In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatments of Eleutherophobia.
An intense fear of freedom is called Eleutherophobia. 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 freedom.
Even the thought of having freedom can instigate anxiety. Panic attacks can follow if the condition worsens.
Freedom is when one has the power and autonomy to speak, act and think according to will.
People prefer freedom and not being enslaved. However, one suffering from Eleutherophobia will get extremely terrified when they’re in a situation where they have freedom.
The sufferer experiences extremely high levels of anxiety and therefore, tends to avoid their fear stimuli.
These actions of avoidance are repeated because of the pleasant feelings it produces. These repetitive acts can change into compulsions, leading one to develop OCD.
According to the DSM-V, anxiety and avoidance in Eleutherophobia can affect one’s social and occupational functioning.
For example, one will stay dependent on his parents or other people, avoiding autonomy to make decisions for himself or exercise free will.
One will seek help and or suggestions from others everytime they have to do something themselves.
Eleutherophobia is an irrational fear of freedom. The name originates from the Greek word ‘eleuthero’ meaning freedom and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms of Eleutherophobia
Similar to all other specific phobias, Eleutherophobia’s main symptom is extreme anxiety.
Sufferers experience high levels of anxiety when given freedom. This anxiety can also lead to full-blown panic attacks.
As the DSM-V suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months to be diagnosed with Eleutherophobia.
Other than anxiety, one also experiences a number of other physiological symptoms.
The severity of these symptoms depends upon the intensity of one’s fear, depending on how they perceive a certain situation to be, based on their personal experiences (or the cause of the phobia).
The symptoms that one endures in Eleutherophobia are:
- Extreme anxiety when exposed to freedom
- Extreme anxiety by just thinking about freedom
- Avoiding situations where one might encounter freedom
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Inability to handle anxiety
- Muscle tension/tremors
- Increased heart rate
- Inability to breathe properly/increased breathing rate
- Feeling dizzy
- 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
Out of these, one should have at least 3-5 symptoms (including anxiety) to be diagnosed with Eleutherophobia.
Additionally, this fear of freedom can also be a part of other mental disorders such as PTSD, delusional disorder or social anxiety disorder.
Causes of Eleutherophobia
Like every other specific phobia, Eleutherophobia 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 Eleutherophobia than someone who doesn’t.
This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
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 Eleutherophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of freedom.
A trigger event can be a past experience of someone who lacks self confidence and suffers from low self-esteem.
Someone who underestimates their own abilities will avoid freedom or fear it because they feel they’ll make mistakes which can ruin their/someone else’s life.
Maybe one who had freedom in the past and didn’t have a pleasant experience with it will be fearful of it.
Therefore, Eleutherophobia is caused by both genetics and environmental factors.
Treatment of Eleutherophobia
Eleutherophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Eleutherophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or NLP that lowers 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.
Eleutherophobia is defined as the irrational fear of freedom. 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:
· A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
· B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
· C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
· 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.
· 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 Eleutherophobia 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 Eleutherophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of freedom.
They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
• 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, to 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, 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 Eleutherophobia.
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 Eleutherophobia, 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 Susan Sanders, Tom Dotz, et al.
- Get the Life You Want: The Secrets to Quick and Lasting Life Change with Neuro-Linguistic Programming
by Richard Bandler, Mark Morgann, et al.
- Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, 2e (Treatment Plans and Interventions for Evidence-Based Psychotherapy)
by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, et al.
by Barry McDonagh and BMD Publishing
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.
What we recommend for Phobias
- If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling could 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.
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.
Q1) Q1) What causes Eleutherophobia?
Eleutherophobia is caused either by a genetic predisposition or an environmental factor.
Q2) What are the symptoms of Eleutherophobia?
Symptoms of Eleutherophobia include extreme anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, breathlessness etc.
Q3) Are medicines the only way one can treat Eleutherophobia?
No. Medicines are one of the many possible, effective ways of treating this specific phobia.
Therapies like CBT, NLP or exposure therapy are used with patients to help them overcome their fear.
However, one can also be prescribed with medicines in order to maximize their progress and reduce the physical symptoms of the phobia.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.