What is Hormephobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Hormephobia.
What is Hormephobia?
Hormephobia is a fear of shock. Someone suffering from Hormephobia can be morbidly afraid of shock, whether that is emotional or electrical. A person who has Hormephobia may avoid any situation where they might be vulnerable in any way to a shocking circumstance.
Fear of shock is called Hormephobia. Shock here refers to both, an electric shock and when someone receives bad news.
People are afraid of both because they cause trauma.
No one likes hearing bad news as it is something very unpleasant. Similarly, electric shocks can cause one serious damage if its intensity is too high.
Normally, people are fearful of getting shocked in any way.
However, unlike in Hormephobia, they don’t suffer from extremely high levels of anxiety when thinking of or exposed to a shock.
This is because Hormephobia is a part of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V. It is labelled as a specific phobia.
The overwhelming anxiety one suffers from in this specific phobia encourages him to avoid their fear stimulus (shock).
They put at stake their social and occupational functioning in order to avoid getting shocked.
For example, someone will avoid using electric devices or going near wires in order to protect themselves from getting shocked.
Also, one will prefer not to talk to people or even leave their house/room so they don’t get to hear some bad news.
As these acts of avoidance are repetitive, one starts to show dependence on them in order to feel good.
They continue avoiding their fear stimuli. Though, for the time being they seem as a good way of feeling better but in the long run, can cause other serious issues.
A sufferer is very likely to develop OCD and or depression in the future as a result of this social and occupational dysfunction.
As one becomes dependent on this easy way out of anxiety, if at times shock becomes unavoidable, the sufferer experiences great misery.
The extremely high levels of anxiety will result in the onset of full-blown panic attacks.
Hormephobia is an irrational fear of shock. It is a specific phobia which causes one to experience fear and anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli.
Symptoms of Hormephobia
All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, have anxiety as their pivotal symptom.
Therefore, someone suffering from Hormephobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli, shock.
Hormephobia is not wholly irrational. This is because generally, shicks are something almost everyone is scared of.
No one likes the idea of being electrocuted and or getting to know something bad.
However, someone suffering from this phobia is unable to rationalise his fear and ends up getting anxious.
These exaggerated levels of anxiety and or panic attacks are what makes Hormephobia be labelled as irrational because one’s fear takes over his mind and severely affects his physical and mental health.
Avoidance as mentioned earlier is repetitive.
These recurrent actions maintain one’s fear by producing feelings of security, which makes one believe that shock is to be feared of. Thus, one’s fear is intensified.
According to the DSM-V, to be diagnosed with Hormephobia, one needs to experience anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and at least 3-5 symptoms (from the list mentioned below).
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to shock
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about getting shocked
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding situations one might be shocked
- Increased heart beat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness/fainting
- Fear of an impending doom
- Feeling depressed
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of mouth
Causes of Hormephobia
All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias have no real/definite cause.
They are caused by either a genetic predisposition and or environmental factors.
According to the genetic/biological model, specific phobias are developed due to a genetic predisposition.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders has a higher chance of developing Hormephobia.
This is because any alteration in the genes of his parents will be transferred to him.
An imbalance in the neurotransmitter levels of the brain can also be one of the many reasons as to why one develops Hormephobia.
These alterations are low dopamine levels and high serotonin levels.
This genetic tendency to develop a specific phobia is further explained by the Diathesis-stress relationship.
This suggests that someone with a genetic predisposition will develop Hormephobia only in the presence of the correct environmental trigger event.
Telephonophobia (fear of telephones) can also cause Hormephobia. Someone may develop this irrational fear of shocks because they got bad news on call, via telephone.
Similarly, the news of losing a loved one will be shocking for an individual. Thus, they’ll fear getting news or listening to anything shocking.
This can also be because of the trauma one went through, mentally and or physically (fainting or being hospitalized) that scares him and causes him to suffer from Hormephobia.
Looking at other people’s bad, helpless condition after they got shocked by some bad news can also cause this phobia.
Hormephobia can be caused even to someone who suffers from Electrophobia (fear of electricity).
As a child one might’ve gotten an electric shock. The pain and burning sensations it caused can be the reason why one developed Hormephobia.
Also, seeing or hearing someone else die of or get severely injured by getting an electric shock can tigger fear.
Electric shocks can also cause death. Media reports of people dieing or suffering severe injuries can also play a significant role in one developing Hormephobia.
That is why, someone who fears death can have a fear of electric shocks.
Therefore, Hormephobia has no real cause. It is developed by a number of different reasons.
Treatment of Hormephobia
Hormephobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Hormephobia is treated by a number of different methods: Psychological treatment and Biological treatment.
- Psychological Treatment
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Hormephobia is defined as the irrational fear of shock. 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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Hormephobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of animal 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.
• Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
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 Hormephobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of shocks. 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 Hormephobia, 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.
- Biological Treatment
• Medicinal Drugs
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Hormephobia. 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.
ii. 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 Hormephobia, 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 Steven Soifer, George Zgourides, et al.
- 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
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is Hormephobia?
It is an irrational fear of shocks.
Q2) How is Hormephobia diagnosed?
By the help of the criteria mentioned in the DSM-V for specific phobias, one can be diagnosed with Hormephobia.
The criteria mentions, one should have anxiety lasting for at least 6-months, accompanied by other physiological symptoms.
Q3) What causes Hormephobia?
Hormephobia is caused by a genetic predisposition (family history) and or environmental factors (past traumatic experiences).
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
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