What is Ambulophobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Ambulophobia.
An intense fear of walking is called Ambulophobia. It is a type of specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Someone suffering from it will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to walking.
One gets anxious on the mere thought of walking and if the anxiety worsens, can suffer from full-blown panic attacks.
Ambulophobia is closely associated with the fear of falling. This is because one who fears falling, will refuse to walk or move from a specific position he assumed to be safe for him.
This is how one avoids their fear stimuli (walking).
By being stagnant at a specific place/position, one feels protected and pleasant.
This eliminates anxiety which persuades one to repeat these actions. Therefore, sufferers can also develop OCD in the future.
As the DSM-V suggests, this avoidance and anxiety affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
For instance, one will prefer moving on a wheelchair because it seems safe for them.
This reluctance and fear affects their careers and academic lives because they are unable to attend school/office.
Their family members suffer with them as the sufferer is unable to do things for himself and becomes dependent on others.
Ambulophobia can lead to one developing depression as a result of these actions, caused by fear.
Ambulophobia is an irrational fear of walking. The name originates from the Latin ‘ambul’ meaning walk and Greek word ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms of Ambulophobia
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Ambulophobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom.
Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of walking suffer from extreme anxiety which, as mentioned earlier, can result in one having panic attacks.
When one undergoes extreme anxiety, the body experiences other physiological symptoms as well. Such as increased heart rate or palpitations.
When the sufferer thinks about walking, he goes into flight or fight mode because of an adrenaline rush.
In this state, the body’s physiological responses help one make decisions when in fear causing situations.
They either decide to escape the situation (flight)-faint or suffer from panic attacks or stay and combat their fear (fight)-by taking counterproductive actions.
Sufferers of Ambulophobia experience symptoms in different ways. One might have more severe symptoms than the other, based on their past experiences and intensity of the phobia.
Though, as the DSM-5 suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months.
Symptoms one experiences in Ambulophobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about walking
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding walking
- Increased heart beat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness/fainting
- Feeling depressed
- Fear of an impending doom
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
For one to be diagnosed with Ambulophobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Causes of Ambulophobia
Like every other specific phobia, Ambulophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Ambulophobia than someone who doesn’t.
This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
Genes and neurotransmitters also play a significant role in this genetic predisposition.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship.
According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Ambulophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of walking.
A triggering event can be a childhood experience. One might have encountered injuries because of walking or they saw/heard someone lose their life or get badly injured because of it.
Maybe they developed Ambulophobia as a result of these negative experiences.
Aslo, one who has overprotective parents or whose parents were scared of walking are more likely to develop Ambulophobia.
Someone who has recovered from a long leg injury will be afraid of walking again.
Therefore, Ambulophobia is a result of both genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
Treatment of Ambulophobia
Ambulophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Ambulophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Ambulophobia is defined as the irrational fear of walking. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about their fear stimuli.
Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions.
Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example, focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process.
This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• Neuro-Linguistic programming (NLP)
It is a psychological approach that includes ways of trying to reach a personal goal. It links language, thoughts and patterns of behavior learned through experience.
The key elements of NLP are action, modeling and effective communication. It suggests that everyone has different ways of how they see the world.
By understanding a number of perspectives of others, patients who use NLP see the world through a combination of their personal views and that of others.
NLP therapists treat patients with Ambulophobia by making them understand their thoughts, behaviors and emotional state.
By having an insight of the patient’s own ‘personal’ view of reality, they assist them in forming new, positive thoughts.
NLP helps the patient in improving his state of thoughts about other people by understanding their cognitive-behavioral patterns.
Like CBT, this form of therapy is also very effective.
This another form of treatment used with patients suffering from specific phobia or anxiety disorders. It is used with patients who know the cause of their phobia.
First, the therapist collects the patients’ history of different fears. They then identify the real cause of the particular fear/phobia the patient has.
They then discuss any new/latest event that triggered their anxiety and fear in the past few weeks.
People coming with specific phobias are told to imagine their distress causing stimuli.
The therapist then works with the individual in order for them to overcome their fear. In the case of Ambulophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of walking.
They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Ambulophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobia.
Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i.Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts.
The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling.
Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii.Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts. Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment.
This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then.
For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the wind around them, making use of their auditory sense.
iii.The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed.
Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse.
Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Ambulophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people.
Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while the person is in a particular yoga posture.
Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga.
The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about their fear stimuli.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Ambulophobia.
Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken.
This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic.
However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation.
Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias.
Medicines like Paxil reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
Medicines like Klonopin are anti-anxiety drugs.
They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
Whether the cause of Ambulophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, environmental or both, the best and the most effective way of treating them is by using a combination of both biological treatments (drugs) with cognitive treatment (for example CBT/exposure therapy).
Titles to read
by Barry McDonagh and BMD Publishing
- The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Anxiety, Trauma, and Ocd-related Disorders
by Edited by Naomi M. Simon, M.D., et al.
- Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
by Aaron Beck, Gary Emery, et al.
by David H. Barlow
- Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic
by Reneau Peurifoy
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is Ambulophobia?
Ambulophobia is the fear of walking.
Q3) How do you overcome Ambulophobia?
Like all other specific phobias, Ambulophobia too is treated by a number of effective psychotherapies and or medicinal drugs.
Q4) Why is one afraid of walking?
People are afraid of walking because of the fact that one might get injured.
Elderly are more likely to suffer from a serious, long lasting injury when they fall while walking.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
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