Cryophobia is an extreme fear of cold, which may include cold objects, cold weather conditions, or both. It causes levels of fright and anxiety that far surpass those which non-phobic people experience when confronted by cold, and often leads its sufferers to build their lives around avoidance of cold. As with all phobias, there are many reasons — some concrete and others seemingly irrational — why an individual might develop cryophobia. Fortunately, for many people this rare condition can be treated with therapy, anti-anxiety medication, or a combination of the two.
Those suffering from cryophobia have a fear of cold which can be generalized or specific. In other words, some sufferers fear everything that is cold, while others fear only particular cold items or situations, such as ice cubes or winter weather. The principal characteristic that separates cryophobics from non-phobics is that cryophobics’ fears are extreme to the point of irrationality. Often, adult sufferers are aware of this irrationality, but feel powerless to change or control their condition.
The symptoms of cryophobia can vary from person to person. In general, however, sufferers who are confronted by cold or the possibility of being exposed to cold experience an intense feeling of anxiety. This anxiety may be characterized by shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness or even fainting, an urge to flee, and a generalized sense of panic. Some cryophobia sufferers may even structure their lives around avoidance of cold. For example, they may relocate to a warm climate, refuse to use a refrigerator, or insist upon wearing gloves at all times.
As with any phobia, there are a great many reasons that an individual might develop cryophobia. Sometimes these reasons are concrete. A sufferer may, for instance, know someone who lost fingers or toes to frostbite, or even froze to death. In other cases, the condition may arise spontaneously, with no identifiable trigger.
Luckily, many of those suffering from cryophobia can manage or even eliminate their condition with the help of psychiatric intervention. Common treatments for phobias include behavioral therapy sessions, anxiety-reducing medications, or a combination of the two. It should be noted that phobias can sometimes be a symptom of a more complex mental health issue, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who suspect they may be suffering from cryophobia should consult a physician, both to rule out the possibility of another mental health issue, and to learn to manage their fear of the cold.