Apeirophobia or the fear of infinity is an extreme phobia about eternal or everlasting things such as life, death etc. No one lives forever, but even the very idea of doing so is extremely scary for the individual suffering from it. The word Apeirophobia comes from the Greek word Apeiro which means infinity and phobos which means dread, aversion or fear. Let us study the symptoms, causes and treatment options for Apeirophobia.
Causes of Apeirophobia
Apeirophobia is a complex phobia and like all other complex phobias, it can have several factors playing a role in it:
- A traumatic episode– The concept of eternity or infinity is usually linked to death. A child, for example, may be told that his grandma who has passed is now sleeping ‘eternally’. The child’s mind might try to grasp at this concept failing which, it could scare him/her for life. At a young age, this can lead to a lasting impression on the mind.
- Learned response– Often, anxieties and phobias are picked up from others. Children often pick the fear of a particular concept, in this case infinity, from a parent or from movies.
- Genetics– Genes play a huge role in the development of anxiety. Some people are just born more anxious than others.
Someone once said: “Eternity can be a very long time, especially towards the end”. The concept of waiting and waiting forever or just feeling and experiencing the ups and downs of life for a long time to come can be huge burden and a heavy concept for the phobic’s mind to grasp. Many popular culture books and movies have toyed with this idea. Vampires, fairy folk, magical creatures are known to live forever and though these characters and stories are usually romantically depicted, there is also a downside to them. All these factors impact how the phobic views the concept of infinity or timelessness.
Symptoms of Fear of Infinity Phobia
The symptoms of fear of infinity phobia involve experiencing physical, emotional and mental symptoms when faced with the situation of thinking or talking about infinity. Physical symptoms include:
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- Dry mouth
- Sweaty palms
- Tightness in chest
- Hot or cold flushes
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Dizziness or fainting
- Feeling like choking
- Shaking or trembling
Other emotional symptoms of Apeirophobia are:
- Thoughts of death or dying
- Feeling a sense of detachment from reality
- Fear of embarrassing oneself or of losing control
- Having thoughts of death or dying
For some phobics, these symptoms could be very severe and could even cause a panic attack. Experiencing an acute fear can also be embarrassing and very frightening. It can affect relationships and make the phobic feel stressed, anxious or depressed all the time. To avoid having these thoughts and feelings, the individuals often try and avoid situations where they may have to think about the concept. Such fearful thoughts often intensify at nighttime before bed. Trying to avoid the fear makes things worse and, over time, could start impacting one’s quality of life. Many patients even become suicidal.
Treatment options for Apeirophobia
There are various techniques to manage Apeirophobia and reduce the impact it has on one’s life. The most important thing is to manage anxiety and panic attacks. Meditation, breathing techniques, yoga and stretching, and mindfulness etc can help. Find a class nearby that can teach you these principles.
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Next, the patient must join a support group. The very fact that ‘one is not alone’ while dealing with all this can be extremely comforting. Patients could also read up about the phobia and use online programs based on Cognitive Behavior therapy.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT helps one identify connections between thoughts, feelings and behavior which eventually help develop practical skills to manage anxiety causing situations. This therapy might also include desensitization therapy where the phobics are exposed to their fears, in this case the fear of infinity, in a controlled and safe manner. CBT can also be offered online or using a workbook alongside meeting a therapist on a regular basis. Talk therapy and counseling sessions with a psychiatrist can also help.
Hypnotherapy is another effective therapy for Apeirophobia. One must choose a certified professional having a great deal of experience in this field. Apart from these techniques and particularly for extreme cases, medicines may be useful. Tranquilizers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can all be used but these must be taken with extreme caution. Long term use of such medicines could lead to significant adverse effects and chemical dependency.
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It can be very beneficial if friends and family members can be supportive of the patient.