Apeirophobia is a very unique and irrational fear of infinity. Nothing lasts forever and infinite means lasting forever. This discord leads to an anxiety that is debilitating or the sufferer to an extent that he displays a full-blown panic attack.
Infinity is the end. End without infinity is just a new beginning. This perplexes the person and he face extreme anxiety when exposed to the concept of a forever. Apeirophobia is derived from a Greek word “apeiro’ meaning infinity and ‘phobos’ meaning fear. This is also a dread or an aversion of an everlasting of things.
People generally are afraid of aging and if this aging means that it will go on for a very long time or even till forever, then the symptoms can exacerbate leading him/her to take as drastic measures as even a suicide. The scary element in this is an eternal death or an eternal life.
Basically, the concept of infinity is a vague and a difficult concept to clasp. No one has ever experienced a forever, therefore things that are not tangible and have not been experienced by anyone known before, seem to depict a scary element.
The religions of the world teach about a life after death that is eternal and invincible, but then no one has ever reported to experience it. The religious teachings have a spiritual element to it, again the spiritual connotation adds a touch of mystic to this already ambiguous concept. And something that is not understood is something that the person is always afraid of.
The actual worry is the monotony of everyday life to continue on a plane of forever, meaning that the drudgery may never stop. People suffering from Apeirophobia are reluctant to accept that if they are facing problems in this life what might happen if a forever life will continue and these also continue with it.
In the DSM-V the criteria of a specific phobia overlap this fear of infinity as well.
Causes of Apeirophobia
Apeirophobia is an intricate phobia and the reasons for its complexity lies in quite simple but baffling factors.
A traumatic episode
The concept of eternity or infinity is typically related to death. If a child loses someone dear like a parent or a grandparent to death and he is told that they have gone to Heaven. The concept of Heaven is again a vague concept that the child is unable to comprehend.
He makes his own schema regarding where the deceased has gone. When he is told that Heaven is forever then the small mind of a child cannot comprehend. He will make his own idea of a never ending and might develop fears of an unknown place from where no one returns. Therefore, this infinity starts to scare him.
This type of fear is most probably learnt from parents or significant others who display similar fears of one thing or the other. Children replicate behaviors of the ones they are exposed to all the time.
Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families. The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted state can cause anxiety like symptoms.
The concept of living and facing the ordeals of the daily living for a very long time can pose a magnanimous burden on the person and he may give rise to the concept of timelessness.
Symptoms of Apeirophobia
- Experiencing anxiety when thinking about infinity.
- Inability to cope with stress
- Experiencing fear of infinity when talking about infinity.
- Thoughts of dying
- Fear of losing control
Physical symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Sweaty palms
- Tightness in chest
- Hot or cold flushes
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Dizziness or fainting
- Feeling like choking
- Shaking or trembling
Treatments of Apeirophobia
Apeirophobia can be treated through different treatments. These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Neuro Linguistic Program, EMDR and forms of meditation.
Let’s take a look at these forms of treatments.
1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to alter his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved. This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to a particular fear or anxiety.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels. CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation
Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations. Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior. Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.
For the treatment of Apeirophobia, the therapist segregates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions. Realistic and unrealistic thoughts are then determined, so that the unrealistic thoughts are taken over by the more realistic thoughts.
The goal of therapy is the application of the learnt strategies to everyday life. The duration of treatment is short and the effects are long lasting.
2. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment. We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
In Apeirophobia treatment, the client is made conscious to pay attention to his thoughts when he thinks about infinity and why he is afraid of it. Awareness helps to alleviate the stress symptoms.
The client is taught to pay attention to his breathing –inhalation and exhalation.
For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts. The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought. The client will meditate during the exposure to the feared thought and with practice either in imagery first will be able to relieve himself of the symptoms.
4. Neuro-Linguistic programming (NLP)
It is a psychological approach that includes ways of trying to reach a personal goal. It links language, thoughts and patterns of behavior learned through experience.
The key elements of NLP are action, modeling and effective communication. It suggests that everyone has different ways of how they see the world. By understanding a number of perspectives of others, patients who use NLP see the world through a combination of their personal views and that of others.
NLP therapists treat patients with Apeirophobia by making them understand their thoughts, behaviors and emotional state. By having an insight of the patients own ‘personal’ view of reality, they assist them in forming new, positive thoughts.
NLP helps the patient in improving his state of thoughts about other people by understanding their cognitive-behavioral patterns. Like CBT, this form of therapy is also very effective.
• Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This another form of treatment used with patients suffering from specific phobia or anxiety disorders. It is used with patients who know the cause of their phobia.
First, the therapist collects the patients’ history of different fears. They then identify the real cause of the particular fear/phobia the patient has.
They then discuss any new/latest event that triggered their anxiety and fear in the past few weeks. People coming with specific phobias are told to imagine their distress causing stimuli.
The therapist then works with the individual in order for them to overcome their fear. In the case of Apeirophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of infinity. They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
5. Self-Help Groups
Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer. These groups are comprised of individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering. Thus, the chances of self-improvement and catering to own anxieties for alleviations becomes effective.
6. Changing Lifestyle
Breaking down the tedium of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well.
• Take up jogging or go for daily walks
Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.
• Indulging in an exercise regime
Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better. This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.
• Altering eating and drinking habits
Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem. This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.
• Improving the sleep cycle
When we get proper rest, our concentration improves and indulging in negatives lessens. In Apeirophobia, the client is asked to alter his sleeping patterns because the tired mind finds even the most benign stimuli as leading to their fear source.
7. Psychiatric Medication
There a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Apeirophobia are severe.
1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These are the ones that rid the patients from symptoms of anxiety and panic. The medicines include Xanax, Klonopin and others. These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Apeirophobia as well as other phobias. Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
8. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions. A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind. apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.
Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the fear of infinity called?
The fear of infinity is called Apeirophobia. It is an intense but irrational fear.
- How is Apeirophobia cured?
Apeirophobia is cured through different therapies like Cognitive Behavior Therapy, NLP and if required anxiolytic medicines as well.
- Why are people afraid of infinity?
People can be afraid of infinity because no one has ever seen or experienced infinity and the unknown always poses a threat to the human mind.
- Is there any self to do therapy available for Apeirophobia?
Yes, Mindfulness techniques can easily be carried out by the person at home.
Titles from Amazon
- Apeirophobia by Karin Kihlberg and Reuben Henry | Jan 1, 2011
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Dr. Danny Penman , Danny Penman, et al.
- Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations for Finding Peace in the Everyday by Matthew Sockolov, Daniel Henning, et al.
- The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day by Andy Puddicombe and Macmillan Audio
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry by Seth J Gillihan PhD