The word Genuphobia, the fear of knees, is derived from Latin genu which means knees and Greek phobos which means fear or deep aversion. A person with Genuphobia is terrified of knees or knee injury. It usually occurs following an injury to one’s own or someone else’s knees, although there could be several other reasons why this somewhat unusual phobia may occur.
The human knee is a compound, modified joint and it also happens to be the largest joint in the human body. Between 1999 and 2008, US emergency rooms saw more than 6.5 million knee injuries. People between the ages of 15-24 years had the most knee injuries.
Genuphobes find knees either overly delicate or repulsive. Even the thought of looking at knees can trigger an intense emotion in them, including shivering, shaking, or a full-blown panic attack. Most Genuphobes realize that such a response is unreasonable and illogical, but they are just not able to control it.
Let us study the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Genuphobia.
Causes of Genuphobia
Genuphobia could have resulted from a traumatic injury to the knees or someone else’s knees. A child may have severely injured his/her own knee or might have seen the injury in a loved one. A single episode can be enough to cause a phobia in an anxious or sensitive individual.
Punishments like kneeling for a long time can also lead to a fear of knees. Kneeling is usually viewed as an act of submission or servitude. The Genuphobe relates the punishment to constantly feeling anxiety, fear, or experiencing abuse.
Culture can sometimes be responsible for the fear of knees. For example, there may be restrictions on exposing the knees, especially for women. Full pants and skirts may be the only options. Unfamiliarity of knees may lead to the thinking that knees are unpleasant to look at or unattractive. When such an individual views exposed knees, they may find them repulsive or vulgar.
People with body dysmorphic disorder, a mental disorder involving the perception that one’s body is distorted, misshapen, or otherwise wrong, may develop a preoccupation with the belief that something is wrong with the shape or appearance of their knees.
Parents with severe anxieties of their own can often pass on their fears to their children. Constantly warning a child to keep his/her knees protected or covered can cause a fear of injuring the knees.
Genes or heredity also plays a role in many anxiety disorders. Some people are simply more prone to developing psychological problems. A chemical imbalance in the brain can manifest itself in the form of various phobias.
Symptoms of Genuphobia
Genuphobes avoid places where people expose their bare knees such as beaches or sports. They will also try not to reveal their own knees. Many even avoid crossing their legs since the pressure created on the knees draws the attention to this body part.
Some Genuphobes dislike summers since that is the month people expose their knees the most. Many avoid places like kindergartens and preschools where songs like ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ are sung.
People suffering from fear of knees also hate kneeling and avoid churches or places of prayers where one has to kneel. Many avoid taking jobs or playing games and sports like swimming, which involve exposing the knees or kneeling on them.
Even the slightest exposure of knees can trigger the following physical and emotional symptoms in the Genuphobe:
- Shaking or trembling
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness of chest
- Palpitations or accelerated heartbeat
- Fear of death or thoughts of dying
- Feeling a sense of loss of reality or a sense of detachment
- Fear of losing control and embarrassing oneself
- Feeling like fainting
In children, severe anxiety can lead to loss of self-esteem, loss of friendships, failure to reach academic potential, and other future difficulties.
Treatment for fear of knees
Anxiety is considered serious enough for treatment if it lasts longer than 6 months and causes issues like headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, avoidance behaviors like not wanting to go to school and beaches etc.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is one of the best forms of treatment for Genuphobia, especially in children. The program aims at teaching kids ways to recognize emotions like fear, stress and anxiety. It also challenges beliefs associated with feeling nervous. Finally, it encourages gradual engagement with the fearful object or situation, in this case knees, in a more positive manner. The therapist also teaches the parents different ways to interact with their kids and focuses on letting them help their child cope with teasing, problem-solving etc.
In some cases, doctors prescribe drugs like anti-depressants or tranquilizers. These can be useful in managing anxiety. However, they are also known to cause side-effects such as sleepiness and weight gain etc. Therefore, they are often used as a last resort for short-term low-dose treatment.
Adults with the fear of knees can also take advantage of the following self-help treatments.
Writing down the fearful thoughts can help process them. You learn to understand that the fear is illogical and unreasonable. The Genuphobe can also write down positive affirmations in the diary/journal. These may include sentences such as ‘I am strong’, ‘I am brave’ and ‘I am courageous’. This is a form of programming the subconscious mind to keep anxiety-causing thoughts at bay.
Facing the fear in a gradual and positive manner can also be helpful. Adults can start writing about knees, seeing pictures of knees, and gradually progress to touching or seeing knees. Such gradual exposure can help one learn to ride out the anxiety and fear until it passes. Through repeat exposure, one learns to understand that the worst isn’t going to happen. With each exposure, the phobic feels more confident and in control and soon the phobia begins to lose its power.
Simple deep breathing is also an effective way to deal with the breathlessness that comes with the anxiety. The Genuphobe should practice taking slow, deep, cleansing breaths in and out, until the fear passes.
Movement in the form of dancing, running, walking and swimming can help with stress management.
Meditation is a relaxation technique that can help prevent anxiety. With regular practice, it can even rewire the parts of the brain that are connected with serenity, tranquility and calmness.