The Excessive Fear of Heart Problems
Being scared of heart disease is not unusual. Indeed, people have reasons to fear heart diseases, as they can be deadly. But having an excessive fear of heart problems, to the point of distress, is peculiar. The condition has a name: Cardiophobia.
What Causes Cardiophobia?
Under ordinary circumstances, fear elicits a natural fight-or-flight response that permits people to respond fast to environmental threats. Excessive and irrational fear however is usually a maladaptive response. In people, persistent and unwarranted fear of a certain object can generate overwhelming distress and disrupt their daily life.
Like other phobias, the exact causes of Cardiophobia are unknown. However, it is believed to have originated from many factors or causes. Possible causes include:
Particular Incidents or Trauma
People who have seen a relative suffer from cardiovascular disease have an increased chance of developing cardiophobia. The phobic person might have had a heart attack and survived, but it is possible that the episode left a trauma.
Like other specific phobias, cardiophobia is an outcome of genetics or a traumatic experience. Someone with a family history of specific phobias or anxiety disorders has a higher likelihood of developing the condition than somebody who doesn’t; this is due to a genetic predisposition.
The genetic tendency to exhibit a specific phobia or mental disorder is also called a diathesis-stress relationship. Accordingly, somebody with a genetic predisposition won’t develop any symptoms of cardiophobia unless and until a trigger event instigates fear or anxiety associated with the heart.
A trigger event can be, for instance, somebody who suffers already from hypertension or other associated heart issues will be very conscious of their health and activities that might result in severe issues. They’ll experience severe trauma at the slightest chest pain or increased blood pressure.
Also, someone with a family history of heart illnesses has a likelihood of developing the same in the future. Someone who has lost a loved one could develop cardiophobia as well.
When it comes to environmental factors, a person might develop cardiophobia after a frightening event, especially if the person feels out of control. For instance, even hearing about or witnessing a traumatic occurrence could lead to its development. That is, watching a loved one die from a heart condition might trigger the phobia.
The Manifestation of Cardiophobia
Someone suffering from this phobia experiences intense anxiety when their heart races or when they see a picture of a heart. Even the mere thought of experiencing chest pain could instigate unpleasant emotions.
These feelings arise because they fear death from heart disease. Despite undergoing repeated medical heart examinations and tests, they still presume they are suffering from a particular heart issue.
It is usual for someone to presume that they might be suffering from a heart condition if they develop known symptoms. However, excess anxiety and recurring thoughts of dying from a heart attack or intensifying worry if you exhibit chest pain in spite of being healthy are particular to cardiophobia.
Those suffering from the phobia try to evade every situation that might elicit a heart attack. It is possible that the repeated avoidance can become a compulsion. Such a person won’t just develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; they could also experience other health-related issues.
According to DSM-V, avoidance and anxiety influence one’s occupational and social functioning. For instance, one will evade running due to the fear that increased blood pressure could elicit a heart attack.
Consequently, they’ll presume every minute of pain in the left arm or chest to be an indication of an imminent heart attack. Sufferers will even go to the extreme of exercising excessively or eat virtually no food to remain healthy. This could lead to the development of eating disorders. One might even reside near a hospital to obtain instant medical help in case a cardiac emergency arises.
People with Cardiophobia complain of heart palpitations, chest pain, and experiencing a heart attack. They could also end up avoiding situations that lead to variations in their heart rate, such as sports or activities that cause excitement.
In extreme cases, a phobic person might even self-isolate for fear of stressful events that could trigger heart problems. The condition could also result in obsessive behavior like examining the heart rate or blood pressure at frequent intervals.
When Cardiophobia is triggered, the phobic could experience several physiological or psychological symptoms or both. Some of the symptoms include:
● Muscle tension
● Panic attacks
● Fear of losing control
● Fear of dying
● Fear of losing one’s mind
What are the Self-help Strategies to Overcome Cardiophobia?
Meditation can prove to be beneficial for people with Cardiophobia. In particular, meditation helps divert the mind toward positivity and calmness, enabling the person to avoid negative, distress-causing thoughts.
Furthermore, it can soothe the nerves, enabling a relaxed state overall. While you might experience a phobic response, meditating before you face the situation can decrease the severity of your symptoms.
Exercise is useful for those with anxiety disorders. Cardiovascular exercise can help alleviate your stress. You’ll discover that exercise works by conditioning the mind to cope with stressful circumstances.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This approach works to help those suffering from anxiety disorder and other conditions. You’ll find that it is equally effective at addressing cardiophobia. You will also discover that this is the reason behind your thinking when it comes to your fear. In turn, you can adopt a pragmatic approach when you think about your heart phobia.
In this treatment, a therapist exposes a patient to their object of fear. A therapist might begin by showing images of a heart to the patient. In the next stage, the therapist could show videos of the heart.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
The coping skills that patients with anxiety learn from DBT sessions can also help people with Cardiophobia. DBT approximately lasts for six months.
This approach aims to teach phobic people to refocus their attention on something else. With this technique, a Cardiophobic in the middle of a panic attack can redirect their attention to their breathing pattern and focus on that.
Many people still have difficulty in understanding Cardiophobia, but for people who are actually affected, the struggle is real. The condition has a far-reaching effect, yielding difficulties in numerous facets of life.
After all, it can be isolating, embarrassing, and can often lead to severe anxiety. Although the phobia can be very disruptive to a person’s life, appropriate treatment can help the person live a meaningful life without any anxiety and fear.
While some go into remission, most might still experience anxiety and fear, but in a sustainable manner. You simply need the right help to manage your phobia and live a life without your fear. If you decide to seek treatment, ensure you connect with an expert with specific expertise or experience in phobia treatment.