Microphobia (Fear of Small Things)

Overview

What is microphobia?

Microphobia is an extreme fear of small things. It’s a specific phobia, meaning that it causes fear of a particular situation. The fear is typically much greater than the actual risk of danger. People can have more than one specific phobia. In addition to microphobia, they might have:

  • Entomophobia: Fear of insects.
  • Iatrophobia: Fear of doctors.
  • Mysophobia: Fear of germs.
  • Nosocomephobia: Fear of hospitals.
  • Nosophobia: Fear of disease.
  • Thanatophobia: Fear of death.

What is a phobia?

It’s natural to fear things that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Blood, heights and airplanes give many people anxiety. But their anxiety isn’t usually so intense that it disrupts their daily lives. Phobias are intense feelings of fear. When you have a phobia, you may go out of your way to avoid situations that trigger it. These efforts can overtake rational thinking, leading to abnormal thoughts and behaviors.

Do I have microphobia?

Little things are a part of everyday life. Most of them cause no harm. But in some people, they cause a level of fear that’s out of proportion to the actual threat. If you have microphobia, the thought of little things can bring on severe anxiety. It can sometimes cause panic attacks. If you have signs of microphobia, discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. There’s no reason to feel self-conscious about having a phobia. Treatments can help you feel better. And your healthcare provider can help you receive the therapies that are best for your needs.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes microphobia?

Genetics and environmental factors can increase the risk of specific phobias like microphobia:

  • Genetics: A family history of mood disorders means you may be more likely to have a specific phobia.
  • Environment: Experiencing emotional trauma related to little things increases your risk of microphobia. This may be especially true if a loved one was harmed by a severe illness, like a viral infection.

What are microphobia symptoms?

Microphobia can cause a combination of behaviors and physical responses.

Behaviors:

You may go out of your way to avoid small things by:

  • Refusing to leave the house due to fear.
  • Not eating certain foods, like rice and other grains that are made up of small pieces.
  • Only working in certain professions to lower your risk of coming into contact with small things.
  • Trying not to damage things so you’re less likely to have to deal with little pieces of a broken object.
  • Keeping your windows closed to avoid pollen getting in your house or car.

Physical responses:

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Stress.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is microphobia diagnosed?

Healthcare providers diagnose microphobia by asking about your symptoms and behaviors.

They may ask:

  • How exposure to small objects makes you feel.
  • Which little things you find bothersome.
  • Whether the fear of small things is causing you to make changes in your daily routine.
  • If there’s a personal or family history of anxiety disorders or phobias.
  • How often you think about little things.
  • The type and severity of symptoms you experience related to small objects.
  • If you’re avoiding activities or places you used to enjoy because of this phobia.

Management and Treatment

What is microphobia treatment like?

A common treatment for microphobia is exposure therapy. Your therapist exposes you to situations that trigger your fear of little things. Exposure therapy for microphobia may start with pictures of germs or other small objects.

Over time, you may progress to touching small objects or going somewhere you’ve been too anxious to go. With successful treatment, seeing or being around little things in your life becomes less bothersome.

Can other treatments help me cope with microphobia?

Additional treatments may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Using CBT, your therapist helps you explore why small objects make you feel anxious. They also teach you healthier alternatives to negative thoughts or behaviors.
  • Medications: Medications don’t cure microphobia. But antidepressants can help with mood disorders, and anti-anxiety medications can help you through a challenging time. If you’re anxious about going back out in public again, where you might encounter little things, medications may help ease the transition.
  • Stress reduction: These techniques help quiet your mind and relax your body. Yoga and meditation can help you become more in touch with your thoughts and feelings. This can reduce the likelihood of panic when you encounter little things.

Prevention

Is there anything I can do to prevent microphobia?

If you face a higher risk of anxiety disorders, there are steps you can take to manage them. Doing so may lower the risk of things that make you anxious escalating into phobias.

Managing anxiety may include:

  • Limiting alcohol and recreational drug consumption.
  • Lowering stress.
  • Quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco use.
  • Spending time with loved ones.
  • Taking up a new hobby to take your mind off the phobia.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for people with microphobia?

Exposure therapy and other treatments help you manage your fear of little things. But little things may still sometimes cause you anxiety. Knowing how to calm your mind when exposed to a trigger can prevent your fear from escalating. If symptoms are becoming difficult to control, contact your healthcare provider. They can offer tips or recommend additional therapies.

Living With

What else is important to know about living with microphobia?

You don’t have to live in fear of little things. Treatment can ease these intense feelings so you can live a more independent lifestyle. It takes time to overcome a phobia, but don’t let this discourage you. Following your therapist’s recommendations can keep your recovery on track.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Microphobia is an intense fear of small things. Changing your lifestyle to avoid little things can worsen its grip on your life. There’s no reason to feel embarrassed about having a phobia. Many people have them. The first step to getting better is talking to your healthcare provider. They can help you find a therapist to learn how to cope with negative thoughts and behaviors. With successful treatment, small objects will become less bothersome, so you can get back to the activities you enjoy.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/24/2022.

References

  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Phobic Disorders (Phobias). (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/quick-facts-mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/phobic-disorders-phobias) Accessed 2/24/2022.
  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Specific Phobic Disorders. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders) Accessed 2/24/2022.
  • National Health Service (United Kingdom). Phobias. (https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/) Accessed 2/24/2022.

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