Syngenesophobia – The Excessive Fear of Relatives
Family is important. But what if you get an awful, sinking feeling at the thought of seeing your relatives?
Are you scared of attending family functions?
Does thinking about running into a cousin or aunt have you shaking like a leaf?
Your relationship may not always run smoothly. But if you have panic attacks because of your kin, it may be a sign of Syngenesophobia.
Syngenesophobia or the fear of relatives may seem absurd, but it’s not a joking matter for sufferers. It’s so serious that it is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Here’s everything you need to know about Syngenesophobia and how to deal with it.
What Is Syngenesophobia?
Syngenesophobia is the irrational fear of relatives. It is derived from these Greek words:
● “Sy” meaning “same”
● “Gen” meaning “heredity”
● “Phobos” meaning “fear”
Syngenesophobia is a specific social phobia. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is characterized as an anxiety disorder. Sufferers experience extreme anxiety upon seeing their relatives or one specific relative. Some families only see each other during weddings, funerals, and reunions. Not everyone likes family functions. But for Syngenesophobia sufferers, these are all scary situations. We all have a meddling grandma, boring uncle, or annoying cousin we avoid like the plague. But most of us are not afraid of our relatives. A lot of people depend on extended family in times of trouble. In contrast, people with Syngenesophobia are terrified of their kin. They avoid seeing their relatives as much as possible. The excessive worry that ensues may even lead to a full-blown panic attack. As a result, Syngenesophobic persons do not have close relationships with their relatives. They miss out on having a support group that can be with them through thick and thin.
In some cases, the phobia sufferer may develop Anthrophobia or a fear of people. They may even opt to skip all social gatherings or refuse to leave the house. This would have a negative impact on their social and professional life. Syngenesophobia is sometimes associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), delusional disorders, and social anxiety disorders.
What Causes Syngenesophobia?
Syngenesophobia has origins and symptoms that are similar to those of other phobias. Here are some Syngenesophobia causes:
A genetic predisposition to mental illness like anxiety disorders or specific phobias increases the chances of a person developing Syngenesophobia. But genetics is not the only reason for a person to develop the fear of family members. Aside from an inherited tendency, this phobia is triggered by an emotionally challenging event.
Trauma can lead to Syngenesophobia. This can be an event early in life that impaired the person’s emotional stability. For example, sexual or physical abuse by a relative can cause this extreme anxiety. The phobic person may have also seen a loved one being harmed by a relative. This trauma may even come from a TV show or movie. Certain relatives, like mothers-in-law, are often portrayed in a negative light in the media. This fear of a fictional character may contribute to a phobia in real life.
What Are the Symptoms of Syngenesophobia?
You may have Syngenesophobia if you associate yourself with any of the following behaviors.
● Choosing to stay by yourself instead of meeting with family members
● Experiencing high levels of anxiety when around people who are related to you
● Going into flight-or-fight mode when you are around a relative
● Having constant or severe anxiety for 6 or more months
● Panicking at the mere thought or suggestion of meeting relatives
The symptoms of Syngenesophobia vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition.
● Hand tremors
● Increased heart rate
● Hot or cold flashes
● Butterflies in the stomach
● Dry mouth
● Excessive sweating
● Panic attacks
● Persistent or severe anxiety
If a person has 3-5 of these above symptoms, they are diagnosed with Syngenesophobia. However, only a professional can make a definite diagnosis.
Self Help Guide to Treating Syngenesophobia
Like other specific phobias, Syngenesophobia has no definite treatment. You can use self-help techniques to reduce your anxiety. Some opt for professional help to get to the root of the issue and cure it. Syngenesophobia treatmentstarts the day you decide to acknowledge and confront your fear. Here are some stress-management techniques you can practice on your own.
Yoga not only brings a positive change in your physical body but also your mind and soul. It brings calm to your anxiety. Practicing and mastering yoga teaches your body to handle stress by breathing through it.
Mastering mindful meditation redirects your energy to something positive rather than overwhelming anxiety.
Huge amounts of coffee throughout the day can worsen your already anxious state. Cutting coffee and foods and drinks containing caffeine can reduce your everyday anxiety.
Cardio routines release happy hormones like endorphins that ease up stress and pleases you. Jogging and swimming are great options for you.
Professional Help for Syngenesophobia
Syngenesophobia may come from unresolved issues that can be pointed out by a professional. Professional guidance to treat an anxiety disorder makes the path to recovery easier. A therapist will help you understand your thoughts and the gaps in them. Some of the techniques used by psychiatrists to treat Syngenesophobia are:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Therapists will allow you to see the irrationality of your thoughts. They will guide you in identifying the reason for your fear. This therapy helps you feel less anxious about meeting your relatives.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
This psychological approach aims to help the patient understand their thoughts, behaviors, and emotional state. The therapist assists you in forming positive thoughts.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This treatment involves forming positive imagery for the fear-instigating objects. EMDR is often used to lessen the impact of traumatic memories.
The most common way to treat a specific phobia is exposure therapy. Gradually, you are exposed to the object of your fear. In this case, they may start with a picture of the relative. When you learn to control your anxiety, the next step can be imagining situations of encountering a relative. The final step involves meeting that relative face to face, with or without the presence of your therapist. As part of the process, you will be taught coping exercises for the increasing amount of anxiety.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga to manage stress and anxiety. Meditation distracts your thoughts from the stress and directs them to something soothing.
How to Cope with Syngenesophobia
When the fear of relatives phobia has you taking extreme steps and is ruining your relationships, treating it becomes imperative.
Here are some steps you can take to deal with Syngenesophobia:
● Acknowledge your fear.
● Talk to your family about your phobia.
● Don’t defend your fear or try to rationalize it.
● List the positive traits of your relatives.
● See the gap between your perception and reality.
● Don’t force yourself to meet your relatives before you are ready.
While avoiding relatives can seem fairly easy to do, you cannot always keep up with avoidance behaviors. Isolating yourself from your loved ones can lead to depression. Don’t give up. It’s possible to reclaim your relationships and alleviate the symptoms of Syngenesophobia.
The Last Word
Thankfully, the fear of relatives is manageable. All it takes is a little patience and effort, plus the right information. Soon, you will be able to attend family gatherings and form strong bonds with your kith and kin.