Athazagoraphobia is a rarely discussed phobia. It means the fear of forgetting or the fear of being forgotten or ignored. Thus, Athazagoraphobia is of two types or has dual components: it might be seen in dementia patients in their early stages (or patients suffering from other medical conditions where memory loss occurs) where they fear forgetting their own identity and other things. Alternatively, it may be seen in spouses or caregivers of Alzheimer’s/dementia patients where the individuals believe their loved ones will forget them eventually, (or that they would be forgotten after the loved one has passed). It may even be triggered in the childhood where one has been left alone or been ignored for long periods of time.
It is a surprising fact that this phobia, while rarely reported, is actually quite a common phobia.
Causes of Athazagoraphobia
As stated before, the fear of being forgotten can arise in childhood if the individual has been left alone or has been ignored for a long time. Many sufferers of this phobia report feeling “inconsequential or unsubstantial” due to the feelings they undergo when left alone.
Medical reasons, particularly dementia and Alzheimers’ etc can also trigger the fear of forgetting things. Often, family members of people with conditions like amnesia or memory loss fear being forgotten by the patient.
Thus, the disorder has two distinct components: fear of being forgotten and the fear of forgetting. In general, doctors believe that a combination of medical/genetic issues and negative traumatic past incidents are the likely causes of Athazagoraphobia.
Symptoms of fear of being forgotten phobia
People with the fear of being forgotten phobia tend to have low self esteem and self confidence. Often, such people are inherently introverted, depressed or tend to lack the ability to interact normally in society. They are, by nature, shy and passive. At the same time, it is difficult for the person as s/he undergoes deep turmoil thinking repeatedly of “simply fading into oblivion”.
Then there are patients who have weak memory which worsens with age. They are also afraid of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases because their own parent/s has suffered from such conditions. Such patients tend to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on medications that claim to improve memory.
Like in any other phobia, Athazagoraphobia can also set in panic attacks in the individual. S/he will likely display the following symptoms when thoughts of being forgotten arise in their minds:
- Breathlessness or shallow rapid breathing
- Feeling like being choked, dying
- Sweating profusely
- Inability to form coherent sentences
The symptoms vary from case to case depending on the type of Athazagoraphobia as well as its intensity. Some patients are severely depressed or angry all the time due to this phobia. Often they tend to be isolated rather than face being ignored. They also try to do everything possible to ensure they are not forgotten-burying mementos in the soil, tying knots around fingers or around trees and so on.
Overcoming the fear of being forgotten
Many Athazagoraphobic individuals take medications, believing these can cure them of this condition. However, medicines and drugs are unreliable in that; they are not completely devoid of side effects and need to be taken for longer periods to see continued results.
Some medical practitioners believe in prescribing natural/homeopathic remedies to boost the patient’s memory. Gingko Biloba, Ginseng, omega-3 fatty acid supplements etc are some proven medicines that can arrest memory loss and improve general cognitive brain function.
Patients must also focus on eating a diet rich in walnuts, salmon, fruits and vegetables as well as exercising regularly to keep depression at bay and delay age related memory loss. Caregivers and family of the sufferer should also support and encourage the patient to talk about his/her fear.
Other therapies like Hypnotherapy, neuro-lingusitic programming and psychotherapy are proven to be highly effective in treating Athazagoraphobia as well. These therapies get to the root cause of the phobia and also help re-program the brain to overcome it once and for all.