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What Is Algophobia?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Algophobia is an overwhelming and irrational fear of pain, the possible experience of pain, or any scenario in which pain might occur. It is a phobia that is considered cyclical in nature because the symptoms of the phobia may actually elevate or make more likely the thing feared. In other words, symptoms of this condition like tension, anxiety, panic, and worry, can cause physical pain such as headaches or muscle aches. Additionally, the symptoms of this phobia may also elevate the pain felt of any injury or other painful condition. There is reliable and helpful treatment for algophobia, and it is worth pursuing because few people can go through life without experiencing physical pain, at least occasionally.

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The way that algophobia is expressed may vary slightly among individuals. When faced with the actual experience of pain or the fear that pain might occur, a person with this phobia might suffer symptoms like excess perspiration, heavy breathing, trembling, a sense of doom, nausea and/or vomiting, and panic attacks. Avoiding these unpleasant symptoms would mean attempting to avoid all situations when pain might occur. Algophobes might be meticulous in their habits in any activity that has risk — no matter how slight — of physical injury, or they might avoid such activities altogether. They might experience panic at the thought of activities like going to the doctor to receive an immunization or going to the dentist, which could risk increased pain. Additionally, algophobes sometimes overuse pain medication in attempts to evade pain.

It’s not always clear how algophobia sufferers respond to scenarios like going to seek help for pain. Some may be willing to head to an emergency room for pain treatment. Others might delay medical treatment if they feel their pain would increase before it decreased. An algophobe may also find that looking at, or reading or hearing about others in pain activates the symptoms of his or her condition.

If a person believes he or she has algophobia, there are several viable options for treatment. Working with a psychotherapist, the algophobe can use different types of behavioral therapy like exposure therapy, which help gradually accustom a patient to indirect or direct experiences of the thing feared. This might be physically painful, so other behavioral therapy models like cognitive behavioral therapy may be preferred. Alternatives for treatment of this phobia could include using hypnosis or talk therapy to help patients reduce their anxiety response to experienced pain or feared pain. Methods to end this phobia take time and work to accomplish, but many people are successfully able to end their fear of pain and lead much fuller lives when they recover from this condition.

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