What are the symptoms of algophobia?
Feeling, as defined by American Psychological Association, is a subjective, evaluative and independent of sensations, thoughts or images provoking them. Feelings can be pleasant or unpleasant. Humans do have feelings. Feelings help humans to act better and to live humanely. However, some people may have a phobia toward things that usually are not scary or terrifying to others. There are many kinds of phobias and some people may act excessively or even aggressively when they have to face the phobia. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will be learning about algophobia.
Algophobia is the irrational fear towards pain. It is actually understandable to be afraid of pain but people with algophobia will be tremendously scared of pain and will avoid anything even if it is just slightly painful when there is need of necessary medical treatments. Speaking of pain, what is actually pain? Pain is an unpleasant signal that something hurts. It is indeed a complex experience that differs greatly from person to another, even between those with similar injuries and/or illness. Pain involves both sensory and emotional experience. The concept of pain is entirely constructed in the brain.
Psychologist and psychiatrist have been aware that the minds are more than capable of producing a real biological reaction to any given situations. Hence, as longa s those with algophobia “believes” that the object or situation they fear pose danger to them, they will definitely experience real fear. Majority of people who suffer algophobia do realise their fear is “irrational”. However, algophobia itself, despite seem irrational and illogical to many, is a real thing that could negatively affect the person with the condition.
There are no known definitive causes behind algophobia. Researchers theorised that it could be from genetic and environmental factors. Someone with a family member that has a history of mental illness, specifically anxiety disorders or specific phobias, have a higher tendency to develop algophobia. This can be from genetic predisposition to developing mental illness in general. When there are already genetic factors, traumatic events or experiences can exacerbate it to develop a full blown algophobia. Any sort of emotionally painful event regardless of the various fears associated with algophobia, in some way, is enough to develop this condition as long as they already have the proper genetics.
Algophobia symptoms often revolve around anxiety. The anxiety may be so extreme that they may even endure full blown panic attacks as a result of it. These panic attacks may be so severe that they need to be hospitalised. Another symptom is people with agoraphobia may go to the extent of avoiding areas where they may come in contact with their fear or actively try to prevent it from happening by taking a more hands-on approach. Other symptoms include physical symptoms such as sweating excessively, trembling, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, dry mouth, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and muscle tension. In severe cases, it may lead to social isolation, depression and many other mental health problems.
Since algophobia may seem like normal behaviour in some people, it is important for those with symptoms to at least get checked by a doctor. Of course, it is best to get checked by mental health professionals as they can give insight and identify if the fear is problematic or considered normal. Diagnosis is made based on the patient’s symptoms, medical history and psychological assessment. It is very important to get the right diagnosis from the right health personnel since algophobia, just as with many other mental health problems, need medical attention and may be difficult for the public to even identify such issues.
There are several treatments available for algophobia. This includes medication, psychotherapy and alternative therapies. Common medications prescribed by doctors are antidepressant and anti-anxiety. These drugs can help to reduce symptoms. Psychotherapy, commonly given such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), can help patients to learn coping skills and strategies to manage the fear of pain. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage therapy is helpful to reduce anxiety symptoms and helps patients to relax. Another treatment is exposure therapy that allows patients to rationalise and control their reactions. Exposure therapy typically starts with exposing patients to photos depicting someone in pain and eventually exposing them to actual pain. Patients should not be worried as this kind of treatment will be done as minute as possible and as ethical as possible.
Mindful meditation can also benefit those with algophobia such as group mindfulness practices that focus on drinking warm tea to hone sense of taste and tactile sense. Yoga poses may also be helpful as it relieves the anxiety associated with algophobia. It is worth noting that treating algophobia may involve combining more than one treatment at a time. This helps patients to achieve better outcomes faster. Patients are advised to avoid caffeinated drinks or food as it can worsen the anxiety symptoms. It is best to ask healthcare providers on what is the best treatment available and suits the time or cost for the patient themselves.