Brushing off Ammophobia
Do you feel uncomfortable at the thought of going to the beach? Do you avoid going near deserts for fear of sand?
Do you break into a cold sweat when you think of walking on sand? Does thinking about sand send shivers down your spine?
You may have ammophobia—the fear of sand. A related fear, ammosophobia, is the fear of standing on sand. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.
Is Ammophobia a Phobia of Fear or Disgust?
Fear of sand may seem like a silly fear not usually found on lists of phobias, but it is as terrifying as any other phobia.
The good news is that you can learn to manage your symptoms with a combination of self-help and professional help. But before diving into the treatment options, let’s check out the common ammophobia causes and symptoms.
Ammophobia can have different causes depending on the individual and their experience with sand. But the most common cause of fear of sand is the fear of sinking in quicksand or the fear of getting cuts when walking barefoot on the sand.
Your fear may have developed based on personal experience or stories heard about others sinking in quicksand.
You may have watched a movie where a character sinks into quicksand or a television program explaining how dangerous quicksand is. Some with this fear may have been hurt when they walked barefoot on the sand and developed a fear of walking on sand.
Is ammophobia a phobia of Fear or Disgust?
Environmental or hereditary factors are two other causes of ammophobia. This implies that you either inherited it from a parent or witnessed sand-related suffering. This is more likely if your family worked in mining, foundries, and stone cutting.
Some Things You Should Know About Ammophobia
There are three types of ammophobia. People may fear quicksand, sand cuts, or possible health hazards transmitted from the sand. Out of the three, the fear of sinking in quicksand certainly sounds most terrifying. So let’s focus on that.
If you believe what you saw in movies about quicksand, you might have developed a fear which, in turn, became a phobia.
But a study published in Nature shows that it is impossible to sink entirely into quicksand. It turns out that you will only sink about waist deep. In other words, unless you fall face-first into quicksand, there is a very low chance of death. So, the next time you see a quicksand scene, remember that it’s not entirely accurate.
Fear of sand hazards can also lead to ammophobia. For example, you may have heard about the dangers of quartz dust present in the sand. These are minute particles that are small enough to enter the lungs and can cause serious health problems.
In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified inhaled quartz dust as a human carcinogen. So, if you’re afraid of sand, know that your dread is justified.
Common ammophobia symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing when thinking about sand
- Increased heart rate
- Obsessive, uncontrollable thoughts about sand
- Choking sensation
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Panic attacks when near sand
- Feeling like you have no control over yourself
- Constantly imagining interactions with sand
Depending on the severity of your phobia, you may notice some or all of these symptoms. However, your phobia has likely advanced if your symptoms progress rapidly or cause frequent anxiety and panic attacks.
How Is Ammophobia Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of any phobia is based on diagnostic guidelines and a clinical interview. Most mental health professionals consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which provides diagnostic criteria for specific phobias from the American Psychiatric Association.
The DSM-5 lists the following criteria to diagnose a phobia:
- Avoidance or extreme distress: Avoiding the object at all costs.
- Immediate anxiety response: The reaction should be immediate once exposed to the object.
- Excessive, unreasonable fear: Exhibition of extreme, irrational, persistent, and intense fear triggered by a specific object.
- Life limiting: Phobia dramatically limits one’s social and personal life.
- Six-month duration: Has experienced symptoms for more than six months.
- Not caused by another disorder: Not due to other similar conditions like OCD or separation anxiety.
The doctor will be able to make a diagnosis by examining the criteria listed above.
Like any other phobia, there is no specific treatment or cure for ammophobia. But if you find the fear disrupting your day-to-day life, perhaps it’s time to look at some ammophobia treatment options.
Relaxation is one option you might consider for treatment of ammophobia. Your heart rate naturally rises when you’re around something you fear. Frequently engaging in relaxation techniques can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress. As a result, you’ll be able to think more clearly and calmly.
Additionally, relaxation will improve your ability to focus and make wise judgments. Try first by learning breathing exercises and practice them daily.
Learning More About Your Phobia
Most of the time we fear something due to misunderstanding. In the case of ammophobia, you may have developed this by watching movies or reading from an unreliable source. Researching your phobia will give you a better understanding.
You may also be able to rid yourself of any thoughts that may have caused this fear. For example, the fear of getting sucked into quicksand is unfounded. You may benefit from understanding that you can never sink entirely into quicksand.
Often, when we face the object of our fear, we focus on the negative aspects. Sometimes we even exaggerate the situation. This will only increase your feelings of anxiety.
Instead, try to be optimistic. It’s important to realize that anxiety helps us prepare for danger, so you shouldn’t aim to eliminate it but learn how to manage it instead.
Getting more oxygen can help you with anxiety, fatigue, and panic attacks. Many breathing techniques are helpful, but alternate nostril, box breathing, and 4-7-8 breathing are the most effective.
The Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique teaches you to relax your muscles in two steps. First, you begin by tightening certain muscle groups in your body, like your neck and shoulders. You then release the tension and watch as your muscles relax. Practice this when you are around sandy areas to help lower stress and anxiety levels.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you eliminate negative thoughts and feelings that could negatively affect your life in the long term. During cognitive behavioral therapy, your therapist will help you identify and replace unreasonable thinking patterns with rational ones, also known as cognitive restructuring.
When conquering phobias, it’s best to face your fear gradually and continuously. The therapist may ask you to imagine and confront the feat at first. Over time, they will expose you to the dreaded object or situation in a safe and controlled manner.
The use of hypnosis in conjunction with other techniques can be beneficial for the treatment of phobias. During a hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist induces a calm, receptive condition that resembles a trance. They then offer suggestions that help you change your perceptions.
Learning to Cope with Ammophobia
You may not be able to entirely overcome your ammophobia, but you can manage the symptoms and lead a normal life. With early diagnosis and the proper treatment, you will be able to better cope with the phobia in time.
It takes a lot of effort to learn to control your phobia. So don’t forget to pat yourself on the back when you see some progress. You’ve earned it.