which resulted in 1.3 million deaths. It is thought that approximately 25% of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis. When left untreated, the disease kills about half of those infected. These facts are likely to only reassure those with tuberculophobia that their fears are justified.
People suffering from this anxiety disorder will experience immense amounts of fear at the mere thought of tuberculosis, let alone being near someone else who suffers from it. Someone with full blown tuberculophobia will experience anxiety that is very much out of touch with reality. For instance, they may become fixated on the idea that they may get infected.
Infections from this disease began increasing in 1985, partly because of the emergence of HIV, according to sources. The emergence of this disease may also play a part in people developing tuberculophobia. However, it is important to note that merely being opposed or disgusted by tuberculosis does not therefore mean that they also suffer from this phobia as it is a mental illness, not a stance or a position.
Symptoms of tuberculophobia
Someone with full blown tuberculophobia may experience immense amounts of anxiety when around other people as they may fear that someone amongst them could be infected with tuberculosis. Their anxiety may become so intrusive that they may even experience panic attacks or at least be in a fight or flight frame of mind when confronted with tuberculosis in some capacity.
People with tuberculophobia may also have difficulty with maintaining and forming healthy relationships with people due to their fear that they may in fact be infected with tuberculosis. It may not be uncommon for someone with this condition to also develop additional disorders that are somewhat related, such as hypochondria, Munchausen syndrome, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.
Though it is definitely plausible for someone to develop additional disorders in addition to their tuberculophobia, some people will simply experience this one phobia by itself. Someone with this illness may even decide to isolate themselves from others to ensure that they limit their chance of becoming infected by the disease. Though they may technically be reducing their risk of getting it, they may also be increasing their risk for experiencing symptoms of depression, such as loneliness and hopelessness.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of tuberculophobia:
Anxiety when thinking of tuberculosis
Anxiety when around other people who have tuberculosis
Fearful that others may have tuberculosis even when they don’t
May avoid certain places or people
Unable to cope with their intense anxiety
Muscle shakiness, sweating, and increased heart rate
Causes of tuberculophobia
There is no known cause of tuberculophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may both place very significant roles. For example, someone who has a family history of mental illness may also have an increased chance of developing tuberculophobia. This is especially true for people who have a family history of anxiety disorders. This is likely due to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.
If they were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown tuberculophobia. Such a traumatic event may be that they know someone dear to them who has tuberculosis or perhaps they may have the condition themselves. Being around someone with tuberculosis may be traumatizing enough for someone with the right genetics to develop tuberculophobia.
Though we do not know what definitively causes this condition, there is a consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and environmental factors play significant roles in the development of tuberculophobia. If you’ve already been diagnosed with a mental illness, then this may also increase your chance of developing this phobia too.
If you are curious as to whether or not you are at risk for developing this phobia, then you should take a close look at your own mental health history, the mental health history of your family, as well as your past and present environment. Doing so may give you a much broader insight.
Tuberculophobia Treatments (abridged)
Exposure therapy is one of the most common and effective ways at treating people suffering from phobias. However, for some phobias, exposure therapy simply can’t be implemented; for ethical reasons, as well as safety reasons. For example, someone suffering from a fear of sharks will obviously not be literally exposed to a shark in open water. Instead, the therapist may show the patient pictures or videos of a shark. They may also ask the patient to go to an aquarium to help them overcome their fear of sharks. This is likely analogous to how a therapist would treat someone with tuberculophobia.
The therapist may “expose” the patient to their fear of tuberculosis by having an open discussion about the disease. Perhaps they can go over the past and current statistics of the disease and how many people are affected by it per year. Conversations such as this will likely give the patient a high amount of anxiety. Though this may sound counter-intuitive, doing so should help the patient to become desensitized from their fear.
The amount of exposure to their fear will gradually increase within reason. Theoretically, the more the patient is gradually exposed to their fear, the less it will bother them over time. With that being said, it is very important that the therapist does not expose the patient to too much too soon as this may cause their symptoms of tuberculophobia to worsen, as opposed to them improving. So, this is why it is very important to find a therapist who is very experienced and adept at treating phobias.
Anti-anxiety medication may also help with some of the symptoms of tuberculophobia as well. However, this is something that you will want to first talk to your doctor about. If you think you may have this condition, then it is very important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be treated for your symptoms.
Exposure Therapy for Tuberculophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as tuberculophobia. 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their tuberculophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with tuberculophobia 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 Tuberculophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including tuberculophobia. 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia, 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 tuberculophobia over time.
Yoga Sessions for Tuberculophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from tuberculophobia. 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia.
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 tuberculophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Tuberculophobia
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 tuberculophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Psychiatric Medications for Tuberculophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of tuberculophobia.
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 tuberculophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Tuberculophobia
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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Tuberculophobia
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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia. 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 tuberculophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Meditation Practice for Tuberculophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from tuberculophobia. 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia, 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 tuberculophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Control Caffeine Consumption for Tuberculophobia
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 tuberculophobia 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 tuberculophobia.