Tropophobia is the fear of moving or making changes. The word comes from Greek tropo meaning ‘way’ and phobos meaning ‘fear or deep aversion’. Change is generally threatening to people. Many people simply hate changing the way they live or any disturbance in their day-to-day routine. But in Tropophobes, the mere thought of change, travel or moving leads to an intense fear which triggers extreme distress and even a full-blown panic attack. Naturally, life can become rather taxing to a Tropophobe as he or she may sometimes refuse job changes or travel. Many individuals refuse to change their daily activities or even introducing changes in family status. Some go to the extent of living single all their lives. Many refuse to travel or change locations because they fear unknown places.
In this guide, we shall study some causes, symptoms, and treatment options for relieving Tropophobia.
Causes of Tropophobia
As with any phobia, the causes of Tropophobia are varied. Many factors can play a role in the development of this type of phobia. One aspect of change is the insecurity that comes with it. When things/situations change, there is often a loss of one’s safety net or comfort zone.
Change can also imply learning new things and could mean that the knowledge one has gathered so far has no meaning. It can also include the fear of the unknown. Changes also mean that there are bound to be initial mistakes. In the case of moving to a new place, it could imply monetary losses, loneliness, an unfamiliar environment and new faces. Change often requires support and management and when that isn’t forthcoming, it can trigger negative thoughts, stress, and excess worry.
However, Tropophobia goes beyond the normal level of fear which most people experience when it comes to moving or making changes. Often, the roots of Tropophobia tend to go deeper, even into one’s childhood. A traumatic event after moving or after a change could be one of the trigger factors of this type of phobia. The Tropophobe then continues to connect any new event or change with the feeling of anxiety or terror he had experienced then. This is a type of conditioning by association and conditioning by avoidance.
Many behavioral psychologists believe that phobias can even be learned over time. A person learns to be afraid of moving, traveling or making changes as his/her caregivers or parents have shown similar behavior.
Fear is usually a powerful defense and many fears actually protect us. They guide us, motivate us, and help keep us on track. Thus, fear is in our genes; it is wired in our brains. Our brain and endocrine system are designed to respond to a threat, danger, and pain. And when you become aware of the threat, you protect yourself with a fight or flight response. In a Tropophobe, this fear takes an extreme form, to the point that the person refuses to get married, turns down work or completely avoids all work. In many cases, a chemical imbalance in the brain can also trigger Tropophobia.
Symptoms of Tropophobia
When the signals of fight or flight response trigger a reaction in the brain, the symptoms can manifest in the form of a physical and/or emotional reaction.
- The heart rate increases. This causes shortness of breath and palpitations. The phobic individual could feel as if he or she is being choked.
- Stomach and intestines become less active for digestion. This can lead to vomiting, indigestion, gastric distress, etc.
- Blood vessels in many parts of the body become constricted. This reduces blood flow to different organs which can lead to numbness and tingling sensations. Pupils become dilated.
- Virtually, every system may become involved in fight or flight. This can lead to shaking, tremors, or an intense desire to flee or run away from the situation.
Other possible symptoms
- Thoughts of death or dying
- A sense of disconnection or loss of reality
- Fear of losing control or embarrassing oneself
Most people may not be able to understand what the Tropophobe is going through. To avoid change, the person may refuse promotions and traveling. This could lead to demotions or even loss of their jobs. If the Tropophobe is unable to talk about his or her feelings, they may feel extremely lonely and isolated. In some cases, the phobia may even be severe enough to impact one’s day to day life and relationships.
Treatment for fear of moving or making changes
If you are having a hard time moving or making changes, here are a few helpful techniques you can use to overcome your fear.
The classic approach to most phobias is systematic desensitization. This involves being exposed to one’s object of fear – in this case, change or moving. When a person is bothered by a situation or an object and somehow stop letting it get to them, they say they are less sensitive to that situation or object. That is the basic principle behind systematic desensitization. The method was developed by psychologist Joseph Wolpe nearly fifty years ago. Hundreds of studies have shown that it is one of the most effective phobia treatments. It works by making the person less sensitive to change. It also teaches the Tropophobe to have a calmer, less emotional reaction to a situation. In other words, he or she learns to relax when faced with making a big change. Gradually, they are also exposed to more and more changes until the fear of change or moving melts away.
Cognitive behavior therapy
CBT or Cognitive behavior therapy is based on the simple yet profound logic that ‘you decide what you think and so you can change what you think’. The phobic learns to identify negative thought patterns that cause panic attacks and uses techniques to change these thoughts. In short, CBT teaches a phobic to change how they talk to themselves and helps them find less scary ways of thinking about things.
Self-help forms a big part of overcoming any phobia. Therapists advise that the phobic read up all they can about their phobia. It helps to use relaxation techniques like guided meditation, deep breathing and stretching as well as aerobic exercises to manage their physical response to the fear. Journaling and positive visualization techniques can also help. One can also join support groups online or offline to discuss their fear and also learn how other people manage their fears.