There are hundreds of thousands of phobias and Seismophobia is one of the most common ones if you live in a seismic hazard zone. It is defined as the extreme, often irrational fear of earthquakes. The word ‘Seismophobia’ originates from Greek ‘seismo’ meaning famine, earthquakes or wars and ‘Phobos’ the Greek God of fear.
To an extent we all fear earthquakes which are natural calamities over which one has no control. They also cause huge destruction of life and property. In case of people with extreme Seismophobia, the fear interferes with their daily lives. Many sufferers also have other phobias such as Agoraphobia (the fear of being unable to escape), Thanatophobia (the fear of death) or even the fear of being trapped or buried alive (Taphephobia).
Causes of Seismophobia
People living in earthquake prone zones are most likely to develop this extreme fear of earthquakes.
- Earthquakes are uncontainable natural calamities. They often cause large scale destruction of property and life.
- People living in earthquake prone zones experience shaking, rumbling and tremors from time to time. Most live in the fear that the next ‘tremor’ could be a huge one causing massive destruction of property, even life. They also have to deal with shaking walls, overhead structures falling down, or damage in the form of cracked walls or glass.
- In a majority of Seismophobic individuals, the fear stems from a terrible past experience with an earthquake, (where one might have experienced loss of life or financial losses). This could trigger lifelong Seismophobia.
- We also read or hear news reports about earthquakes where people remain trapped underneath the rubble for days, even weeks. Such reports can naturally cause anxious individuals to develop an extreme fear of earthquakes.
- In areas experiencing seismic activities frequently, geologists keep a watch for major events in order to minimize devastation through evacuation. Leaving one’s home is never a welcome change for most.
- These days, there are more and more reports of earthquakes occurring with greater frequency. People who fear the end of the world or the Apocalypse often correlate these events. They believe earthquakes are part of nature’s way of eliminating large populations.
- In many recent earthquakes such as the one in Japan, there were other major aftermaths (in the form of Tsunamis and damage to nuclear reactors). This in turn led to the fear of radiation or contamination of food. Movies such as Godzilla portray animal mutation that occurs due to radiation leaks in the ocean. Such TV shows and movies can also lead to Seismophobia.
Symptoms of fear of earthquakes phobia
Seismophobia is a representation of inner anxiety and based on the extent of one’s fear, there may be different symptoms. These include:
- Palpitations, rapid or shallow breathing (hyperventilation).
- The desire to flee or hide. The phobic might even cry or scream at the thought of an earthquake.
- Dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal distress, nausea, headaches etc.
- The phobic might go to great lengths to plan an escape route in case of an earthquake. One might even spend huge amounts of money for securing one’s home, cabinets, overhead hanging pots etc to prevent these from falling. Their behavior could be obsessive compulsive in some cases.
- Most patients constantly live with the fear of earthquakes. This naturally affects their day to day life and even compromises their relationships.
Educating self about earthquakes is one of the best ways of overcoming Seismophobia. One could determine ways to protect one’s home and family without going overboard. This includes keeping a fire extinguisher ready and chalking out an escape plan or keeping a first aid kit handy etc. If, however, the phobia is interfering with your daily life, do speak to a professional psychotherapist who can recommend ways and means to cope with this anxiety. Medication might be prescribed as a last resort in extreme cases. Self-help techniques such as deep breathing and daily meditation of 10 minutes can also help one cope with anxiety attacks.
Many modern therapies including Cognitive behavior therapy, Hypnotherapy and NLP or neuro-linguistic programming etc can help overcome Seismophobia by getting to its roots.