Hylophobia is an intense fear of forests.
Hylophobia can develop in response to a previous traumatic event that took place in a forest, or among trees, or wood.
It could also be due to an attack in a forest by some animal that is forest specific.
Forests are a place of deep mystery and intrigue for some and a source of countless fears for others.
Forests are dense and vast and not many people would venture into them without a proper map.
Hikers and campers always mark the place where they have to go on a map to avoid getting lost.
Tales and stories of people losing their way and never being found are abundant and adds to the mystery element of the forest.
Hylophobia is also present in people who have Dendrophobia (fear of trees).
It may also be that the sufferer dreads ghosts and other supernatural beings haunting the forests at night.
Numerous literature and movies are the reason for this. Unlawful killing mysteries and spooky Halloween nights with stories of stalkers all pose forests as a threat.
Forests with their thick cover makes one fear what could be lurking behind, this is enough to drive the person in a full-blown panic attack even by just thinking of a forest.
The Hylophobic would always find the forest to be spooky, haunting and hidden with all sorts of evil who would follow him anywhere.
Hylophobia is an irrational fear of forest and is caused by genetic and environmental factors.
It is common to exist with other phobias as well, those of trees and dark or being followed.
To avoid their fear these people will live in places far away from any wooded area or forests.
Urban living is preferred only because it makes them evade their fear and subsequent anxiety related to it.
Symptoms of Hylophobia
- · Feeling nauseous at the sight of a forest or woods
- · Anxiety at the thought of a forest
- · hot flashes or chills
- · shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- · pain or tightness in the chest
- · rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- · nausea
- · headaches and dizziness
- · feeling faint
- · trembling
- · a choking sensation
- · numbness or pins and needles
- · dry mouth
- · confusion
- · hyperventilation
At the mere mention of a forest or when he has to pass by one, the person suffering from Hylophobia may experience ‘fight or flight’ response, where the body experiences all the symptoms of a panic, but toughens up to escape.
Causes of Hylophobia
Hylophobia is an irrational fear of all wooded areas, forests, no matter big or small.
This fear can develop from childhood and go into adulthood if not treated properly.
As a child, the person suffering from Hylophobia May have been bullied or harassed in a forest.
This might have developed an aversion in him. It could also happen during a camping or a hiking trip[ he may have been lost.
This in turn had enabled the phobia to develop.
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 Hylophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of the forest.
As mentioned earlier, one can develop Hylophobia as a result of OCD.
Thus, someone who is already diagnosed with this disorder is more likely to have this irrational fear of woods or the forest.
Early Traumatic Experiences
Hylophobia can also have its roots in one’s childhood.
A traumatic event that has occurred in or near a place where there was a forest could give rise to this phobia.
In some people, the fear goes away with time while in others it simply keeps on rising.
Hylophobia may also be linked with a fear of trees, Dendrophobia.a child may have fallen off a tree and developed Dendrophobia that can lead on to the fear of a large collection of trees in one place, that is a forest.
Therefore, anyone who is afraid of one thing is also scared of the things associated with the source of fear.
People with a sensitive mental disposition or nature can get easily influenced by tales or anxious humans around them.
Emotional learning at a young age occurs to protect us.
The conditioning done by a grown up, a movie, book or simply an event can cause this phobia to protect the mind from further trauma.
However, this emotional learning becomes, at times, the only reason fears are developed as well.
Hylophobia, 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).
An environmental trigger event can be for example, a traumatic childhood experience.
It could have happened that the person encountered an accident either in forest, from a scrap on the knee of a child to a forcible violation or violent harrassment, all could lead to the onset of Hylophobia, depending how deep the trauma is perceived.
Another reason to develop Hylophobia could be watching movies that depict the forest as housing evils.
Thus, Hylophobia is caused by both a genetic predisposition and environmental trigger events.
Treatment of Hylophobia
Hylophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias,Hylophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lowers 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.
Hylophobia is defined as the irrational fear of the forest.
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 the forest.
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 withHylophobia(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.
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 that he is in a forest, first with a group of safe friends, then with a group of safe strangers as if on a hiking spree.
Then he is in the forest all alone.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
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.
• 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 for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
Nature and its healing power can also be interrelated in this therapy technique, with soothing music and elements of nature.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used for Hylophobia.
It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobias.
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.
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.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Hylophobia, 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 calmer, 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 the fish.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Hylophobia.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hylophobia?
Hylophobia is an intense fear of forests or wooded lands.
The sufferer fears creatures or has a dread of being lost, it can be genetic with anxiety running in the family or due to a traumatic experience.
Is Hylophobia originating from Dendrophobia?
Hylophobia is not originating from Dendrophobia. Both are separate fears.
One is an intense fear of forest and the other is an intense fear of trees respectively.
I always think the trees will fall on me. Do I have Hylophobia?
For a diagnosis of Hylophobia, according to the DSM-V at least 5 of the symptoms of anxiety and Hylophobia should be present for at least 6 months.
Is paranoid behavior a part of Hylophobia?
No. paranoia is not a part of Hylophobia. It can exist as an added concern.
Do I need to take anxiolytics for every phobia?
No. you only need to take anxiolytics for those symptoms that are persistent and that too if the Psychiatrist prescribes.
Examples of other interesting phobias
Titles to read
by Martin M. Antony, Michelle G. Craske, et al
- Overcoming Specific Phobia – Client Manual (Best Practices Series) by Edmund Bourne PhD (1998-05-01)
- DBT Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (The New Harbinger Made Simple Series)
by Sheri Van Dijk
- The Anxiety Journal: Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are: A Guided Journal
by Corinne Sweet
by Jill Weber PhD