In this blog, we will discuss the uniqueness of Athazagoraphobia, how it is caused and what treatment is required.
Athazagoraphobia is a fear of being forgotten. The sufferer dreads that his loved ones will either forget him or ignore him or he will forget them due to any reason/s. This is a common feeling in many and gives rise to other behavior issues as well.
This is mostly seen in people suffering from dementia (fear that they will soon forget) and also their spouse who fear that they will soon or one day be forgotten. The etiology of Athazagoraphobia lies in a stressful environmental factor or the DNA as well.
The American Psychiatric Association also does not recognize this as a specific phobia or a mental disorder for diagnosing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).
Athazagoraphobia is the irrational fear of being forgotten or ignored. In some cases, it can also include the fear of forgetting. Athazagoraphobia is a specific phobia.
It is not uncommon to have fears. We all have one fear or another and saunter through life with these, sometimes the fear makes us fearful and at others we subdue it. But there are people whose lives are driven by the fear itself.
These ‘fearful’ people engage in thoughts of things that scare us so much so that their waking hours are consumed by them. When a fear is not justified scientifically to harm the person, then they are irrational.
In families of people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia the thought of being forgotten by the loved one is of a magnitude and they might suffer from these recurring thoughts that leave them feeling aloe and desolate.
Athazagoraphobia is one such irrational fear that makes the person fearful of being forgotten. Everyone wants to be remembered, wants to be acknowledged and appreciated. These are basic human needs. Our self esteem actually thrives on it. We actually relish in it and this feeling in itself motivates us to become better, perform well and improve our disposition. Therefore, no one wants to be forgotten!
Causes of Athazagoraphobia
The etiology of Athazagoraphobia lies in many factors.
If there is a mental instability running in the family, then the chances of predisposition in the DNA is higher. The chances of suffering from either an emotional disturbance or psychopathology are more.
Anxiety disorders are commonly inherited. So, if a family member has one form of anxiety, chances are that another member, sibling or children will develop it too.
- Traumatic Past Experience
It so happens that a person may have suffered a separation anxiety in the past. A child may have been abandoned by parents or guardians and grew up with this knowledge that he had been left alone. This can embed in his mind and he can then later in life be afraid of being ignored or forgotten.
This fear can then be generalized onto other people and situations. People suffering from Athazagoraphobia will always feel that they are being ignored and offered importance. This can be either in school, at work or even home
If at a party the host will not be by their side, they end up being resentful and depressed that they have ben ignored. In extreme cases the marital life of such people can also be in shambles, because they would always want to be top priority. This ends up in extreme anger and state of depression.
Children often imitate emotions of their parents or significant others in their life. If a parent displays emotion of fear, then the child may also model the same behavior and can develop irrational fears, not knowing why he is afraid of a certain stimulus.
This shows that sometimes a person does not even know why he is afraid of a certain thing and cannot justify the cause of his fear.
Symptoms of Athazagoraphobia
The symptoms of Athazagoraphobia resemble those of a panic attack. The American Psychological association (APA) researched that, People with an overpowering fear may not be able to consciously control the direction of their gaze when faced with a picture eliciting that fear, according to a new study published in the journal Emotion (Vol. 5, No. 1)
The more profound symptoms include:
- Panic attacks
The person feels nauseous when confronted with the thought that he will be forgotten by his family or friends. He actually experiences the discomfort and suffers from the unpleasant sensation of nausea.
- Chills or Hot Flashes
When in a challenging position of panic the person might go cold all over, tremble as in a chill or he may have sudden bursts of hot flashes as if the upper body is full of a warm sensation.
In Athazagoraphobia the irrational thought of being ignored brings on a shivering like condition in the person.
Anxiety brings about a condition where the person starts to exhale faster than he inhales, as if he is gasping for breath.
In Athazagoraphobia the person gets highly agitated at the single thought of isolation or if a feeling of abandonment comes to their mind.
Treatments of Athazagoraphobia
There are no such treatments per se for Athazagoraphobia other than the ones that are used to treat anxiety disorders. These therapies reduce the symptoms of Athazagoraphobia significantly.
