What is aichmophobia?
Aichmophobia is an intense fear of sharp objects. It's a type of anxiety disorder. A person with aichmophobia experiences intense fear and anxiety when they are around sharp objects like scissors, knives, needles and pencils. They often avoid situations or places where sharp objects are involved.
What is the difference between trypanophobia and aichmophobia?
Aichmophobia is the fear of sharp objects in general. Sharp objects can include things like knives, scissors, needles, sharp corners and pins. Trypanophobia is the fear of injections or needles specifically, especially in a medical setting.
Who does aichmophobia affect?
Like other phobias, aichmophobia can affect anyone at any age. Specific phobias, like aichmophobia, are more likely to arise in adolescents and young adults, and females are more likely to develop them than males.
How common is aichmophobia?
Researchers don’t know the exact number of aichmophobia cases, but specific phobias, in general, are a common mental health condition. Approximately 7% to 10% of the population has a specific phobia.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes aichmophobia?
Healthcare professionals aren’t sure of the exact cause of aichmophobia. They believe that experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event in which a sharp object was involved, such as an accident, may contribute to a person developing aichmophobia. It may also be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What are the signs and symptoms of aichmophobia?
People with phobias often go to extreme lengths to avoid situations that involve what they are afraid of. If a person with aichmophobia is not able to avoid sharp objects and is exposed to or is near sharp objects, they may experience the following symptoms:
- Feel intense fear and anxiety.
- Experience a rapid heartbeat.
- Have shortness of breath.
- Feel dizzy and lightheaded.
- Feel a strong desire to escape the situation.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is aichmophobia diagnosed?
Aichmophobia is diagnosed through a thorough series of questions about the person’s history, experiences and symptoms. Usually, to receive a diagnosis of aichmophobia, you must have symptoms like persistent fear and anxiety of sharp objects for at least six months.
Your healthcare provider will likely use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a publication by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose aichmophobia. Your healthcare provider will also rule out any other physical or mental health conditions that could cause your symptoms.
In general, phobias have at least four criteria for diagnosis, including:
- Intense and unreasonable fear: The fear of the object or situation is persistent and out of proportion to an appropriate level of fear.
- Anticipatory anxiety: An individual who has a phobia tends to dwell on or dread future situations or experiences that will involve the object or situation they are afraid of.
- Avoidance: Many people who have a phobia will actively avoid the feared object or situation. Some go to extreme lengths to avoid the thing they are afraid of.
- The phobia interferes with day-to-day activities: The fear the individual experiences has to limit their everyday life in some way in order for it to be diagnosed as a phobia.
Management and Treatment
How is aichmophobia treated?
Aichmophobia can usually be treated with psychological treatment (psychotherapy) such as exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. In some cases, the individual might need medications that temporarily relieve symptoms of fear and anxiety to cope with fear while they are participating in therapy.
Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a common form of psychological treatment used to treat specific phobias. People with phobias usually avoid situations that involve the thing they are afraid of. Because of this, they're not able to learn that they can manage their fear when presented with their specific phobia or that their feared outcomes often do not happen. Therapists or psychologists use exposure therapy for people who have a phobia to slowly encourage them to enter situations that cause them anxiety and to try to stay in that situation so that they can learn to cope.
If you have aichmophobia and participate in exposure therapy, your therapist or psychologist may begin with talking about and showing you pictures of sharp objects. They may then gradually move on to having you be in a room with sharp objects. Next, they may have you hold a sharp object and then use a sharp object. The process of exposure therapy is slow and gradual. Your therapist or psychologist will tailor the pace of the therapy to your needs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychological treatment. Through talking and asking questions, your therapist or psychologist helps you gain a different perspective. As a result, you learn to respond better to and cope with the stress and anxiety you feel when you are exposed to things that cause you fear.
What medications are used to treat aichmophobia?
Although it's not common, in some cases, people with aichmophobia might take medications to temporarily help them relieve symptoms of fear and anxiety when they are going through psychological therapy to treat their aichmophobia. Medications sometimes used to help treat aichmophobia include:
- Beta blockers: Some beta-blockers are used to treat or prevent physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a fast heart rate.
- Sedatives (benzodiazepines): Benzodiazepines, which are a type of sedative, help you relax and reduce the amount of anxiety you feel.
Is there a cure for aichmophobia?
There is currently no cure for aichmophobia, but exposure therapy, a form of psychological therapy, is successful in treating it. Exposure therapy is considered the first-line treatment for specific phobias in general.
What are the risk factors for developing aichmophobia?
Healthcare professionals are still trying to figure out the exact cause of aichmophobia. So far, they’ve found that the risk factors for developing aichmophobia can include:
- Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event that involved a sharp object, especially as a child.
- Having a family history of anxiety disorders.
Outlook / Prognosis
What is the prognosis (outlook) for aichmophobia?
Only about 10% to 25% of people who have a specific phobia seek treatment for their condition because many can avoid the object or situation that they fear. If you have aichmophobia, avoiding situations that involve sharp objects can prevent you from enjoying certain aspects of life like cooking and certain hobbies and can lower your overall quality of life. This is why it’s important to seek treatment.
Research has shown that exposure therapy is successful in treating aichmophobia and other specific phobias. People who have a specific phobia, like aichmophobia, and don’t seek treatment are two times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder and depression.
What can I do if I have aichmophobia?
It can be uncomfortable, but it is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of aichmophobia. Therapy can help you overcome your aichmophobia.
If you have already been diagnosed with aichmophobia, there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms and feel well, including:
- Get enough sleep and exercise.
- If you are participating in psychological therapy to treat your aichmophobia, be sure to see your therapist regularly.
- Practice mindfulness activities such as mediation.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and yoga.
- Reach out to family and friends for support.
- Consider joining a support group for people who have aichmophobia or specific phobias in general.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
Talking about your mental health can be uncomfortable and scary. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. The following questions may be helpful to ask your healthcare provider if you have aichmophobia:
- What kind of treatment do you recommend?
- Should I see a therapist, psychologist and/or psychiatrist?
- Do you have any recommendations for psychologists, psychiatrists or therapists that I could see?
- How long will treatment take?
- Do you know of any support groups for aichmophobia or phobias in general?
- Do you have any learning resources on aichmophobia I could use?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have aichmophobia, know that you are not alone. Many people all over the world have a phobia. Although it can be difficult and scary, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider and seek treatment for your phobia. Aichmophobia can make you uncomfortable around everyday objects like scissors and kitchen knives that you might commonly find in work, home and school environments. It could also prevent you from getting important medical care like getting shots, critical treatments and necessary blood draws. Everyone deserves to have a high quality of life. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will feel better.
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