In this blog post, we will discuss the meaning of the fear of anything new, symptoms and treatment.
Fear of anything new: What is it?
The Fear of anything new or neophobia can be considered as an irrational and excessive fear of trying new things, situations or places.
Animals usually exhibit this neophobic behavior to avoid or retreat from unfamiliar situations or objects, resulting in preserving their integrity and staying alive.
This can become a bit challenging. We are creatures of habit, true, but sometimes we are also adventure seekers.
So let’s think about this for a moment.
Let’s say we have been working for the same company for years, we have been driving the same car and living at the same house.
Now, let’s imagine we got fired from our job. Someone with the fear of anything new will immediately have a breakdown and possibly a panic attack.
However, as human beings, we are programmed to look for solutions and solve problems, it is wired into our brain, the skill to adapt to any new situation, otherwise, we couldn’t have ensured survival.
So what would I do in this case? I would go and grab the newspaper and look for new job opportunities, in fact, I might even call some friends or relatives searching for options.
Phobias are considered one of the most common types of anxiety disorders in the world.
This is because we can basically develop a phobia towards anything and/or everything that exists, so this can make them very disabling.
Having a fear of anything new is very problematic. In order for us to avoid having a nervous breakdown at least once or twice a week, we may need to have control over everything around us so that the “new” factor wouldn’t affect us as much.
This is common in children and you might know it as “picky eaters”. They will only eat certain foods that are familiar to them and will refuse to try anything new.
This is the fear of new ideas and as mentioned before, new ways of thinking allow us to adapt easily to any situation leading us to succeed.
Anxiety: Response mechanisms
When we feel threatened or we perceive a situation is potentially dangerous, then our body reacts by releasing adrenaline and other chemicals into our bloodstream which will eventually increase your heart rate, make you sweat, sharpen our senses and heighten our physical abilities.
Then your brain decides if we should fight or run to protect our physical integrity
Is it a matter of survival?
As mentioned, we need this type of physiological response to ensure our survival when we come in contact with something potentially dangerous.
For example, let’s say you are walking down the street and someone comes up to you and takes a very sharp knife and threatened to kill you if you don’t give him your wallet.
In this case, your body reacts and makes the response by attacking the person in front of you or it can make go the other way and run as fast as possible.
Fear response and the Brain
When we have an intense physiological response to a situation or object that we qualify as harmful or dangerous, our brain starts activating certain regions.
One of them is the amygdala, which has been said to intervene in emotional responses such as fear and anxiety.
Current imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, used in research studies, have identified a heightened response from the amygdala when being exposed to things or situations that potentially generate anxiety symptoms.
The amygdala and other limbic structures are connected to our pre-frontal cortex regions which are said to be involved in planning, decision making and inhibiting socially unacceptable behaviors.
Fear of anything new: Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder?
The main characteristic of this type of anxiety disorder is the excessive and persistent fear of a situation, activity or object that is not harmful.
Some of the people that have specific phobias are aware that their phobia is excessive but are unable to control it.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by exaggerated or excessive worry about daily life activities or events with no apparent reason to worry.
People with GAD tend to expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about their medical condition, financial related problems, their family or their work.
The worry does not match reality and it is considered way out of proportion for any given situation.
Symptoms of GAD
According to the Mayo Clinic, Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms can Vary from one person to another, but there are some common physical symptoms that someone with GAD might experience:
- Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
- Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
- Difficulty handling uncertainty
- Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
- Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”
Physical signs and symptoms may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Trembling, feeling twitchy
- Nervousness or being easily startled
- Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
People with Panic Disorder often experience Panic Attacks that tend to appear suddenly and without an evident related cause.
People with this disorder are frequently thinking about future attacks due to the nature of the panic attacks being so intense causing a lot of anxiety.
A panic attack is described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four or more of the following symptoms occur”:
- Accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensation of choking
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or sensation of discomfort
- Feeling dizzy or about to faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Tingling sensation or numbness
- Feeling of unreality or being detached from oneself
- Fear of losing control or “going mad”
- Fear of dying
Treatment Anxiety Disorders
Usually, the DSM 5 anxiety disorders are treated through psychotherapy and/or medication.
The most used therapies are:
- Talk therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) using exposure therapy
The most commonly prescribed medications are antidepressants and they belong to the family of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitors or SNRIs. Some of them are:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor ER)
Comorbidities with other disorders
Some of the other disorders that can simultaneously exist with an anxiety disorder and increasing the risk of misdiagnosing are:
- Depressive disorders
- Substance use disorders
Why is this blog post about the fear of anything new important?
Even though the fear of anything new is not considered as a mental disorder it can be considered a phobia, and phobias very real.
They can impact our lives negatively by preventing us from doing things, seeing places or meeting new people.
If you have identified some of the symptoms of anxiety or relate to the fear of anything new, we advise contacting a mental health professional so he/she can evaluate your case and determine if you need help providing treatment for your anxiety.
Feel free to comment in the comment section down below!
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)
- Anxiety and Related Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-5® (ADIS-5) – Adult and Lifetime Version: Clinician Manual (Treatments That Work)
- CBT Toolbox for Children and Adolescents: Over 200 Worksheets & Exercises for Trauma, ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression & Conduct Disorders
- Anxiety and Related Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-5 (ADIS-5)® – Adult Version: Client Interview Schedule 5-Copy Set (Treatments That Work)
- The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner: Includes DSM-5 Updates