In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Siderodromophobia.
An intense fear of trains is called Siderodromophobia. This is a type of specific phobia, which comes under anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Someone suffering from this type of specific phobia will experience extreme anxiety when they see/are near trains.
Not just the sight or presence, but the very thought about trains can instigate anxiety.
In intense cases, one can also suffer from full-blown panic attacks.
Like in all other specific phobias, people suffering from Siderodromophobia will take all the possible measures one can, in order to minimize their anxiety.
These acts of avoidance are repetitive because they produce pleasant feelings.
Thus, this repetition can lead to one developing OCD in the long run.
Also, avoidance lowers down ones’ anxious feelings.
This maintains their fear because the pleasant feelings one gets justify their fear of trains.
According to the DSM-V, the act of avoidance caused by anxiety affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
For example, one will avoid visiting his relatives, if the only way they can commute is through a train.
This way, they’ll be unable to see their loved ones for a very long passage of time.
In case of an emergency/event, one may not be able to travel. They might lose connection with their family.
Another instance can be where one has to travel via metro trains to commute within the city.
They won’t be able to go to their jobs. They will also avoid living near train stations.
This social distancing can lead to one developing depression.
Siderodromophobia Is the irrational fear of trains.
One suffering from this type of specific phobia experiences extreme anxiety when around trains.
They fear the train crashing or losing its controls.
Symptoms of Siderodromophobia
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Siderodromophobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom.
Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of trains suffer from extreme anxiety which, as mentioned earlier, can result in one having panic attacks.
When one undergoes extreme anxiety, the body experiences other physiological symptoms as well.
Such as increased heartbeat or palpitations.
When the sufferer thinks he is around his fear stimuli, he 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)-faint or suffer from panic attacks or stay and combat their fear (fight)-by taking counterproductive actions.
Siderodromophobia, being the fear of trains, is experienced by individuals in different ways.
One might also have more severe symptoms than the other, based on their past experiences and intensity of the phobia.
Though, as the DSM-5 suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months.
Symptoms one experiences in Siderodromophobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to trains
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about trains
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding places or situations where one might encounter trains
- Increased heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness/fainting
- Fear of an impending doom
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
For one to be diagnosed with Siderodromophobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Causes of Siderodromophobia
Siderodromophobia, like all other phobias has no known cause.
In this phobia, one is fearful of everything related to trains. Such as, train tracks.
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 Siderodromophobia until and unless there is some trigger event.
This trigger event can be a past traumatic experience.
For example, someone might’ve gone through a near to death experience in a train or heard someone have a bad journey.
Someone suffering from Siderodromophobia may have developed this fear because they lost their loved one in a train accident.
Other reasons can be media reports and stats.
An individual developed Siderodromophobia because they saw news about train accidents or the number of people who lose their lives in these incidents.
Thus, genetics and environmental factors, both play a significant role in causing Siderodromophobia.
Treatment of Siderodromophobia
Siderodromophobia, like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other phobias, Siderodromophobia 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.
Siderodromophobia is defined as the irrational fear of trains.
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 getting exposed to trains.
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 Siderodromophobia (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, a picture of a train for example.
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 in a train.
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 real train, for example at a train station.
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 trains, 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, 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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Siderodromophobia.
It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of 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 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 Siderodromophobia, 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.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Siderodromophobia.
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 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.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggest 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.
Whether the cause of Siderodromophobia, 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
- Powerful Calm, Release Anxiety, Stress, Worry & Fear: Train Your Mind with Energizing Music & Affirmations
by Jupiter Productions, Anna Thompson, et al.
by Jennifer Allwood and Zondervan
by Margie Warrell
by Reneau Peurifoy
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is the fear of trains called?
Siderodromophobia is the irrational fear of trains. One experiences extreme anxiety when around trains.
Q2) Is Siderodromophobia treatable?
Yes. Siderodromophobia can be treated by using a number of therapies which include cognitive-behavioral therapy, DBT, exposure therapy and or medicines.
Q3) Do I have Siderodromophobia?
One can be diagnosed with Siderodromophobia if they experience extreme anxiety when exposed to trains, panic attacks, hyperventilation and other symptoms.
Q4) Is Siderodromophobia caused because of a genetic predisposition?
It can be caused by a number of reasons, not just one. Siderodromophobia is not just the result of a genetic predisposition but is also caused by an environmental trigger.
Examples of other interesting phobias