ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

ALGOPHOBIA

This blog post will provide us an all-inclusive guide as to the causes, symptoms and treatments of Algophobia. 

The irrational fear of pain is known as Algophobia. Sufferers of this kind of phobia may feel extreme anxiety by just thinking about pain. These situations can lead to full blown panic attacks caused by anxiety. 

People suffering from Algophobia will try to avoid situations or stimuli that can lead to feelings of or give them sensation of pain. These acts will further add to their anxious state because they will always be conscious of avoiding a painful situation by justifying their fear. 

Algophobia is more common amongst old people and usually starts in old age. This is because seeing friends or family, of the same age group, suffering from pain due to an illness or incident makes them fearful of going through the same level of pain and trauma if something happens to them. 

However, it is not proven that this is an old age phobia. Like all other specific phobias, Algophobia can start at any time in a person’s life, irrespective of age or gender. 

Algophobia is also known as algiophobia. This is an insistent fear of pain that is powerful than that of a normal person. It delipidates the condition of the sufferer and can be treated with therapies and medication.
ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

SYMPTOMS OF ALGOPHOBIA

Conditions that lead to the diagnosis of Algophobia are what we call as symptoms. These will be experienced differently by every individual. Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms which is experienced by almost everyone with a specific phobia. This extreme anxiety can lead to full blown panic attack for many. 

Symptoms that one experiences in Algophobia are:

  • Anxiety, by just thinking about pain
  • Unable to manage this anxiety 
  • Frequent actions done to avoid situations of pain. 
  • Panic attacks may occur
  • Feeling of dread
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Feelings of unconsciousness 
  • Palpitations
  • Severe headache/migraine  
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Excessive Sweating/ muscle tension
  • Trembling 
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Drying up of the mouth 
  • Loosing temper easily

For someone to be diagnosed with Algophobia, at least 3-5 of these symptoms should be present. Anxiety being the most important one. 
ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

CAUSES OF ALGOPHOBIA

Like all other specific phobias, Algophobia also has two main factors causing it; 

Genetics and Environment. 

According to the genetic explanation, family history has a major role in the cause of Algophobia. One has a higher chance of suffering from this type of specific phobia if someone else in their family has it. 

The genetic susceptibility is what leads to mental disorders like these, being passed on to generations. Alterations in certain gene structures or neurotransmitter levels in the body are the reasons why Algophobia is caused biologically. 

Traumatic events associated with pain might trigger certain emotions or feelings leading to an alteration in the neurotransmitter levels. This therefore, can be the reason for the onset of Algophobia. 

The exact source of Algophobia is unidentified but, it is allegedly claimed by many professional health workers and researchers that both, genetics and environmental factors can be a cause for this type of specific phobia. 

TREATMENT OF ALGOPHOBIA

Algophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Algophobia is treated by Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lowers the anxiety or other physical symptoms. 
ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

Exposure Therapy 

It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Algophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia). In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his/her fear over a certain span of time. To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture for example, that depicts pain (an image of someone suffering pain or from an injury). 

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 that will cause them to feel pain (for example a wound or an accident). During the 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/she is then exposed to the actual pain (for example, having an injection). 

While the patient is being exposed to different levels of pain 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 pain causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to 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 pain, by being exposed to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Algophobia is defined as the irrational fear of pain. 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 painful situations. The 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: 

  1. A (antecedent) a situation or triggering event. 
  2. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation
  3. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought 
  4. 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.  

ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) 

This is another effective therapy used to treat Algophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients of Algophobia. 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). 

  • 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 restrain from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.

  • Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of the 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. 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 senses. 

  • 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/painful aspects of it. 

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 to 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’ yoga and meditation 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day. 

ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

Yoga/Meditation 

They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Algophobia, 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 a person is in a particular yoga pose/position.

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 for 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 pain. 

Drug Therapy 

Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Algophobia. 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:

Anti-anxiety Drugs

These include medicines called Diazepam. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers the anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms. 

Antidepressant Drugs

These drugs as the name suggests not only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Zoloft reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without the doctor’s advice. 

Whether the cause of Algophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetic, 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). 

FAQs 

Q1) Are all the fears of pain relevant to algophobia? 

No. Fear of pain caused by Algophobia is very different to the normal fear of pain in terms of its symptoms. Panic attack is crucial in differentiating algophobia with common feelings of fear. Someone who doesn’t have algophobia will have no panic attacks when exposed to pain, neither the thought of it will lead to extreme anxiety or be highly traumatic.

Q2) What keeps the phobia? 

Avoidance. When a person is phobic, they try their best to avoid the specific situation or stimuli. This act of avoidance is what causes one to feel anxious. They are anxious of not being able to do enough to avoid their fear. 

When one successfully avoids their fear stimulus, it feels like a reward to them, giving them feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Thus, he keeps on replicating the situation. 

Q3) Do I have Algophobia? 

The symptoms of Algophobia are very similar to the symptoms of other specific phobias. If one feels extreme anxiety or has panic attacks when exposed to a situation that might cause them pain, then the person has Algophobia. But to be diagnosed with it, one needs to have at least 3-5 symptoms mentioned. 

Q4) What causes Algophobia? 

Past traumatic experiences for example the death of a loved one, an unpleasant experience of a situation that caused pain or a pervious history of mental illness like depression are amongst a number of factors that can lead to Algophobia. It can also be caused if there’s a family history of this specific phobia or another mental disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

You can always revert to us for any queries related to the topic.

TITLES TO READ FROM

  • I Do Hard Things: A Bible Study to Break of Fear and Pain by Havilah Cunnington
  • Meaning and Happiness: Overcoming STRESS, FEAR, and PAIN by Roy Masters and Foundation of Human Understanding
  • Neural Path Therapy: How to Change Your Brain’s Response to Anger, Fear, Pain, and Desire by Matthew McKay and David Harp  | Sep 1, 2005

CITATIONS

  • https://psychtimes.com/algophobia-fear-of-pain/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction
  • https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/288016-medication
  • https://www.michaelshouse.com/valium-addiction-treatment/prescribed-to-treat/
  • https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-mbsr/
  • https://www.dbtskillsgroupnj.com/four-skill-modules/

ALGOPHOBIA (A Comprehensive Guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.