In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Coimetrophobia.
A fear of cemeteries is called Coimetrophobia. Cemeteries are large burial grounds, where people are buried when they die.
People normally avoid them because of the fact that one can feel the presence of death round them, in the form of being surrounded by the resting places of dead people. One might be fearful of visiting a cemetery where their loved one is buried because it brings back sad memories.
Coimetrophobia is a specific phobia which is a part of anxiety disorder in the DSM-V. This is why sufferers experience extreme anxiety when exposed to cemeteries or by just thinking of them, unlike other people. This extreme anxiety persuades them to make painstaking efforts in order to avoid cemeteries.
Avoidance causes hindrances in the sufferers daily routine (their social and occupational functioning is affected). For example, one will avoid going to a cemetery, either for a funeral or visiting the grave of a loved one. A sufferer will choose to live away from a cemetery.
He will also avoid crossing a cemetery in a car because it will isnatiget terror.
This dysfunction, though makes one feel good initially, in the long run they can develop Obsessive-compulsive Disorder and or depression.
If an individual is unable to avoid cemetery, he experiences extreme anxiety when exposed to them. Thus, he suffers from full-blown panic attacks as a result.
Coimetrophobia is an irrational fear of cemeteries. Sufferers don’t like the overall idea of death, dead bodies and or cemeteries. This makes them extremely terrified. The name originates from a Greek word ‘coimetro’ meaning place of burial and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms of Coimetrophobia
All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, have anxiety as their pivotal symptom. Therefore, someone suffering from Coimetrophobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli, cemeteries.
Specific phobias are irrational fears. However, this fear of cemeteries is now wholly irrational. This is because to some, who believe ghosts to be real will see this fear as rational. Even to the ones who fear seeing death so closely, in the shape of cemeteries will be afraid of it. However, sufferers are unable to justify the way they feel.
Though, people who suffer from Coimetrophobia experience anxiety in excess, which makes their fear out of touch with reality. Their fear affects their physical and mental health alike, thus it is labelled as irrational.
Avoidance as mentioned earlier is repetitive. These recurrent actions maintain one’s fear by producing feelings of security, which makes one believe that cemeteries are to be feared of. This intensifies their phobia.
According to the DSM-V, to be diagnosed with Coimetrophobia, one needs to experience anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and at least 3-5 symptoms (from the list mentioned below).
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to cemeteries
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about cemeteries
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding cemeteries
- Increased heart beat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness/fainting
- Feeling depressed
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
Causes of Coimetrophobia
It is argued that all anxiety disorders, including specific phobias have no real cause. They are caused by either a genetic predisposition and or environmental factors.
According to the genetic/biological model, specific phobias are developed due to a genetic predisposition. Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorder has a higher chance of developing Taurophobia. This is because any alteration in the genes of his parents will be transferred to him.
This genetic tendency to develop a specific phobia is further explained by the Diathesis-stress relationship. This suggests that someone with a genetic predisposition will develop Taurophobia only in the presence of the correct environmental trigger event.
Those environmental trigger events refer to the past-traumatic experiences associated with one’s fear stimuli. For example, as a child someone might’ve seen a burial ceremony of their loved ones, thus they became fearful of coming to the cemeteries.
People who suffer from other phobias such as Taphephobia (fear of cemeteries or being buried alive), Phasmophobia (fear of ghosts) and or fear of death are very likely to develop Coimetrophobia.
Therefore, Coimetrophobia is caused by both genetics and environmental factors.
Treatment of Coimetrophobia
Coimetrophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Coimetrophobia is treated by a number of different methods: Psychological treatment and Biological treatment.
- Psychological Treatment
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Coimetrophobia is defined as the irrational fear of cemeteries. 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 their fear stimuli. 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:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. 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.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Coimetrophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia). In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time. To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of cemeteries for example.
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 in which he is visiting a cemetery. During this 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 is then exposed to a real cemetery.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli 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 fear/anxiety causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s 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 cemeteries, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• 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, 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 of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• 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 Coimetrophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of cemeteries. They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Coimetrophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of animal specific phobia. 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).
i.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 constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii.Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those 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 then. For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the wind around them, making use of their auditory sense.
iii.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.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Coimetrophobia, 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 the person is in a particular yoga posture. 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 from 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 their fear stimuli.
- Biological Treatment
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Coimetrophobia. 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:
i. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Paxil reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
Medicines like Klonopin are anti-anxiety drugs. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
Whether the cause of Coimetrophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, 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).
Titles to read
- Mastering Fear: Harnessing Emotion to Achieve Excellence in Work, Health and Relationships
by Robert Maurer and Michelle Gifford
- Stress Management and Anxiety Relief: Tips and Tricks for Mindfulness and Resilience to Fear in Hard Times
by N. Robert
- Dancing with Fear: Controlling Stress and Creating a Life Beyond Panic and Anxiety
by Paul Foxman, Ph.D.
- 101 Ways to Stop Anxiety: Practical Exercises to Find Peace and Free Yourself from Fears, Phobias, Panic Attacks, and Freak-Outs
by Tanya J. Peterson
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What is Coimetrophobia?
It is an irrational fear of cemetery. It is a type of specific phobia in which one experiences extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli.
Q2) What causes Coimetrophobia?
It is caused by either a genetic predisposition or an environmental trigger event.
Q3) How is Coimetrophobia treated?
Like all other specific phobias, Coimetrophobia is treated using CBT and medicinal drugs.
Q4) Do I have Coimetrophobia?
If someone has symptoms that match the criteria of specific phobias in the DSM-V, one can be diagnosed with Coimetrophobia. These include, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, increased heart rate, hyperventilation etc.