Agraphobia is an extreme and irrational fear of sexual abuse. This type of fear can be observed in both victims of real sexual abuse as well as people who have been exposed to sexual abuse hysteria. The difference, obviously, is that those who have been the victims of real sexual abuse fear a repeat traumatic incident and develop extreme tactics in order to avoid these situations. In contrast, those who are the victims of hysteria have been instilled with an irrational fear of abuse. With either case, the victim of agraphobia becomes so afraid of the prospect of sexual abuse that they begin to avoid people and situations that they believe pose such a risk, despite that the majority of other people see such danger as unfounded.
Symptoms of Agraphobia
Spotting agraphobia may be easy. If the person who has the disorder becomes overwhelmingly fearful when made aware of situations in which sexual abuse might occur or has occurred, they may have the disorder. Such instances could include sending a child to school or daycare for the first time, going on a date with someone new, or even being in an environment with the opposite sex. Common symptoms include:
- Feelings of dread or panic when they are not merited
- Automatic or uncontrollable reactions to fear
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme avoidance of situations that pose no real or imminent danger
Causes of Agraphobia
Like all other phobias there is no universally specific cause. Rather, unique and specific incidences of abuse contribute to the development of agraphobia. In some cases sex abuse hysteria, caused by misinformation, overzealous or careless investigation practices, or sensationalist news coverage, can cause agraphobia.
Treatment of Agraphobia
Like many other phobias, treatment for agraphobia is probably best left to a mental health practitioner or someone who knows the sufferer extremely well and is able to target the inciting factors of the disorder. The goal of a mental health expert should be to target the root of the phobia by identifying the cause of the person’s extreme and irrational fear. The patient and therapist discuss why the fear is unfounded, how they can come to terms with any traumatic experiences that caused the phobia, and ways to deal with the symptoms of the condition. This type of psychotherapy generally has a very high success rate, with the vast majority of patients completely overcoming or successfully coping with agraphobia symptom-free for years, if not for the rest of their lives.
Other methods of psychotherapy include exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. These types of treatment involve meetings between the patient and therapist, in which the patient is systematically and gradually exposed to the source of fear while learning to control and rationalize their physical and mental reactions to it. By facing agraphobia head on, the patient becomes accustomed to it and thus ultimately realizes that his or her initial fears were not grounded in real or imminent danger.
If you are searching for help with agraphobia, finding it is easier than you think. There are countless therapists and peer groups willing to help not only with overcoming the disorder, but also its attendant psychological difficulties. Do not let agraphobia stifle your life and constantly give you something to fear. Do not hesitate to reach out for support.
- American Psychiatric Association – info about phobias in general, causes, treatment.
- Wikipedia – definition of agraphobia along with hypothetical instigating factors.