What to Remember When Confronting the Fear of Being Forgotten: Athazagoraphobia
Mortality is at the center of human experience, and so it’s only natural that the fear of being forgotten after death and the desire to be remembered looms large as well. But too much of anything can be problematic.
Do you find yourself pondering if you will be remembered, to the point of worry?
Do you sweat, shake, or have an increase in heart rate? Do you experience a tightening of the chest and possibly some nausea?
This may be the beginnings of the excessive fear of being forgotten, or the technically named athazagoraphobia. Please read on and we will try our best to help. Hopefully, you will get past this fear or at least learn how to manage it.
Memory is the one link we have to tie us to the past, be it yesterday or thousands of years ago. Being forgotten can feel like that thread has been cut, and you yourself have been cut off from those you love most.
There are many ways mankind can be remembered: art, community, science, religion, and even infamy.
The fact is the majority of us will not be remembered except by loved ones and friends.
But what is the fear of being forgotten, and what should you remember about how to conquer it? Should you spend your life worrying about what will happen when you are gone?
What Is Athazagoraphobia?
To be fair, it’s natural to want to be remembered. Death is permanent and can seem scary, and at least by being remembered, we can imagine we live on in some way.
However, when this fear is so overwhelming that it starts to interfere with your life, it can morph into a full-blown phobia, known as athazagoraphobia. However, the full definition of athazagoraphobia doesn’t link it exclusively to death, but rather simply fearing being forgotten under any circumstances. While death is obviously the most obvious and severe example, it can also cover being forgotten or ignored.
As with most phobias, for those suffering from athazagoraphobia, meaning is key. Those suffering from athazagoraphobia can often link its onset to a specific instance of having been forgotten. Maybe you were forgotten or abandoned briefly or permanently as a child, putting you in a state of isolation or danger, and it’s left you with a lingering fear of something like that happening to you ever since.
However, it can also cover a fear of forgetting yourself. For example, both patients with Alzheimer’s and family members can develop forms of this phobia, with both parties fearing they’ll forget or be forgotten by those they love most. While the DSM-5 does not currently list athazagoraphobia as a specific phobia, with it instead falling under the umbrella of the myriad social phobias it covers, studies have nevertheless demonstrated this link between Alzheimer’s and a fear of memory loss or being forgotten.
Symptoms of Athazagoraphobia
Because it is classified as a social phobia, you’ll find a lot of overlap between athazagoraphobia symptoms and those of other social phobias.
Among the most common symptoms for these phobias include:
- Aches and pains
- Chest pain
- Elevated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Intense nervousness
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Hot or cold flashes
- Panic attacks
- Intentionally avoiding social situations
- An inability to focus or concentrate
Given the nature of this phobia, isolation and mood swings are two symptoms to watch for when diagnosing athazagoraphobia. Those dealing with this condition often self-isolate rather than confront being forgotten. However, one of the big problems with diagnosing athazagoraphobia is that, death aside, it can be hard to determine when you or someone you care about might be “forgotten” or if someone is “forgetting” you. Everyone forgets things and people from time to time, but that isn’t the same as being “forgotten” forever or being “ignored” or “abandoned.” Talking through these feelings with a therapist can help determine how well-founded your fear is, which can then help you determine how best to resolve your phobia.
Self-Help Treatments for Athazagoraphobia
Before we get to how professionals may be able to help you, however, let’s first look at ways you can help yourself. One of the “good” things about athazagoraphobia as a phobia is the fact that there are many self-treatment options that can help put your fears at ease.
For example, you might consider yoga. The exercise combined with meditation and deep breathing exercises can help you calm your nerves, clear your mind, and give you a stronger sense of focus. Once you have done that, you can view your state of affairs more clearly, which in turn can give you a better idea as to how to confront your fears. Some also find aromatherapy helpful, or combine the two by using scented candles during their meditation and yoga exercises.
A balanced diet can also help. Caffeine can leave people jittery when consumed in high quantities, and greasy and fatty foods can also leave you unsettled, both of which can make social phobias even worse.
One of the most intriguing self-help prospects is that of keeping a journal of your thoughts. This can help in several ways, not the least of which being that it can help you get out your emotions, which can also give you ideas as to how to confront them. Helping you with that can be a support system.
Finally, you’ll want to do whatever you can to avoid triggers of your athazagoraphobia. This can include avoiding things that remind you of times when you were forgotten or abandoned, or avoiding looking at articles talking about memory loss.
Professional Options for Athazagoraphobia
In rare cases, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed. That said, any medication you take will have side effects, and so it’s best to avoid them if possible. Instead, sessions with therapists and support groups are often preferred.
If you do decide that you want or need professional help, having performed those self-help practices can make their task in helping you easier. For example, journaling your feelings can give your therapist more information with which to work with when helping you work through your emotions.
Support groups can be helpful because they give you the opportunity to speak to people who have had similar fears or experiences. Not only can this help it feel more like you’re speaking to someone who will “understand,” support groups can also provide a sense of community.
If you fear being forgotten or isolated from others, gaining new friends and helping them as they help you can be a powerful medication-free way to counteract athazagoraphobia.
The question of how to overcome athazagoraphobia is one you’ll have to confront yourself. For some, calming meditation, constructive acts such as journaling or creating art, and other activities can help calm their nerves. For others, externalizing their feelings by talking to others is a huge help. Having a support system is essential. Since your great fear is being forgotten, it’s good to have reminders that people do indeed remember and care about you.
Toward the end of his life, Orson Welles said “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.” To those who fear athazagoraphobia, such a quote can seem to confirm their greatest fears, until you hear the next part: “Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” For as horrible as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and conditions like them can be, you should not let your fear of being forgotten prevent you from living a life worth remembering.