What is Dipsophobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Dipsophobia.
An intense fear of alcohol is called Dipsophobia. 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 alcohol.
One can suffer from anxiety just on the mere thought of alcohol. Individuals, if the anxiety worsens, can also undergo panic attacks.
Therefore, one tries to avoid getting in touch with alcohol.
Someone suffering Dipsophobia will not only refrain from drinking alcohol but will also avoid sitting near someone who does.
Avoidance, though, makes the person feel safe and less anxious, in the long run it can result in one developing OCD.
This is because one repeatedly avoids their fear stimuli, which can turn into compulsions.
The DSM-V suggests, anxiety and avoidance one suffers from in Dipsophobia affects their social and occupational functioning.
For example, they will avoid drinking medicines that contain alcohol (like cough syrups), even if the amount of it is less and the medicine necessary.
One will refrain from attending parties where they fear they’ll encounter alcohol.
They will prefer living independently, rather than living with family members who drink.
Someone’s fear for alcohol can not be criticised because of the fact that alcohol can be very dangerous to one’s health and social relations if taken in excess.
However, the abnormal and persistent anxiety one experiences in Dipsophobia is highly irrational. They are unable to rationalize their fear.
Dipsophobia is an irrational fear of alcohol. Sufferers are fearful of getting addicted to it, thus avoiding it.
Symptoms of Dipsophobia
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Dipsophobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom.
Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of alcohol 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 encountering alcohol, 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 Dipsophobia 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 Dipsophobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to alcohol/someone drinking alcohol
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about alcohol
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding alcohol
- 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 Dipsophobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Causes of Dipsophobia
Like every other specific phobia, Dipsophobia 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 Dipsophobia 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 Dipsophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear related to alcohol.
A triggering event can be for example, a traumatic childhood experience. Someone’s father might’ve been an alcoholic, who used to beat and abuse his family members.
The trauma and pain the suffering experienced can be the cause of why he fears alcohol. Also, may be because of an alcoholic parent, one suffered financial losses.
They may have heard or experienced these traumatic incidents themselves, thus fearing alcohol.
On the other hand, alcohol can cause serious health problems if taken in excess.
One might have seen or heard someone suffer from liver sclerosis because of alcohol. Or, the social, economic or health losses one faces because of his alcohol addiction/consumption can instigate a dislike for it.
One’s culture/background can also play a significant role in causing Dipsophobia. Many world religions prohibit the consumption of alcohol.
Therefore, one with these beliefs might get terrified when around alcohol. Additionally, some cultures too, dislike alcohol.
Someone with overly strict parents can also develop Dipsophobia.
As a teenager, one may have been severely beaten up or scolded by his parents upon consuming alcohol, therefore he developed a fear of it.
Media reports on the number of people dying or getting severely affected by alcohol can also play a role in causing Dipsophobia.
Therefore, Dipsophobia is caused by both genetics and environmental factors.
Treatment of Dipsophobia
Dipsophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Dipsophobia 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.
Dipsophobia is defined as the irrational fear of alcohol.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.
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 Dipsophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of alcohol.
They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Dipsophobia, 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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Dipsophobia.
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.
• 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.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Dipsophobia.
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:
- 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.
- Anti-anxiety Drugs
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 Dipsophobia, 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 Russ Harris, Steven Hayes PhD (foreword), et al.
by Earnie Larsen
- Addiction & Grief: Letting Go of Fear, Anger, and Addiction
by Barb Rogers
by Abram Hoffer and Andrew W. Saul
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is the fear of addiction?
Pharmacophobia is the irrational fear of using medicines. It is a type of specific phobias.
Q2) Is Dipsophobia curable?
Yes. Therapies like EMDR, CBT are effective in treating all specific phobias including Dipsophobia.
Q2) What are the symptoms of Dipsophobia?
One will experience extreme anxiety, panic attacks, nausea and or breathlessness including other physiological symptoms.
Q3) How is Dipsophobia caused?
A genetic predisposition or environmental factors can be the reason for why one develops Dipsophobia
Examples of other interesting phobias
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