Does the thought of being bound or tied up in some way make you nervous and upset? If so, you may suffer from merinthophobia. Merinthophobia is a type of anxiety disorder that makes you panic when you think about getting tied up or are faced with a situation in which you have to wear a restraint of some kind. Your heart rate elevates, you begin to sweat, and your body may shiver in response. It’s uncomfortable and irrational, and you might even verbalize your fears even when you’re not at risk of being tied up.
The condition usually starts during childhood and gets reinforced with age and experience. A genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders also plays a role in the development of the disorder. Merinthophobia can be a low-level condition in that it’s rare to experience an episode of panic, or it can rule someone’s daily life. No direct treatment for merinthophobia, but therapy for anxiety disorders is known to help a sufferer find relief from their symptoms.
What is Merinthophobia?
Merinthophobia is an anxiety disorder that centers around the fear of being tied up with rope or any other material that can be used to restrain someone. It’s an anxiety disorder that forms from a traumatic experience in childhood or has a genetic component. People who have merinthophobia experience the condition to varying degrees that range from mild to extreme. In extreme cases, the mere thought of being tied up can trigger a panic attack and make the individual feel as if they are being tied up even though nothing is happening to them.
A merinthophobic exhibits physical signs of an episode regardless of the situation. They’ll avoid situations or objects that trigger their panic and are prone to making irrational statements that reflect their current state of mind. No specific treatment is available for merinthophobia, but because it’s an anxiety disorder, a sufferer can find relief from their symptoms provided they’re willing to engage in therapy and follow treatment recommendations.
What Causes Merinthophobia?
The word merinthophobia is made up of two Greek words: merintho and phobia. Merintho means string, and phobia means fear, resulting in a literal translation of fear of string. Someone who suffers from the condition fears anything that can tie them up or restrain them in some way. An individual can develop the phobia for no rational reason, or it develops as the result of abuse during childhood.
The phobia gets its start during an individual’s early development period, typically childhood, and through traumatic events. The most common traumatic event is being tied up by a parent or guardian who has decided to punish their charge in this fashion. The child is unable to get free from their restraints, and may be left in place for an extended period of time. Children who are playing games may also tie up one of their playmates, but this is less likely to instill the beginnings of merinthophobia.
Children trust their parents to take care of them and not betray them through excessive punishments. Unfortunately, some parents decide that corporal punishment is a valid method of child rearing and feel there’s nothing wrong with tying a child to a chair or other object to keep them from moving for a period of time. The child is made uncomfortable both physically and mentally and also feels that their parent betrayed them by resorting to unfair punishment. The trauma is deepened further if the parent ties the child up to the point where the bindings are painful and allow little in the way of movement.
As the child ages, they eventually outgrow their parent’s ability to tie them up. However, the experience becomes deeply rooted in their psyche, and the sight of a rope or binding can trigger an episode wherein they either flashback or visualize being tied up. The sensations become real to the sufferer, and their nervous system goes into a fight or flight reaction.
Someone who has a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders can develop merinthophobia even though they were never tied up as a child. Their limbic and central nervous symptoms pick an object at random and develop a fear reaction around it. Essentially, their mind convinces itself that it needs to fear rope and other objects used for restraint and avoid them at all costs.
Symptoms of Merinthophobia
In general, the amount of abuse suffered correlates to the depth and extremity of an episode. However, someone who was restrained once or twice can have extreme reactions, while someone who was restrained with regularity can have little in the way of triggers and episodes. A sufferer will go out of their way to avoid restraints to the point of not wearing a seatbelt when they drive and panic when they’re handcuffed or placed into a safety restraint. They may also seek to avoid looking at or handling anything that can be used for restraint.
Merinthophobia, like any other disorder, exists on a spectrum. A sufferer of the disorder may allow people they trust to tie them up as a way of resolving their fear, or they will never allow anyone to restrain them under any circumstances. This fear is considered irrational because it’s a response to a manufactured situation as opposed to a real threat.
The physical presentation of an episode of merinthophobia includes symptoms such as:
- Intense fear at the sight of rope or types of restraint.
- Severe or intense anxiety when thinking of a restraint scenario.
- Unable to handle the feelings.
- Sweating and/or shaking.
- Mentally and physically tense.
- Verbalizing the scenario or their thoughts.
- Racing pulse and rapid heartbeat.
Treatment for Merinthophobia
No specific treatment for merinthophobia currently exists, but it is acknowledged by mental health professionals as being a true mental disorder. The fact the disorder is based in anxiety means it can be treated with therapies that are known to aid in the resolution of fight-or-flight thought patterns. Some of the treatments include cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy, hypnotherapy, and medication. The type of therapy that’s proposed for treatment depends on the individual’s presentation and needs.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy where the sufferer has the opportunity to talk about their thought patterns and understand why they engage in them. The goal of CBT is to gently bring the sufferer face-to-face with their triggers and overcome their instinctive reactions. That includes getting to the core cause of the phobia and addressing the feelings surrounding it, taking a closer look at the fears, and recognizing the negative thoughts surrounding the phobia.
The ultimate goal of CBT is to develop tools and skills to handle triggers and attacks through self-calming techniques and coping statements. The sufferer can quell the urge to react and return to a peaceful state of mind with a little effort.
This is one of the most common ways to treat merinthophobia and related disorders. The purpose of exposure therapy is to get the sufferer to face their fear of the item that triggers their reaction. This type of therapy needs to be done with care and tact in order to not re-traumatize the sufferer and make it more difficult for them to deal with the physical trigger. When done correctly, the sufferer eventually comes to understand that the object is not a threat, and they don’t have to live in fear of coming into contact with a rope or similar restraint. They learn that they can live their life free from fear and interact with the item without becoming triggered.
Clinical hypnotherapy is hypnosis performed by a trained mental health professional. It involves putting the patient into a state of relaxation and suggestion, otherwise known as letting your guard down. The mind is far less likely to become triggered when it’s in this state, and it makes it easier for the therapist and client to work on techniques that help with repatterning the thought process. It can also be used to introduce relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and bringing up calming thoughts when tension rises.
Medication isn’t typically used for phobias, but it can help with the underlying anxiety that results from the phobia. An anti-anxiety medication can eliminate the feelings of fight or flight and panic, enabling the sufferer to more easily deal with the mental and physical response. Medication is used in conjunction with therapy in order to take advantage of the effects of the medication and further reinforce new ways of thinking and thought patterns.
Self-awareness of the condition can help a sufferer prevent the worst of the attack and make it easier to handle the physical and mental sensations. This can be done in conjunction with therapy or practiced as a way of minimizing the reaction if therapy hasn’t been sought. Developing mindfulness and tracking a reaction takes time, but it can help the sufferer assert their rationality over their triggers and shorten the amount of time they spend in a panic attack.
Merinthophobia typically has its roots in childhood experiences, including abuse. It’s also caused by a genetic predisposition to fear an object. The cause is not fully understood, but it’s accepted as valid by mental health experts, and sufferers are experiencing a fear reaction that’s real to them. Those who suffer from merinthophobia can have different presentations from one another and experience panic at varying levels. Different types of therapies have been shown to help improve the mental health of a sufferer and eventually lead them to live a life that’s mostly free from triggers and physical responses.