In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment for Melophobia.
The fear of music is called as Melophobia. It is a type of specific phobia which comes under the anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Sufferers experience extreme anxiety when they are exposed to music.
This anxiety is not only caused when someone is exposed to or hears the sound of music.
Instead they feel extremely anxious at just the thought of it. If the anxiety intensifies, one might even experience full-blown panic attacks.
Someone suffering from Melophobia takes all the possible measures one can, to avoid any exposure to music.
This avoidance can be for example, not going to specific place such as malls or parties for the fear of getting exposed to their fear arousing stimuli. Concerts are a big no!
Sufferers are very likely to develop OCD in the future as a result of these repeated acts of avoidance turning to compulsions.
One can also develop depression because of the social, occupational dysfunction Melophobia causes.
According to the DSM-V, long prevailing anxiety should affect ones social and occupational life.
For example, a person suffering from Melophobia will avoid going to parties or functions.
This might upset the host (friends/family) and this way the sufferer will lose his social relations.
These days, normally music is everywhere around us, thus they might avoid going anywhere outside their house and isolate themselves.
In terms of occupational dysfunction, someone with Melophobia will not work at a place such as a mall or a café because of the presence of music.
They might lose their job or not even be able to find one that suits their needs. Thus, their careers are at stake due to their fears.
Nonetheless, like all other specific phobia, Melophobia can prove to be quite debilitating for a person in terms of his physical and mental health, if not treated on time.
Melophobia is the irrational fear of music. It has been derived from the Greek word ‘melodia’ meaning music and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
The presence of music can cause anxiety to the sufferer.
People with Melophobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety upon listening to music.
They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus, end up feeling more anxious.
This anxiousness, in extreme cases can give rise to full-blown panic attacks.
Sufferer 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) or stay and combat their fear (fight).
In the case of Melophobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to music (including extreme anxiety) cause the person to escape or avoid that situation.
Sufferers don’t have the courage to fight with their fear because of the unpleasant, terrifying experience the body goes through.
Apart from anxiety, Melophobia has a number of other physiological symptoms which include:
• Extreme anxiety when listening to music
• Extreme anxiety by just thinking about music
• Avoiding music
• Inability to handle anxiety
• Muscle tension
• Increased heartbeat
• Feelings of dizziness
• Screaming or crying
• 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).
• Upset stomach
Out of these, one should have at least 3-5 symptoms (including anxiety) and this anxiety should last for at least 6-months to be diagnosed with Melophobia, according to the DSM-V.
Causes of Melophobia
Melophobia, 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).
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 ones’ 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 Melophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of poison.
An environmental trigger can be for example, a past traumatic event that one might have gone through in their childhood.
Someone might be scared of music because he associates a certain type of music with his dreadful experience of humiliation he suffered.
Another reason can be one’s parents dislike for music.
For example, someone with really strict or religious parents may prohibit listening to music.
The child might get beaten up or scolded for listening to it.
Therefore, this way the parents instilled the fear of music in their child and he develops Melophobia.
Other examples can be the fact that listening to music can for example, distract someone while driving.
The sufferer might’ve heard of such an accident where the driver lost control of the car because he was in to music while on the road.
This can also lead to Melophobia.
Whatever the case is, it is quite evident that both genetics and environmental factors play significant roles in development of a specific phobia.
Melophobia, like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Melophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, 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 treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Melophobia is defined as the irrational fear of music.
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 being exposed to a product that is potentially poisonous.
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 with Melophobia (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.
To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli.
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 a situation in which he is listening to music.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to a real situation where he is exposed to music.
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 patients 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.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of music, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, is 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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Melophobia.
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.
For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the smell of a certain food presented to them, making use of their olfactory 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.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Melophobia, 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 being exposed to music.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Melophobia.
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 suggest 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 Melophobia, 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 Jonathan Lethem
by David D. Burns
by Barry McDonagh and BMD Publishing
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry
by Seth J Gillihan PhD
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is Melophobia?
It is the irrational fear of music.
One suffers from extreme anxiety when exposed to music.
It is a type of specific phobia which comes under the anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Q2) Is Melophobia treatable?
Yes. Like all other specific phobias, Melophobia is treated by a number of therapies including exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and or medicines.
Q3) How is Melophobia diagnosed?
It is diagnosed by the help of the criteria of specific phobias in the DSM-V.
This includes, extreme anxiety upon hearing music, full blown panic attacks, inability to avoid anxiety accompanied by other physical symptoms.
Q4) Is Melophobia linked with the fear of sound?
It is not proven but we can say one can be caused due to the other.
Music is also a form of sound, so someone fearful of sound can also be afraid of music and vice versa.