Scotomaphobia: The Fear of Blindness
285 million people worldwide are visually impaired.
Now, this makes blindness a pretty serious concern. But the situation goes out of control when this concern turns into a phobia and becomes hard to contain.
All of us are afraid of getting blind if we come across a situation that threatens our sight. But sometimes, that fear reaches extreme levels, to the point where people are constantly terrified of blindness.
Terrifying, right? But hear me out, it is curable. You can very well vanquish your irrational fear by learning to manage your thoughts. Explore all about your fear and the ways to beat it below:
What Does Scotomaphobia Mean?
Do you know how people take cautious measures to avoid straining their eyes? Scotomaphobia is weaving one’s life around these cautious measures to protect eyesight. So, what does Scotomaphobia mean? Scotomaphobia is the intense fear of blindness. Scotomaphobia is derived from the Greek ‘scotoma’ meaning blindness and ‘phobos’ meaning fear. It is a specific phobia. Specific phobias are phobias of specific objects or situations, in this case, blindness. People suffering from Scotomaphobia experience extreme anxiety when they are exposed to a situation they feel will visually impair them. In severe cases, being in the situation is not necessary to trigger a reaction. Just the thought of getting blind can trigger anxiety and stress. This uncontrollable anxiety can even lead to a panic attack. To avoid these extreme levels of stress, they often avoid situations that can trigger anxiety. They evade their intrusive thoughts with pleasant feelings – not by coping with anxiety but by avoiding trigger situations, which can often affect their entire lifestyle. When you keep resorting to such avoidance behaviors repetitively it can lead to OCD, you develop a compulsive need to keep doing certain things. These behaviors also affect your social and professional life.
What Causes Scotomaphobia?
One may fear blindness because of the helplessness it can lead to or the deeply unpleasant feelings it can cause. Scotomaphobia causes are not apparent like that of other phobias – it is largely genetics and past trauma at play. The causes can be social learning, genetic predisposition to mental disorders, or negative experiences involving blindness.
A genetic predisposition to mental illness like anxiety disorders or specific phobias can lead to Scotomaphobia. Any alteration in the genes of one’s parents is transferred to the child and it increases the chances of developing the same or different disorder. However, a genetic predisposition doesn’t necessarily trigger a phobia unless combined with an extremely negative experience.
The trauma can be seeing a loved one getting blind and the difficulties they suffered. Otherwise, it can be stories of blind people leading a hard life that triggered the phobia. Even an injury that resulted in temporary blindness could trigger Scotomaphobia several years on.
What are the Symptoms of Scotomaphobia?
The fear of blindness may seem normal but its symptoms can impair a person’s life severely. If you identify your behavior with the ones listed below you may have Scotomaphobia.
● If you avoid going out because you are afraid of getting blind
● If you visit an eye specialist very frequently
● If slight pain in the eye leads to extreme anxiety
● If you take extreme measures to protect your eyes
● If you get anxious when in situations that can lead to blindness
● If you avoid thinking about blindness
● If you avoid situations that can lead to blindness
Anxiety is the most common symptom and at the center of phobia. This extreme anxiety can have very real physical effects. When the person comes across a phobic stimulus, he may have an adrenaline rush. This leads the body into fight or flight mode. Moreover, there are also physical and psychological symptoms that indicate Scotomaphobia. Every individual suffers from Scotomaphobia differently, and at different degrees of intensity. Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with Scotomaphobia:
● Increased heartbeat
● Muscle tension
● Hot or cold flashes
● Butterflies in the stomach
● Dry mouth
● Inability to manage anxiety
● Fear of an impending doom
● Full-blown panic attacks
● Unavoidable anxiety
● Anger or mood swings
● Feelings of guilt or shame
● Crying or screaming
How to Treat Scotomaphobia?
Fear of blindness can be life-limiting and people don’t usually treat it since avoiding the fear is easier. But the thought of blindness can strike you anytime and lead you right to the depths of anxiety. You cannot always predict your day either, there may be times that you come across a very real situation that can trigger extreme symptoms. Learning to cope and treating your phobia is hence imperative. You can take the help of the following self-help guide or you can take professional help to treat Scotomaphobia.
Self-Help Guide to Scomotaphobia
Mild symptoms of Scotomaphobia can be treated at home with anxiety-taming exercises. These techniques when mastered ease a great deal of pain when you come in sudden stressful situations.
Meditation decelerates your racing catastrophic thoughts, this makes managing anxiety easier. Here’s a few forms of meditation that have proven useful in the case of phobias:
● Mindfulness meditation
● Meditation during yoga, movement meditation
● Breathing awareness meditation
● Progressive relaxation
● Focused meditation
Be Physically Active
Strenuous exercises burn off negative, anxious energy. Being physically active reduces a great amount of stress and anxiety related to Scotomaphobia, and gives you greater control over your body’s stress levels.
Write It Out
Writing about what is making you anxious and venting all your thoughts on paper can make you feel in control. When you find a way to express your fear and anxiety in a journal or notepad, you can see it directly for what it is – and manage it more successfully.
Professional Help for Scotomaphobia
When the self-help guide shows no difference in your anxiety level, you can seek professional help. No single Scomotaphobia treatment guarantees recovery, but there are some treatment options widely used to treat it that have good rates of success. Professional guidance takes you to the root of the issue and eases the anxiety by helping you understand it. Here’s a few options to consider:
● Talking therapy
● Dialectical Behavior therapy
● Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
● Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
● Exposure Therapy
● Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The treatment option your psychologist chooses will depend on you, the severity of your condition, and the cause of your Scomotaphobia.
How to Cope with Scotomaphobia?
Understanding yourself and your fear closely and knowing how to deal with it is already halfway through treatment. The following tips may come in handy when you face a Scotomaphobia trigger:
Ground Yourself, Find Something Tangible.
When negative thoughts strike, hold on to an anchor object that physically brings you back to the present moment. Any nearby object that you can hold firmly will do. It could just be a paper ball – hold it and focus on how the ball feels against your fingers. It takes you away from your catastrophic thoughts of blindness, by providing an alternate stimulus to focus on.
Cuddle with Your Loved Ones
Positive physical intimacy releases oxytocin and lowers the stress hormone. It lowers the physical symptoms of Scotomaphobia, blood pressure, and heart rate. If you have someone nearby who you trust, take a moment to hug it out or hold their hand – this will help bring your stress levels down considerably.
Laugh It Out
You cannot laugh and be anxious at the same time. Laughing releases dopamine even when your laugh is fake. Watch a funny show that you like to loosen things up, or spend a moment scrolling through a funny meme account on social media – it’ll quickly provide some fun relief.
Your fear is your mind’s doing – only you can train your mind to beat it. Scotomaphobia may seem life-limiting but it does not have to be. With time, patience, and consistent efforts you can contain your anxiety and live without constantly worrying about getting blind. Hopefully, now you have explored all about your fear and know what your next step for beating it should be.