Xerophobia is the irrational fear of dryness. Someone experiencing this condition may find it extremely difficult to be in a dry area or to experience dryness of the skin or to feel parched. In fact, the mere thought of this may give them an immense amount of anxiety that is so intrusive and extreme that they may even experience a full blown panic attack because of it. However, this will vary from person to person.
Xerophobia is one of the rarer phobias, unlike claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), and mysophobia (fear of germs), as these three phobias are much more commonly found in people than an irrational fear of dryness. Be that as it may, xerophobia is still a very debilitating condition that can make life very challenging for the person experiencing it.
Symptoms of Xerophobia
As is the case with virtually all other phobias, people suffering from an irrational fear of dryness can expect to experience a great deal of anxiety when in a dry area, such as a desert or when the area they live in is experiencing an extreme drought. Besides being extremely fearful of there surroundings becoming dry, they may also fear becoming dehydrated, as well as having their skin become dry and cracked.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of xerophobia:
Anxiety when in a very dry area
Anxiety when thirsty
Anxiety when when thinking of dryness
Excessively moisturizing skin
Avoiding dry areas
Unable to cope with their anxiety
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Xerophobia
Genetics and environmental factors may play very significant roles in the development of xerophobia. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop a full blown irrational fear of dryness. This may have to due to them then being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness in general.
If someone 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 xerophobia. Though we do not definitively know what causes this condition to develop, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles.
Xerophobia Treatments (abridged)
Exposure therapy is a very common form of treatment for people suffering from phobias, including xerophobia. With this form of treatment, the therapist will gradually expose the patient to their fear of dryness over a given period of time. Though this will inevitably give them an influx of unwanted anxiety, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear over time.
Anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may also be able to help reduce some of the symptoms associated with xerophobia as well. However, it may not be very effective to merely take medication without any form of therapy for long term recovery. Nevertheless, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor to ensure that it is effective and safe to do so.
Psychiatric Medications for Xerophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe xerophobia 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of xerophobia.
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 xerophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Xerophobia
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 xerophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with xerophobia 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 xerophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Xerophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from xerophobia. 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia, 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 xerophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Xerophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as xerophobia. 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their xerophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with xerophobia 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.
Yoga for Xerophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from xerophobia. 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia.
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 xerophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Exercise for Xerophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including xerophobia. 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia, 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 xerophobia over time.
Caffeine Reduction for Xerophobia
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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Xerophobia
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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia. 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 xerophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Xerophobia
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 xerophobia 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 xerophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with xerophobia 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 xerophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.