There is a long list of phobias or fears, many with unpronounceable Greek names. One such fear is the fear of sharp or pointed objects, known as Aichmophobia. The word is derived from Greek word ‘aichmiros’ which means sharp and ‘phobos’ meaning extreme aversion or deep rooted fear.
Most of us fear knives, needles and sharp objects. It makes sense to do so; no one wants to cut their finger while chopping up salad or stab their toe with a falling knife. For the Aichmophobe though, there may be a constant fear of disemboweling him/herself with a knife. The irony is that in many cases, the phobic has never even been hurt or stabbed. Some phobics are even afraid of pointed fingers, sharp ends of the umbrella, pointed edges of furniture or sharp building or construction materials. This deep rooted fear can sometimes impact his/her day to day life.
Let us study what causes this phobia, its symptoms and treatment options.
Causes of Aichmophobia
In many cases, the Aichmophobe fears sharp objects because he fascinated, terrified and also distrustful of his own power to resist their sharpness. Some prisoners and inmates are known to develop this phobia driven to it due to long term sexual inactivity; many actually mutilate their own genital organs with pieces of glass or wires.
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Deep fear or phobia is also linked to the amygdala and hypothalamus areas of the brain. In a phobic, these areas get activated and appear to control the first response to a fearful situation. Chemicals like stress hormone and cortisol then get released in the blood stream leading to a full blown panic attack.
Several other factors can also lead to Aichmophobia:
- Traumatic incident where the person, as a child, might have seen someone being stabbed or hurt by a sharp object.
- Learned response- grownups/parents/older siblings around the child may be extra cautious about being stabbed or cut.
- Genetics- Some people are prone to anxiety owing to hereditary factors.
- Response to panic attack causes the phobic to get embarrassed which then leads to a vicious cycle of fear, embarrassment, more fear and so on.
- Long term stress, anxiety, depression are some other causes of Aichmophobia.
Symptoms of fear of sharp objects
- Physical symptoms like feeling faint, lightheaded, dizzy, feeling of choking, palpitations, tightness of chest, sweating, tingling, numbness, nausea, vomiting, hot-cold flashes, etc.
- Psychological symptoms include fear of fainting, losing control, of dying etc.
Phobics start to live their life to avoid sharp objects. They don’t keep pencils, knives or needles at home. Some even go to the extent of closing their eyes while walking in the cutlery section of supermarkets. Many ask servers not to place forks and knives near their plates in restaurants. You will certainly not find them carrying switchblades for protection.
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Treatment options for Aichmophobia
- Read up all you can about phobias. Doing so can help you rationalize the fear.
- Keep a journal documenting your thoughts and anxieties.
- Use relaxation technique to manage panic and anxiety. This includes meditation, deep breathing and positive affirmations as well as visualization techniques.
Join support groups
Many are available online and offline. Support groups allow you to share your experiences while hearing of others’ experiences. It can be very comforting to know that you are not alone. Other people can also help you find coping techniques to help you manage your anxiety attacks.
If your Aichmophobia is extreme and interferes with your daily life, or is leading you to avoid certain places or situations, then you must seek medical help. Talk to your family physician who can refer you to a therapist or if needed, put you on medication. Counseling and psychotherapy involves talk therapy which is known to have helped many phobics.
Cognitive behavior therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy can also help people having the extreme fear of sharp or pointed objects. This treatment aims to identify connections between thoughts, feelings and behavior. It also helps phobics develop practical skills to manage panic attacks when they are confronted with sharp objects.
Many people with specific or complex phobias have found hypnotherapy very useful for relieving symptoms of anxiety. It gets to the root of the problem and helps the phobic get rid of the fear permanently.
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As a last resort, one can also take medication to treat severe anxiety symptoms.