Atephobia (fear of ruins): symptoms, causes and treatment
Summary of the characteristics of this type of phobia of abandoned architectural structures.
In the field of anxiety disorders, we know that there are many rare phobias; surely, many of them are not even known to us. Perhaps this is the case of the phobia we will discuss in this article: atheophobia, which consists of a phobia of ruins..
Here we will see what it consists of, which are its predominant symptoms, its causes and possible treatments framed in the psychotherapy that we can use to fight it.
- Article related: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of the fear".
Atephobia: what is it?
Atephobia is a type of specific phobia, which consists of an intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of ruins.
When we speak of ruins, we are referring to remains of human architecture. That is, to structures that have collapsed over time, either partially or totally, as a result of depopulation, wars, natural disasters... Ruins do not necessarily cause fear, although they can acquire a mysterious or "ghostly" air, especially at night.
In scary, horror or thriller movies, for example, ruins are often used as an element to generate a certain tension in the viewer. in the viewer. If, in addition, the scenes where ruins appear are set at night, this generates more disquiet or fear.
Even so, ruins are not something that can harm anyone (unless they are really in a state in which certain structures could fall down), and for this reason, they are not something that "should be scary".
In atheophobia, however, there is this intense fear of them. It is important to remember, in this sense, that phobias are usually generated towards objects or situations that do not have to be scary (or if they are scary, do not generate symptoms as intense as in phobias). (or if they do, they do not generate symptoms as intense as in phobias).
That is precisely why they are phobias, because they are disproportionate fears of a specific object or situation; phobias also generate interference in the life of the individual, and cause discomfort, in addition to other symptoms that we will see throughout the article.
What are the most frequent symptoms associated with athophobia, beyond the discomfort and interference in daily life? Let's get to know them.
Intense fear or anxiety
The main symptom of atheophobia is an intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of ruins. These can be of different types: very old or not so old, big or small...
Fear appears in the presence of ruins, or in some cases it is enough to imagine them to feel it. This fear, in reality, is a feeling of anxiety and anguish a sensation of anxiety and anguish generated by the phobic object, and can be of different intensities.and can be of different intensities.
The second typical symptom of specific phobias is the avoidance of the phobic object or stimulus. avoidance of the phobic object or stimulus.. Thus, in the case of atheophobia, one avoids being in contact with ruins, or close to them. The person also avoids seeing them on television, in movies, newspapers....
It may be that the person, instead of avoiding them, "faces them", resisting seeing them or being near them, although, of course, with high anxiety.
3. Psychophysiological symptoms
In atheophobia there are also psychophysiological symptoms, as with most phobias, at the idea of seeing ruins or in their presence.
These symptoms translate into various physical reactions and sensations, such as: accelerated heart rate, sweating, tightness in the chest, migraines, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, chokingagitation, accelerated breathing, feeling of "losing control", fear of dying, etc.
Many times, these symptoms feed back on themselves, and also feed back on the catastrophic thoughts also associated with phobias, in this case, of the type: "I will hurt myself", "something will fall on me", "there will be someone hidden who will hurt me", etc.
Misinterpretation of symptoms
In addition, what often happens in atheophobia is that the person feels "something" that makes him/her uncomfortable at the idea of ruin (or a little fear) and that he/she ends up interpreting these physical (or cognitive) sensations in a very catastrophic way, in a way that this "erroneous" interpretation of the symptoms ends up generating the symptoms of the phobia itself..
In other words, this whole process ends up becoming a kind of feedback loop that is totally a kind of feedback loop that is totally maladaptive for the person, because the objective reality (phobic object) will not really harm him/her (in fact, this is what phobias are all about).because the objective reality (phobic object) will not really hurt him/her (in fact, this is what phobias are all about).
The most probable and frequent cause of atheophobia is a potentially traumatic event or situation experienced in ruins. For example: having been lost in them, having been frightened in them, having been hurt when something fell, having been very afraid in them for "X" reason, etc.
However, a traumatic event is not the only probable cause of atheophobia; it may also have developed as a result of hearing negative stories experienced in ruins (e.g. from television, friends, relatives, books...). In other words, phobias can also be acquired by vicarious or verbal conditioning..
Watching movies where very negative things happen in ruins (e.g. murders, accidents...) may also be related to the origin of atheophobia; if to this we add certain individual vulnerability (because we are very sensitive, for example, or because we have "inherited" a certain Biological predisposition to anxiety disorders in general or to specific phobias in particular), this may facilitate and explain its appearance.
In psychotherapy, the treatment of atheophobia, like that of most specific phobias, is usually of two types: exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
In exposure therapy the patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus or situation, gradually and through a hierarchy of items (from less to more anxiogenic). (from least to most anxiogenic, in order). This list of items is elaborated together with the patient.
In the specific case of atheophobia, one can opt for the following: start by seeing ruins through photographs, films, etc., and gradually expose the patient to the ruins live.
That is to say, to accompany him/her to visit some ruins (although later he/she can -and should- do it alone); the first few times, for example, he/she should approach "X" place, and little by little get closer until he/she can touch the ruins and remain in them without anxiety (this will be the objective).
In exposure therapy, the patient must "resist" the anxiety that appears before the phobic object, and learn to fight it (by means of exposure therapy).and learn to combat it (for example through a state of relaxation, more typical of Systematic Desensitization). The objective is that finally the psychophysiological symptoms are "disassociated" from the phobic stimulus, and, in the case of atheophobia, that they do not appear before the ruins.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another treatment that can be applied in cases of athophobia. In this therapy, priority is given to providing the patient with the necessary resources and strategies to cope with the phobia, priority will be given to providing the patient with the necessary resources and strategies to cope with the phobia..
More specifically, the patient will be trained in relaxation techniques, breathing, etc., that is, in different coping techniques that can be used to reduce anxiety when it appears.
In addition, CBT also works with the patient's dysfunctional thoughts associated with the phobic stimulus (e.g. "I will get hurt in a ruin", "I won't be able to escape from it..."), helping the patient to replace them with more realistic and adaptive ones (e.g. "I don't have to get hurt", "ruins are not dangerous", etc.).
- American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Belloch, A., Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of Psychopathology. Volume I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
- Caballo (2002). Manual for the cognitive-behavioral treatment of psychological disorders. Vol. 1 and 2. Siglo XXI (Chapters 1-8, 16-18).