What is Mnemophobia? (A Summary)
In this blog we will deliberate about the causes, symptoms and treatment for Nomophobia.
Mnemophobia is an irrational fear of memories. People with painful memories or who are suffering from Alzhiermer’s disease often are afraid of recalling or forgetting what they knew respectively.
‘The best memories are those which we have forgotten,’ says Alfred Capus, a French journalist.
A traumatic event that is best being forgotten is an integral part of this phobia.
The memories that bring on extreme stress are best repressed in the unconscious mind by the person.
This is done to avoid the anxiety that the memories bring along.
This then allows the person to function within the realms of normalcy, till the memories start seeping in.
Sigmund Freud divided the mind into three parts: the unconscious, the subconscious and the unconscious.
The memories of experiences that are painful and cause extreme distress in the person are stuffed into the unconscious so that the recall will be difficult and anxiety is thus evaded..
People who are suffering from Alzhiemer’s have a fear that they will soon lose all the memories they have made over the years.
This in itself is quite distressing and the person tries to push away the memories themselves in order to avoid anxiety, thus becoming Mnemophobic.
Undergoing a trauma can especially lead a person to develop Mnemophobia where he is in denial and the memory is forgotten.
Mnemophobia is the intense fear of memories, either by recalling the past or being scared of losing all memory during mental diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Its root cause can be traced through past events..
Symptoms of Mnemophobia
- Anxiety at a memory
- Afraid at having memories
- Feels helpless
- Unable to deal with intense emotions
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- pain or tightness in the chest
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- headaches and dizziness
- feeling faint
- Trembling when a memory crosses the mind
- Dry mouth
Memories that are painful and have to be stopped from getting into consciousness bring about a number of symptoms that again evades their returning to the forefront of the mind.
Causes of Mnemophobia
Mnemophobia is an irrational fear of memories.
This fear can deprive the person from his memories if not treated properly as it stops the memories from being recalled to escape stress.
As a child, the person suffering from Mnemophobia may have been bullied or harassed, undergone an accident or genetically be prone to anxiety more.
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 Mnemophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear..
Early Traumatic Experiences
Mnemophobia can also have its roots in one’s childhood.
A traumatic event that has occurred and is so stressful that even the slightest of the memory brings about a full-blown panic attack.
The trauma could be the death of a loved one, or it could be a violent attack or a harassment, physical or psychological.
It could also be an accident as well.
Mnemophobia may also be linked with such an intense fear of memories that all the wonderful past ones are overshadowed by these anxiety provoking memories.
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.
Mnemophobia, 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 set off an entire panic like situation.
Another reason to develop Mnemophobia could be watching movies that depict the suffering of the patients who suffer from memory loss.
Thus, Mnemophobia is caused by both a genetic predisposition and environmental trigger events.
Treatment of Mnemophobia
Mnemophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Mnemophobia 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.
Mnemophobia is defined as the irrational fear of memories.
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 memories.
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 Mnemophobia (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/his memories, first with a group of safe friends, then with a group of safe strangers as if sharing similar experiences.
Then he is recalling 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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used for Mnemophobia.
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 Mnemophobia, 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 their anxiety.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Mnemophobia.
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
Is loss of memory permanent in Mnemophobia?
No. The memory loss is not permanent in Mnemophobia as this can easily be treated with therapies.
It is a repression of memories only.
What treatment is given for memory loss?
Various therapies including psychotherapies, Cognitive Behavior therapy meditation and medicines (if required) are given to treat Mnemophobia, a fear of memories.
Is Mnemophobia the same as dementia?
No. Mnemophobia is totally different from dementia, because Mnemophobia is psychological in nature whereas dementia is organic.
How much can MIndfulness help?
According to Minfulness.com, /Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’