What is Traumatophobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatments of Traumatophobia.
An intense fear of injuries is called Traumatophobia. It is a type of specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Someone suffering from it will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to injuries.
A mere thought of encountering an wound can instigate anxiety. If the condition worsens, one can also undergo full-blown panic attacks.
Injuries are painful.. Normally, people do fear injuries because of its consequences.
However, someone who is suffering from Traumatophobia will experience fear overwhelmingly. They get extremely anxious when they experience/think about injuries.
Though, not wholly irrational, people suffering from Traumataophobia are unable to rationalise their thoughts about injuries.
In order to eliminate the anxiety it causes, one tends to avoid their fear stimuli.
A sufferer takes all the possible measures he can, to avoid getting an wound.
Someone suffering from Traumatophobia is very likely to develop OCD in the future as a result of these repeated acts of avoidance turning to compulsions.
According to the DSM-V, anxiety that leads to avoidance affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
For example, as a child, one will refrain from running or playing in parks to avoid getting injured. An individual will also hesitate in walking on the road.
In severe cases, a sufferer won’t leave his house at all because he might fear an wound, which according to him he’ll encounter if he goes out.
As a result, one can develop depression in the long run.
Traumatophobia is an irrational fear of injuries. The Greek word ‘trauma’ means wound and ‘phobos’ means fear.
Symptoms of Traumatophobia
People with Traumatophobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety on the mere thought of injuries.
They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus, end up feeling more anxious. This anxiety, in extreme cases, can give rise to full-blown panic attacks.
Sufferers go 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.
In the case of Traumatophobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to injuries (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.
According to the DSM-V, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and 3-5 symptoms out of the ones listed below:
- Extreme anxiety when see blood (your own/someone else’s)
- Extreme anxiety when thinking about blood
- Anticipatory anxiety
- Inability to control anxiety
- Repeated acts to avoid blood
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Muscle tension
- Increased heartbeat
- Feelings of dizziness
- 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).
- Butterflies in the stomach
Causes of Traumatophobia
Traumatophobia, 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 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 Traumatophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of injuries.
Traumatophobia can be caused due to a number of different phobias one has.
It is very closely related to Hemophobia (the fear of blood). One who fears blood will fear injuries because one might bleed due to an wound.
Fear of surgical operations (Tomophobia) can also develop into Traumatophobia because of the fact that an wound might require a surgical operation.
This fear is also very closely related to the fear of doctors and or hospitals.
An individual can also fear injuries because they have a fear of falling (Basophobia or germs (Mysophobia).
Apart from these, Traumatophobia can be a result of one’s past traumatic experiences.
For example, as a child one might’ve gotten injured. The pain it caused can be the reason why he started fearing injuries.
Or, he might have experienced or heard someone develop a disease and or go through a painful medical procedure due to his wound.
Other than this, one can have Traumatophobia because of over protective parents or family.
Because, these children were brought up with such care and protection that they might suffer from extreme anxiety when they’re exposed to injuries (their own or someone else’s).
The development of Traumatophobia can also be a learned response.
Children will imitate the behavior of their parents who are afraid of injuries, either due to Traumatophobia or otherwise.
Phobias mostly start to develop during childhood. By the age of 7-16 years, one is very likely to develop fears or phobias related to health or physical wound, in the presence of a correct stimulus (genetics and or environmental).
Traumatophobia, therefore, is a result of either a genetic predisposition and or environmental factors.
Treatment of Traumatophobia
Traumatophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Traumatophobia 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 treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Traumatophobia is defined as the irrational fear of injuries. 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 injuries.
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 Traumatophobia (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 an wound 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’s injured.
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 wound, for example asked to help a person who is injured.
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.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of injuries, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Applied Tension Technique
By using this method, one is prevented from fainting (a symptom of Traumatophobia).
Fainting is a very common symptom, mostly specific to phobias related to blood, injection or wound.
The patient is instructed to tense his muscles of the arms, torso and legs for 10 to 15 seconds.
They are told to hold the tension till their head starts feeling warm. The patient then relaxes his body for the next 20-30 seconds and repeats the whole technique again, 5 times.
This increases one’s blood pressure, which prevents fainting.
• 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.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Traumatophobia, 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 of injuries.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Traumatophobia.
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 Diazepam 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 suggests 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 Traumatophobia, 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
- 101 Ways to Stop Anxiety: Practical Exercises to Find Peace and Free Yourself from Fears, Phobias, Panic Attacks, and Freak-Outs
by Tanya J. Peterson
by Andy Caponigro
by Rebekah Lyons
by Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer, et al
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) How is Traumatophobia?
This phobia of injuries is caused by either a genetic predisposition, such as a family history or an environmental factor-past traumatic experience.
Q2) Do I have Traumatophobia?
To know if someone has Traumatophobia, one needs to experience extreme anxiety, panic attacks, fainting, increased heartbeat, nausea, muscle tension etc.
The anxiety one experiences should last for at least 6 months.
Q3) How can I overcome my fear of injuries?
One needs to consult a therapist in order to get treated.
The therapies one can get in order to get treated are CBT, exposure therapy and or medicinal drugs.
Q4) How common is Traumatophobia?
Around 3-4% of the population experiences BII phobia.
It usually begins at around the age of 10-13 years.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
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