If a person experiences extreme anxiety around artificial intelligence or significantly alters their lifestyle to avoid AI technologies, they likely have a clinical phobia of AI.
This phobia won’t just go away on its own as AI technologies will likely become more common in everyday life. So if you or someone in your life suffers from an intense fear of AI, keep reading to learn more about the fear of artificial intelligence or AI and treatment for this phobia.
What Is the Fear of Artificial Intelligence or AI?
Most psychologists would classify a fear of AI as a manifestation of technophobia. Technophobia is a fear of computers, AI, robots, and similar technologies. Individuals who struggle with technophobia experience intense anxiety, an elevated heart rate, sweating, nausea, and other uncomfortable symptoms when they encounter different forms of AI. In most cases, professional help is necessary for a technophobe to overcome their fear.
Technophobia affects each patient uniquely. While one patient may not mind talking about AI with friends and family members, they may still refuse to use computers or any technologies that could possibly contain AI-driven software. On the other hand, another patient may experience a severe panic attack at the mere mention of any AI-related technology.
Computers, automation, and AI are integral to the modern business landscape. Consequently, many technophobes have great difficulty finding and maintaining gainful employment. On top of that, the overwhelming majority of people own smartphones and other devices that incorporate various AI-driven apps, so a technophobe may be unable to go out in public or form social connections without encountering triggers.
What Causes AI Phobia?
Portrayals of AI Technologies in Popular Media
Many films, TV shows, comic books, and other popular media feature stories in which robots or computers subjugate or exterminate the human race. Such subject matter can easily traumatize a person. Children often have difficulty distinguishing works of fiction from real life, so they are especially susceptible to developing AI phobia after seeing horrifying depictions of technology in popular media.
Negative Experiences With AI
AI technologies are still in their infancy. Because of this, many AI image and prompt generators produce stories, videos, pictures, and sounds that many people consider offensive, disturbing, or horrific. Such content can easily traumatize an emotionally sensitive person and cause them to develop a disruptive maladaptive aversion to all AI technologies.
Other Mental Disorders
Co-occurring disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder alter the ways in which the brain processes information and produces mood-altering hormones. As a result, people who suffer from these mental conditions are more likely to develop phobias. Phobias and co-occurring disorders sometimes exacerbate each other in a vicious cycle that can massively impact a patient’s quality of life.
Anxieties About the Negative Social Impacts of AI
Ordinary people across the world are wary of AI technologies for a variety of reasons. Workers in certain industries genuinely believe that AI will eventually replace them. AI technologies also come with a wide range of ethical concerns, and many people understandably fear the possibility of self-driving cars and other technologies malfunctioning and injuring someone.
How Do Medical Professionals Diagnose AI Phobia?
For medical professionals to diagnose a fear as a phobia, the effects of the patient’s fear must noticeably impact their ability to function in everyday life, and the patient must experience anxiety symptoms when they encounter triggers.
Before diagnosing a phobia, psychologists must also rule out other mental disorders that could contribute to the patient’s feelings. For example, schizophrenia causes many patients to experience delusions and hallucinations, and some unmedicated schizophrenic patients intensely fear things that would not usually bother them.
Treating AI Phobia
Thankfully, a person doesn’t have to suffer from extreme AI phobia for the rest of their life. While the patient may always have a fear of technology, a combination of psychotherapy and prescription drugs can give them coping mechanisms to help them function in society and enjoy a higher quality of life. The sections below go into greater detail about the most common phobia treatments.
Prescription medications can’t cure a phobia. However, they can help a patient manage their worst symptoms. Psychiatrists often prescribe beta blockers and benzodiazepines to patients with severe phobias. These drugs allow patients to avoid panic attacks and intense symptoms of anxiety when they encounter triggers. Taking psychiatric medications indefinitely is not a good option for most patients. Ideally, a patient will no longer need medications after they develop effective coping mechanisms in therapy. Thus, psychiatrists usually encourage patients to undergo psychotherapy while they take medications to temporarily manage their symptoms.
Psychotherapy mainly involves one-on-one talk sessions between the patient and their therapist. In a typical session, the patient talks about their struggles and experiences with their phobia and co-occurring disorders. Over multiple sessions, the therapist employs various approaches to help the patient understand the causes of their phobia and develop the necessary coping skills to minimize their symptoms. Many therapists successfully employ exposure therapy to help their patients build a tolerance to their phobias.
In the first exposure therapy session, the therapist may show the patient a printed copy of AI-generated writing. If the patient shows progress, then the therapist will incrementally increase the intensity of each exposure therapy session. For example, in a later session, the patient may try to watch a documentary about AI or type a prompt into a popular AI image generator. A therapist will never expose a patient to the subject of their phobia without the patient’s consent.
How Can I Help a Loved One With AI Phobia?
Living with a person who struggles with AI phobia can be challenging, but you must try to maintain a healthy and welcoming environment for your loved one. Ridiculing them or punishing them for their phobia-induced behaviors will only make their symptoms worse, and they’ll be less likely to seek help in the future. Clearing your home of potential triggers and taking time to understand your loved one’s phobia will make them feel safe and welcome around you. Phobia patients can greatly benefit from professional treatment, so you should encourage your loved one to see a doctor.
You Don’t Have to Suffer
A phobia can be extremely debilitating, but a person doesn’t have to let their phobia control them forever. Modern psychiatric treatments are extremely effective, and many phobia patients make noticeable progress in just a few sessions. You want yourself or your loved one to be happy, so you should reach out to a licensed psychologist today to find out how you can overcome your AI phobia.
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