Panic Attack In ShowerEveryone is afraid of something. To a greater or lesser degree, it is the human condition to react fearfully to certain circumstances, things or events. The “fight or flight” response we all have is Nature’s way of alerting us to danger, and it’s a healthy reaction. But what happens when a threat isn’t real or your reaction to something is so exaggerated that it impedes your day-to-day life?When fear consumes us to an unreasonable extreme, that heightened state is called a phobia. The term phobia comes from the Greek word “Phobos,” meaning “fear of.” Most of us have a minor phobia we contend with, such as a fear of snakes (which is called ophidiophobia, and refers to a fear of all reptiles), or cynophobia, which is an extreme fear of dogs. Though we call all kinds of minor fears phobias, they usually aren’t, as a true phobia interferes with our ability to live normally.Consider the difference between being somewhat uncomfortable around big dogs and going out of your way to avoid seeing any dog, anywhere. Imagine how the latter fear would curtail your life – no walks in parks, for example, because the terror of encountering even a Chihuahua is crippling.Phobias on that scale profoundly limit a person’s life. While phobias may sound peculiar if you’ve never experienced the outright panic one can cause, phobias are very real to millions of people.The number of folks dealing with crippling anxiety and panic attacks caused by phobias is staggering – more than six billion people reported having panic attacks frequently in America in 2016 alone. Furthermore, in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Maryland, approximately 19 million people report each year that they experience panic attacks related to a phobia that disrupts their daily lives – and the number is growing.If a fear isn’t too intense, it can be dealt with by avoiding its trigger. A fear of heights, for example, (acrophobia) is fairly easily dealt with by not climbing mountains or going on top of your roof. Other phobias, however, cannot be handled by avoiding circumstances that force you to face your fear.In this article, we examine a phobia called ablutophobia, which is the fear of washing, cleansing and bathing. It is a surprisingly common phobia, affecting millions of people every year.What are the signs and symptoms of ablutophobia? And if you suspect you’re developing it, how might you find help? Continue reading to discover ways of identifying whether this phobia is impacting your life and what strategies you can use to cope.
Symptoms Of Ablutophobia
Feeling panic and fear at the very idea of bathing or showering.
Avoiding even getting washed.
Feeling overwhelmed by a sense of panic as bath time approaches.
Making excuses for skipping bath time or showering to an unhealthy extent.
What Puts You At Risk Of Developing Ablutophobia?
Studies show that if one of your parents experienced this phobia, the chances increase that you may, too, particularly if you weren’t taught regular bathing habits as a child because of that parent’s fear.
A bad experience, particularly as a child, can put you at risk of developing this phobia. Those experiences could include, for example, being left in the bathtub too long or with the water level too high for a child’s comfort level.
Changes to your brain may occur as you age. People with dementia can develop irrational fears, and ablutophobia is one of them.
If You Are Developing Ablutophobia, What Should You Do?
The most important first step you should take is this: make an appointment with your physician. They can diagnose the phobia properly once they have a full history and a psychological profile of you and understand how the phobia is manifesting itself.
How Is Ablutophobia Treated?
Once your doctor confirms you’re dealing with ablutophobia, they will make certain recommendations to help you overcome it and develop good hygiene habits. These strategies include:
- Seeing a Therapist For Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This is one of the most effective ways doctors and therapists have of treating ablutophobia. This therapy will include slow, gradual exposure to cleansing in a controlled setting. Doing this helps alleviate your fears because it doesn’t force you to deal with an overwhelming setting – a complete shower, for example. CBT allows you (for example) to first become comfortable using a warm washcloth with soap, perhaps on your hands and face. Gradually, your exposure increases in length and to a more fulsome scenario, culminating in a bath or shower.
- Your Doctor May Advise You That Certain Medications Are Called For
If your ablutophobia is severe, having been left untreated for a substantial amount of time, medication may be necessary to help you cope, at least in the short term. Beta-blockers, often prescribed to deal with high blood pressure and a too-fast heart rate, may be prescribed. So too many certain anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives. Your doctor will know which ones are suited to you based on your health and medical history.
- Behaviour Modification Exercises
A therapist or psychologist may recommend certain lifestyle and behaviour changes, suggesting that you take up calming activities like yoga and meditation. These strategies can be very helpful because they encourage relaxation through stillness and deep breathing. They may also counsel you to take up visualization techniques, a practice that teaches how to focus on a problem and seeing solutions in your mind’s eye.
- Getting More Exercise Can Help
Your doctor or therapist can assess how much activity you’re getting and may suggest getting more. Exercising helps alleviate stress and anxiety.Ablutophobia can devastate an individual’s life if left untreated.
What Are The Risks Of Avoiding Treatment?
- You Risk Becoming Isolated Because Other People Avoid Uncleanliness
It’s natural for others to shy away from a person who doesn’t bathe regularly. Body odour is unpleasant, but it is an outcome of not bathing or showering regularly. Someone with ablutophobia is likely depressed, and social isolation can exacerbate that isolation and depression. Other people are less inclined to spend time with someone who isn’t hygienic, so the afflicted individual becomes more depressed. This becomes a vicious circle until the ablutophobia is treated.
- The Afflicted Person Is At Greater Risk Of Illnesses
Think of how many germs we collect on our hands every day. If we were to stop washing them regularly, the chance of getting sick (and passing germs to others) would increase dramatically.
- An Increased Risk Of Substance Abuse
If you know someone with ablutophobia who has not sought treatment, there is a risk they are self-medicating. Whether with alcohol or drugs, this behaviour can become dangerous to their health and well-being. Substance abuse adds to their problems and must be dealt with promptly by dealing with ablutophobia and the issues that lie at the core of the phobia.
How To Help If You Suspect a Loved One Is Dealing With Ablutophobia?
Although there is no question that the individual must seek out help, there are some things you can do to prompt them to seek assistance.
- Don’t Judge
The person with ablutophobia needs help, not criticism. Trying to force them into a shower or bath won’t work. Belittling them or minimizing their fear is not helpful. Encourage them to see their doctor immediately.
- Try To Be Understanding
While it can be difficult to be patient with someone afflicted with any phobia, telling them their fear is silly or illogical does no good whatsoever. This is particularly true if the person has had a terrifying experience with water that lies at the heart of their ablutophobia.
- Offer To Go To The Doctor With Them
Once they have an appointment with their doctor, suggest you’ll go with them. Convincing the patient that you are there for them demonstrates real care and concern. Offer to pick them up and drive them yourself, which will keep them from cancelling or backing out of the appointment at the last minute.
There are some less serious phobias that can be handled by avoiding the trigger, such as a fear of snakes, as we mentioned earlier. But ablutophobia has real-life consequences for the individual who is suffering from it, and it can’t be dealt with by avoiding bathing. Good hygiene is part and parcel of good health. The person must get help and get it as promptly as possible.Ablutophobia may be part of a larger anxiety disorder, or it may be the only fear the individual is coping with. Either way, it has a huge impact on not only the person dealing with it, but their family, friends and colleagues. The sooner the person begins getting help from a therapist and doctor, the sooner they will be on the road to recovery. They may always experience minor moments of panic or anxiety around bathing and showering, but once they have the proper coping strategies, they’ll be able to manage those moments and face their fear.
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