In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Amychophobia.
An intense fear of scratches is called Amychophobia. 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 scratches.
A mere thought of encountering a scratch can instigate anxiety. If the condition worsens, one can also undergo full-blown panic attacks.
Scratches are painful and or sting. Normally, people do fear scratches because of its consequences.
However, someone who is suffering from Amychophobia will experience fear overwhelmingly.
They get extremely anxious when they experience/think about scratches.
Though, not wholly irrational, people suffering from Amychophobia are unable to rationalise their thoughts about scratches. In order to eliminate the anxiety it causes, one tends to avoid their fear stimuli.
A sufferer takes all the possible measures he can, to avoid getting a scratch. Someone suffering from Amychophobia is very likely to develop OCD in the future as a result of these repeated acts of avoidance turning to compulsions.
According to the DSM-V, anxiety that leads to avoidance affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
For example, as a child, one will refrain from running or playing in parks to avoid getting a scratch. An individual will also hesitate going near sharp objects.
In severe cases, a sufferer won’t leave his house at all because he might fear getting a scratch, which according to him he’ll encounter if he goes out.
One will also avoid keeping pets, such as cats and or dogs because they can scratch.
As a result, one can develop depression in the long run.
Amychophobia is an irrational fear of scratches. The name originates from the Greek word ‘amycho’ meaning scratch and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms of Amychophobia
People with Amychophobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety on the mere thought of scratches.
They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus, end up feeling more anxious.
This anxiety, in extreme cases, can give rise to full-blown panic attacks.
Sufferers go 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.
In the case of Amychophobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to scratches (including extreme anxiety) cause the person to escape or avoid that situation.
Sufferers don’t have the courage to fight with their fear because of the unpleasant, terrifying experience the body goes through.
According to the DSM-V, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and 3-5 symptoms out of the ones listed below:
- Extreme anxiety when exposed to scratches (your own/someone else’s)
- Extreme anxiety when thinking about scratches
- Anticipatory anxiety
- Inability to control anxiety
- Repeated acts to avoid scratches
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Muscle tension
- Increased heartbeat
- Feelings of dizziness
- Hot/cold flashes when in a flight or fight mode (A hot flash refers to the temporary heating up of the body when in a state of fear. And a cold flash means when the body suddenly starts to shiver or cool down, when encountered by a fear stimulus).
- Butterflies in the stomach
Causes of Amychophobia
Amychophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no known cause.
These types of phobias can be a result of a number of factors such as biological (genetics) and or environmental (past experiences or social learning).
Genetics refers to the genes and neurotransmitters in our body. Someone with a family history of a phobia/mental disorder has a higher chance of having the same or different disorder in the future.
This is because the genes of the parents are transferred to their children, thus any alteration in the genes of one’s parents is inherited by the child.
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 Amychophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of scratches.
One can develop Amychophobia because of Hemophobia (the fear of blood).
One who fears blood will fear scratches because one might bleed due to a scratch.
An individual can also fear scratches because they have a fear of germs (Mysophobia).
Apart from these, Amychophobia can be a result of one’s past traumatic experiences.
For example, as a child one might’ve gotten scratched.
The pain it caused can be the reason why he started fearing scratches Or, he might have experienced or heard someone develop a disease and or go through a painful medical procedure due to his scratch getting worse.
Other than this, one can have Amychophobia because of overprotective parents or family.
Because, these children were brought up with such care and protection that they might suffer from extreme anxiety when they’re exposed to scratches (their own or someone else’s).
The development of Amychophobia can also be a learned response.
Children will imitate the behavior of their parents who are afraid of scratches, either due to Amychophobia or otherwise.
Phobias mostly start to develop during childhood. By the age of 7-16 years, one is very likely to develop fears or phobias related to health or physical injury, in the presence of a correct stimulus (genetics and or environmental).
Amychophobia, therefore, is a result of either a genetic predisposition and or environmental factors.
Treatment of Amychophobia
Amychophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Amychophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, 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.
Amychophobia is defined as the irrational fear of scratches.
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 being exposed to scratches.
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.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Amychophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia).
In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.
To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of a scratch for example.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.
In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he gets a scratch.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to a real scratch.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.
These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation.
This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of scratches, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• 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.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Amychophobia, 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 of scratches.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Amychophobia. 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. Anti-anxiety Drugs
Medicines like Valium 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.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias.
Medicines like Lexapro 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.
Whether the cause of Amychophobia, 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
- 101 Ways to Stop Anxiety: Practical Exercises to Find Peace and Free Yourself from Fears, Phobias, Panic Attacks, and Freak-Outs
by Tanya J. Peterson
- The Miracle of the Breath: Mastering Fear, Healing Illness, and Experiencing the Divine
by Andy Caponigro
- Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose
by Rebekah Lyons
- The Mindful Way through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life
by Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer, et al
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) How is Amychophobia caused?
This phobia of scratches is caused by either a genetic predisposition, such as a family history or an environmental factor-past traumatic experience.
Q2) Do I have Amychophobia?
To know if someone has Amychophobia, one needs to experience extreme anxiety, panic attacks, fainting, increased heartbeat, nausea, muscle tension etc.
The anxiety one experiences should last for at least 6 months.
Q3) How can I overcome my fear of scratches?
One needs to consult a therapist in order to get treated.
The therapies one can get in order to get treated are CBT, exposure therapy and or medicinal drugs.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.