- Exposure Therapy
In this form of therapy, the client is ‘exposed’ to his fear with gradual degrees of intensities, starting from the least intense and moving up the ladder to the most intense. In the case of Athazagoraphobia the fear is the thought of being forgotten and the therapist educates the client as to the irrationality of this thought.
The amount of information given to the client is of varying degrees and the fear is greatly reduced as the extent of information rises. This type of treatment is also called Systematic Desensitization.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In this form of therapy, the client is made to realize the validity of his thoughts, either they are realistic or unrealistic in nature. In Athazagoraphobia the client is led to asses the validity of his fear. With the help of the therapist he establishes whether the fear of being alone should affect his behavior and subsequently his daily activities or not.
CBT is also highly effective in people suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and helps to alter the patterns of thinking and behavior.
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
This kind of therapy has been developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in. It employs mindfulness meditation to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders. This type of therapy helps people to alleviate the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.
Stress is a way of our body to react to certain stressful stimuli and when stress goes out of bounds and starts to impinge our senses to an extent that it hinders our normal functioning, then MBSR plays a pivotal role.
It helps to develop metacognition. Metacognition means to understand own thought processes, that is thinking about thinking and being aware of one’s own awareness.in Athazagoraphobia this helps in being critically aware of a) one’s thinking and learning and b) oneself as a thinker and learner.
Once the client has learnt to be involved this way the irrationality of his thoughts starts to disperse. He then emerges as a constructive thinker who has the ability to rationalize and alter his thinking pattern as per the environmental factors.
In Athazagoraphobia, the client is taught to focus on his breathing patterns, inhalation to exhalation. During meditation his stress levels are low, focus is improved and the client is taught to be non-judgmental. He should be calm enough to direct his attention to his thoughts in an environment that is conducive for calming.
Feeling of being ignored should be made to fall in the background and the client should be in sync with his entire self, including the mind and the body.
Following are a few reasons to meditate:
- 1: Understand your pain
- 2: Lower your stress
- 3: Connect better
- 4: Improve focus
- 5: Reduce brain chatter
How to Meditate?
There are simple steps as to how a person can meditate:
- Initiate the meditation in a calm place.
- Setting up a time frame to meditate, for example, 10 minutes or so.
- Be aware of your body (one should be seated where a posture could be formed comfortably)
- Focus on inhalation and exhalation, keeping that focus intact from time to time.
- Once the meditation is over, steadily open your eyes (if closed) or initiate your attention towards your surroundings.
- It can take place in a group as well as alone.
- Group Therapy
Coming together and then coming to terms with one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions is what group therapy does. It is one of the most effective ways of treating anxiety related disorders. When the client collectively with a similar group probes his thoughts, chances are that those same threatening thoughts may seem mundane.
A sense of suffering together alleviates the mind off the clients’ own fear of being isolated. The group is an effective way of showing the mind that even strangers come together and the fear of being left alone does not seem that threatening.
Regular exercise is the key to perfect health. Exercise is pivotal for physical health as well as to peace of mind. Take up regular running, jogging, aerobics, skipping and the like.
FAQs about Athazagoraphobia
- What is Athazagoraphobia?
Athazagoraphobia is a rare condition in which the person is afraid of being left alone, abandoned or being forgotten. This is an irrational fear.
- What are the symptoms of Athazagoraphobia?
The symptoms of Athazagoraohbiasan resemble those of a heart attack, with palpitations, sweating, dry mouth and the like.
- What is the fear of losing someone you love called?
The fear of losing someone you love is called Thanatophobia and it is different from Athazagoraphobia, which is a fear of being forgotten and ignored.
- Is Athazagoraphobia different from Agoraphobia?
Yes, Athazagoraphobia is different from Agoraphobia. It is the fear of being forgotten or being ignored, whereas, Agoraphobia is the fear of public places.
- Is Athazagoraphobia treatable?
Yes, Athazagoraphobia is treatable with the help of different therapies.