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What is megalophobia?
Megalophobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person experiences intense fear of large objects. A person with megalophobia experiences intense fear and anxiety when they think of or are around large objects such as large buildings, statues, animals and vehicles. They often avoid situations or places that have large objects.
What kind of large objects are people with megalophobia afraid of?
The following objects can trigger people with megalophobia to experience intense fear and anxiety:
- Tall buildings, such as skyscrapers.
- Large statues and monuments.
- Large or vast natural features like mountains, volcanoes, lakes and oceans.
- Big boats, ships and barges.
- Large vehicles, such as trains and buses.
- Large or vast spaces, such as the inside of a stadium.
- Big animals, such as elephants and whales.
Since there are many kinds of phobias, they can be a little challenging to diagnose. People who have megalophobia generally fear more than one kind of large object. There are other phobias that are characterized by a fear of something that happens to be large, but its size isn’t the main aspect of the fear. As an example, if you have an intense fear of the ocean (which is a large “object”) specifically, you may have thalassophobia, the fear of the ocean, and not megalophobia. If you’re experiencing intense fear, it’s important to see your healthcare provider so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Who does megalophobia affect?
Like other phobias, megalophobia can affect anyone at any age. Specific phobias, like megalophobia, are more likely to develop in children and become apparent in adolescents and young adults. Females are more likely to develop specific phobias.
Is megalophobia common?
Researchers don’t yet know the exact number of people who have megalophobia, which is likely because many people with specific phobias like megalophobia don’t seek treatment for their phobia. Specific phobias, in general, are a common mental health condition. Approximately 7 to 10% of the population has a phobia.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the signs and symptoms of megalophobia?
People with phobias often go to extreme lengths to avoid situations that involve what they are afraid of. If a person with megalophobia isn’t able to avoid large objects and is near large 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 nauseous.
- Feel a strong desire to escape the situation.
What causes megalophobia?
Researchers aren’t sure what exactly causes megalophobia. They believe that having a negative or traumatic experience that involved a large object may contribute to a person developing megalophobia.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is megalophobia diagnosed?
Megalophobia is diagnosed through a thorough series of questions about the person’s history, experiences and symptoms. Usually, you have to have had experienced persistent fear and anxiety of large objects for at least six months in order to be diagnosed with megalophobia.
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 megalophobia. Your provider will also rule out any other physical or mental health conditions that could be causing 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.
Is there a test for megalophobia?
There’s no definitive test to diagnose megalophobia. Instead, your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your history, symptoms and experiences related to your fear of large objects to assess whether or not you have megalophobia.
Management and Treatment
How is megalophobia treated?
Megalophobia can usually be treated with psychological treatment (psychotherapy) such as exposure therapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s not very common, but sometimes people need medications that temporarily relieve symptoms of fear and anxiety in order to cope with fear while they are participating in 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 aren’t 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 and 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 megalophobia and participate in exposure therapy, your therapist or psychologist may begin with talking about large objects. They may then gradually move on to showing you pictures of large objects. Next, they may have you look at and be near a large object in person. 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 megalophobia?
Medications aren’t usually used to treat specific phobias like megalophobia. But in some cases, people with megalophobia might take medications to temporarily help them relieve symptoms of fear and anxiety when they are going through psychological therapy to treat their phobia. Medications sometimes used to help treat megalophobia 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 megalophobia?
There is currently no cure for megalophobia, 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 megalophobia?
Healthcare professionals are still trying to figure out the exact cause of megalophobia. So far, they’ve found that the risk factors for developing megalophobia can include:
- Experiencing or witnessing a negative event that involved a large object, especially as a child.
- Having a family history of anxiety disorders.
Outlook / Prognosis
What is the prognosis (outlook) for megalophobia?
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 megalophobia, avoiding situations that involve large objects can prevent you from enjoying certain things in life like traveling and can lower your overall quality of life. This is why it’s important to seek treatment. Everyone deserves a high quality of life.
Research has shown that exposure therapy is successful in treating megalophobia and other specific phobias. People who have a specific phobia, like megalophobia, and don’t seek treatment are two times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder and depression.
How can I take care of myself if I have megalophobia?
It can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms of megalophobia. Therapy can help you overcome your megalophobia.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with megalophobia, 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 megalophobia, 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 megalophobia 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 provider if you have megalophobia:
- 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 megalophobia or phobias in general?
- Do you have any learning resources on megalophobia that I could read?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have megalophobia, know that you are not alone. Many people all over the world have a phobia. Avoiding large objects can provide short-term relief, but this doesn’t address the underlying cause of your fear and anxiety. Although it can be difficult and uncomfortable, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider and seek proper treatment for your megalophobia. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can take back control of your life.
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