Algophobia is an extreme and irrational fear of pain. This phobia can be spurred by a wide variety of factors including traumatic events and hypersensitivity. Unlike those with a normal fear of pain, algophobics have developed a fear that is so extreme it hinders their ability to carry out normal, everyday activities. Some such activities might include lifting a heavy object, working with tools, walking in the dark or playing physically challenging games with friends. While someone with normal fear will see these situations as unlikely sources of limited or moderate pain, an algophobic sees them as terrifying and extremely harmful. Still, it is not necessarily the degree of pain that the algophobic wants to avoid but rather pain altogether.
Symptoms of Algophobia
This condition may be a specific phobia, existing by itself, or concomitant with other disorders that can be psychological or the result of substance abuse. Identifying algophobia may be easy. A definitive diagnosis, however, is best left to a mental health professional. If you or someone you know becomes extremely upset at the prospect of even the slightest or most common pains, algophobia might possibly be the reason. Some of the immediate reactions that might appear include:
- Feelings of dread or panic when exposed to an activity or other element that might cause pain or physical discomfort
- Automatic or uncontrollable reactions
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme avoidance of situations that pose no real or imminent danger
Treatment of Algophobia
Treatment for this phobia is best left to a mental health professional who can target the inciting factors of the disorder. The goal of a mental health expert should be to find 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, as well as 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 algophobia 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 algophobia 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 algophobia, 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 algophobia 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.
- wordsmith.org – definition of algophobia.