In this blog we will summarize the causes, symptoms and treatments of Ballistophobia.
Ballistophobia is an extreme fear of missiles and bullets. People who suffer from Ballistophobia will jump or get a start at the mere sound of gunshot even in the TV or video games.
They cannot bear to even see missiles or bullets and bullets fired from guns.
Universally missiles, bullets and guns are considered dangerous and are used either for protection, killing or making war.
The basic concept of firearms is considered to be tyranny.
Ballistophobia is an irrational fear of missiles and bullets. People suffering Ballistophobia may get a fright easily from loud sounds as well, thinking that bullets are being fired.
The ballistophobes suffer from extreme panic like symptoms at the thought of missiles also.
They are victims of their fears and thoughts. They even blame the missiles and bullets for the bad that is happening in the world, responsible for the ferocity.
They are also fearful of people who carry guns and can be judgemental about them.
Symptoms of Ballistophobia
The symptoms of Ballistophobia resemble those of a panic attack.
- Dreading the thought of seeing a missile/firearm.
- Avoiding TV programs or news that shows missiles or incidents related to firearms.
- Avoiding video games that show the use of missiles and firearms.
- Feelings of extreme panic and horror.
- Flight from the scene
Physical symptoms of Ballistophobia can include:
- rapid heartbeat
- dry mouth
- shortness of breath
- upset stomach, nausea
- tightness in the chest
- feeling of dread
Causes of Ballistophobia
As with most phobias and anxieties, there is no clear consensus about what causes Ballistophobia.
The most common explanation is a childhood traumatic episode where a child may have been exposed to death of a loved one in the family or even a beloved pet due to the use of a firearm, like being shot.
It could also be that he was involved in a mugging accident, where his valuables were snatched at gunpoint.
Bullets being the cause of death or injury. Anyone who is afraid of missiles cannot even bear to see the toy guns that kids play with.
Seeing news of warfare and movies that show vivid killing scenes with missiles and also news of genocides that have taken place; all these are elemental in causing Ballistophobia.
People may also be afraid of losing control because this is something that is not in their hands and not controlled by them, no matter how powerful a person is.
Thus, the symptoms of panic can leave the person not in control of the situation.
This inability to manipulate the situation according to one’s own whims might also push them to Ballistophobia.
There are plenty of people with Ballistophobia who cannot even recall the traumatic incident that would have developed this fear.
Many times, Ballistophobia can suddenly arise out of the blue.
Scientists believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and other biological and environmental factors could cause such fears to develop.
As is common in specific phobias, the cause Ballistophobia may lie deep in the person’s childhood or its onset may be due to an environmental factor.
Genetics also plays a pivotal role in the cause of developing Ballistophobia.
Other causes can be as follow:
• Learned behavior
• Traumatic experiences
Etiological Models of Ballistophobia
1. Biological (Genetic) Model
Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families.
The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted states can cause anxiety like symptoms.
2. Psychodiagnostics Model
If a person has suffered from a traumatic experience in early childhood it can have a severe dire impact on his later life.
A childhood traumatic experience could be where children often see a movie where people die in accidents involving bullets or suffer before they die due to a missile attack.
This may leave a long lasting impression. Reading books that have a detailed account of deaths and dying by bullets, can add to the fears.
Missiles and bullets take life; this is what this Ballistophobe believes in, not that they can be used for protection as well.
Therefore to avoid this anxiety they start fearing and evading what they fear.
The intensity is more because they know that death cannot be avoided, only the thought of it can be.
3. Behavioral Model
According to this model, irrational fears may be caused through behaviors that are learned by replication.
Children often replicate unique behaviors of their adults, parents or a favorite aunt or uncle.
If a family member is already suffering from anxiety or is scared of one or another thing, then chances are higher that only by observing this, the child may develop fears
Treatments of Ballistophobia
Ballistophobia can be treated through different treatments.
These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Exposure Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.
1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.
This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to death and dying.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.
CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation.
Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.
Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.
For the treatment of Hoplophobia, the therapist separates the problem into parts.
These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions.
- What thought is invoked at the thought of missiles and bullets?
- How do you feel when you see missiles and bullets?
- What do you do when you hold bullets?
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is.
In Ballistophobia, the person thinks of dying when he sees the guns and gets anxious because there is a fear of leaving loved ones behind and experiencing the unknown.
2) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)
In this therapy the client is asked to
- Access the phobia in a safe environment.
- Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
- Disassociate from the phobia.
3) Systematic Desensitization (Exposure)
This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the patient.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying durations of time. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
In Ballistophobia the client is exposed to images of missiles and bullets first.
For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).
He is also asked to narrate any scene from a movie he has seen that involved missiles, guns, bullets and destruction caused by them.
It is a type of behavior therapy developed by Wolpe in the 1950s.
The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’
Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client.
Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most.
The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:
a) In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine
b) In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality
The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.
3) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.
We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.
We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
In Ballistophobia treatment, the client is made conscious to pay attention to his thoughts when he is thinking of what he is afraid of.
Awareness helps to alleviate the stress symptoms.
For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts.
The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought.
The client will meditate during the thoughts of death and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus.
5) Self-Help Groups
Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.
These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.
6) Changing Lifestyle
Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well.
• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:
Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.
• Indulging in an exercise regime:
Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better.
This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.
• Altering eating and drinking habits:
Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem.
This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.
When we get proper rest, our concentration improves. When the mind is properly rested we think rationally.
7. Psychiatric Medication
There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of ballistophobia are severe.
- Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of ballistophobia as well as other phobias.
Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
7) Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions. A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind.
Apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.
Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.
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
What phobia is the fear of guns?
Hoplophobia is the irrational fear of guns. The person suffering from this undergoes a panic attack.
What is Hopophilia?
Hopophilia is a love of firearms and the opposite of Hoplophobia.
What is a Gun Fetish?
There are people who purchase or keep firearms as fetish items.
They get sexually aroused by just being near guns and ammunition, giving them a high.
Who invented missiles?
The Ballistic Missile was the first missile.
It was invented by Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun, and was first used in 1944, to attack London, England.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
Titles To Read
- The Comprehensive Clinician’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
by Leslie Sokol and Marci Fox
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry
by Seth J Gillihan PhD
- Phobias: The Psychology of Irrational Fear
by Irena Milosevic and Randi McCabe
- Mastering Your Fears and Phobias (Treatments That Work)
by Michelle G. Craske, Martin M. Antony, et al.
What we recommend for Phobias
- If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.
- Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand and in the end they result in Panic. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.
Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.