Oikophobia or Ecophobia is the fear of home surroundings. Oiko is Greek for house; the word Oikophobia is a combination of oiko and phobos which stands for fear or anxiety.
In a nutshell, a specific phobia such as Oikophobia or Ecophobia refers to an extreme fear of an object inside the house, or the fear of one’s surroundings that may cause injury or death along with the awareness that this fear is irrational, unnecessary or excessive. Young children may not have this awareness but an adult might. The fear of home surroundings may not seem like much to ordinary people; but to a phobic it can be very distressing. It could even interfere with day to day activities and could impair with daily living.
Oikophobia or Ecophobia can include the fear of anything within the house that causes injury such as gas heaters, stove etc. In general, Ecophobia refers to the fears of things inside one’s home. Oikophobia is also synonymous with Domatophobia in which the sufferer has a crippling fear of houses or being inside a house.
Causes of Ecophobia
Fear is a very real emotion, a basic survival mechanism, which is why it is also known as fight or flight response. Many sensations we experience when we are frightened are designed to protect us from potential danger. Our hearts race and our muscles get more blood, so we can run faster and escape from danger. The key point here is that fears and phobias are natural emotions and a reaction to when the mind perceives danger.
Psychiatrists do not agree on a single cause of phobias. Behavioral therapists believe that many phobias arise from learned behaviors and that a person learns to be afraid of particular objects or situations when he connects the feelings of anxiety and fear with a particular event or object. So phobias can occur in several different ways:
Conditioning by association
A phobic learns to feel fear because he associates or relates it to a specific event. For example, you might have burnt your hand at the gas stove as a child, so your heart races and terror and panic floods through you each time you see one.
Conditioning by avoidance – rewarding yourself
A phobia also develops because through fearful behavior, you get to avoid facing your fear, which means you reward yourself.
Another school of thought behind the cause of phobias is unexpressed, unconscious desires. As children, we are often told to suppress thoughts of aggression or sexuality which remain hidden within. These create tremendous anxiety and tension which has to be released in one way or another. In some people, this anxiety and tension comes out as phobias.
Some psychologists propose simpler explanation for phobias. They believe that a phobia may be caused due to a deeply traumatic or extremely upsetting event. A child may have witnessed an accident or death or may have been in an earthquake which causes loss of life and property. This could lead to a permanent fear of being inside a house, leading to Oikophobia.
Symptoms of Oikophobia or Ecophobia
The symptoms of Ecophobia are varied and can be emotional and physical.
- Tightness in the chest, smothering sensation
- Racing heart, palpitations, increased heart beat or pounding chest
- Feeling like choking
- Cold sweat, sweaty palms
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting
- Feeling faint
- Trembling and shaking
- Tingling sensations
- Fear of embarrassing oneself
- Thoughts of death or dying
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of fainting
In some severe cases, the phobic could experience the symptoms above even by simply thinking about the situation of fear, in this case the home or being inside of it. The thought of being inside any home can be debilitating to the sufferer. Needless to say, the fear can take a toll on the phobic’s life and can be greatly stressful. It could even lead to other issues like anxiety, depression etc. Some phobics try to avoid situations which trigger the above mentioned symptoms. This can cause significant negative impact on the way they live. Eventually the fear can become more intense. Others may not understand the fear and may not realize that their loved one needs help.
Treatment for Oikophobia
Some children with phobias get over them by adulthood. As they get older, the phobia simply disappears. However, children, teens and even adults whose lives are disrupted by a phobia can try the following options:
A phobic who understands that he or she needs help knows that the thoughts aren’t rational. You can ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the worst thing that could happen?
- If the worst does happen, how will you handle it?
- How likely is it for your fear to materialize?
- Has anything you fear or imagine happened in the past?
- What proof do you have that your fears will materialize?
Then repeat the following to yourself:
- This isn’t hopeless
- I can retreat if I have to
- I can do this
- This isn’t the end
- The feeling will pass
Read up all you can about phobias so you understand what they mean and the knowledge can also help you respond in a positive way to your fear. You could also try guided meditation, positive visualization and affirmations to deal with panic attacks.
Before prescribing a treatment for a phobia, your doctor will carefully evaluate your symptoms and prescribe options like group therapy or one-on-one counseling. Group therapy will help you understand that you are not alone and there are others who suffer like you. You can also try CBT.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
CBT aims to identify connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviors and gives you practical tips to manage thought patterns that trigger the phobia. The therapy includes a range of different techniques, like exposure therapy or desensitization. This includes exposing you to your situation or object of fear in a controlled and safe manner. Through repeated experiences of facing your fear, you feel an increasing sense of control over your phobia.