Agliophobia is the persistent, unwarranted and often irrational fear of pain. It is derived from the Greek word algo which means pain and phobos which means fear or dread. Other names for this phobia include: Odynophobia, Odynephobia or Odynesphobia which are all derived from Greek odyn meaning pain.
The dictionary defines pain as a “highly unpleasant sensation following an illness or injury or mental suffering or distress”. Thus, pain is subjective and what is extremely painful to one might trigger little or no response in another. Therefore, pain is treated as a complicated subject by psychologists and experts in the field of medicine. Pain indicates that something is wrong in the body. But in case of Agliophobia, there is an intense and constant anxiety in the sufferer’s mind about experiencing pain. This tends to aggravate his/her physical/emotional distress and can be highly disruptive in everyday as well as medical settings.
What causes Agliophobia?
Like in all other specific phobias, Agliophobia also originates from an intense traumatic experience in the past as well as intrinsic factors.
For example, highly sensitive people could be more prone to the fear of pain phobia. Even seeing their loved ones suffer can lead to a lifetime of fear of pain. Children who have experienced pain at the dentist’s or doctor’s office will be fearful of experiencing that pain all the time.
As stated above, the condition can be debilitating and disruptive for everyday life as the phobic individual constantly thinks about pain, as a result of which his/her condition turns into a vicious cycle that aggravates their mental/physical distress.
Symptoms of fear of pain phobia
The fear of pain phobia is often mistaken for depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, sleeping disorder, schizophrenia and so on. Depending on the extent to which one suffers, the disruptive phobia can lead to many physical symptoms including:
- Shaking, trembling, sweating
- Crying, screaming
- Experiencing a full blown panic attack
- Rapid and shallow breathing, having an increased heart rate
- Experiencing dizziness, nausea and other gastrointestinal distress
- Inability to express self accurately
Additionally, the fear of pain might make the phobic:
- Avoid new experiences
- Fear going to new/different places
- Avoid going to the doctor/dentist
- Feel detached from reality
- Have fearful thoughts about death or dying
Often, medical and dental pain agliophobics end up aggravating their medical/dental condition as they refrain from seeking help for it. Their fear and paranoia about pain might also make them turn to excessive use of pain relievers which could cause an overdose.
Treatment for Agliophobia
A combination of drugs and behavior therapy has been known to be successful in treating the fear of pain phobia. However, most doctors warn that anxiety medicines give only temporary relief and could lead to side effects or adverse reactions.
Other treatments for Agliophobia should be done under the guidance of an experienced psychiatrist. One such therapy is gradual desensitization therapy. This therapy involves gradually exposing the individual to different levels of pain. This can help him/her understand what pain is and also realize that his fear is irrational. Family members and friends should help and support the phobic. One should keep an eye on the individual to ensure they do not turn to pain relieving medications that could lead to an overdose.
Hypnotherapy and Neurolinguistic programming therapy are also known to benefit people suffering from Agliophobia.