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Pan­ic Attack In Shower Every­one 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?

panic attack in shower 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?

panic attack in shower 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.

In Summary

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.

The Solution to Panic Attacks – Dr. Berg

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