Dendrophobia (Fear of Trees)

Overview

What is dendrophobia?

People with dendrophobia have a fear of trees. The word “dendron” is Greek for tree, and “phobos” is Greek for fear.

Someone with dendrophobia may have extreme fear or anxiety when thinking about or seeing trees. They may stop walking outside or driving just to avoid trees. In severe cases, people may stop leaving their houses altogether.

What is a phobia?

Phobias are a kind of anxiety disorder. They involve extreme fear of an event or situation that isn’t necessarily harmful in reality.

Dendrophobia is a type of specific phobia disorder. A particular object (trees) leads to a fearful response.

How common is dendrophobia?

It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like dendrophobia (fear of trees). Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.

What does a person with dendrophobia fear?

Someone with dendrophobia may be afraid of:

  • Dangers hidden in trees, such as spiders, scorpions or snakes.
  • Encountering trees after dark.
  • Shadows made by trees.
  • Sounds of leaves rustling in the wind.
  • Tree branches or entire trees falling on them.
  • Tripping over tree roots.
  • Walking or driving near or underneath trees.

Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk for dendrophobia?

You’re more likely to develop dendrophobia or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you already have:

What other phobias are associated with dendrophobia?

Other phobias linked to dendrophobia include:

  • Hylophobia, fear of forests.
  • Nyctohylophobia, fear of forests or dark woods at night.
  • Nyctophobia, fear of the dark.
  • Xylophobia, fear of wooden objects or forests.

What are the causes of dendrophobia?

Possible causes of dendrophobia include:

  • Past traumatic events: People who’ve had a traumatic experience related to trees may develop dendrophobia. For example, you or someone else may have been hurt by a falling branch.
  • Negative stories about trees: Some people heard scary stories about trees during childhood. Others watched movies about trees with supernatural or dark powers.
  • Family history: Your risk of dendrophobia increases if you have a parent or close relative with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder. And you may be more anxious than other people if you have a certain gene mutation (change).
  • Modeling: Seeing a person with dendrophobia or hearing someone talk about their fear of trees can cause you to have the same phobia.

What are dendrophobia triggers?

Anything related to trees may bring on dendrophobia. Dendrophobia triggers include seeing or thinking about trees:

  • Along the street.
  • In parks, gardens or forests.
  • In movies or TV shows.
  • While driving.

What are dendrophobia symptoms?

Dendrophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. The most common symptoms are extreme anxiety when around trees and when thinking about trees. Other symptoms include:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is dendrophobia diagnosed?

Healthcare providers use a mental health evaluation to diagnose dendrophobia. There isn’t a specific test to diagnose dendrophobia. though. Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms, mental health history and whether you have other phobias. They may refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in phobias and anxiety disorders.

Management and Treatment

What are dendrophobia treatments?

Exposure therapy is one of the main treatments for dendrophobia. During exposure therapy, your mental health professional exposes you to situations and images that may trigger your symptoms. They gradually help you manage your response. As many as 9 in 10 people with specific phobias see their symptoms improve after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).

During exposure therapy, you:

  • Learn breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during an exposure.
  • View images or videos of trees.
  • Gradually progress to imagining being beneath a tree in a garden, park or forest.
  • Finally, look at or walk near a real tree outside.

What are other dendrophobia solutions?

Other techniques to overcome dendrophobia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you learn to change how you see and respond to situations and objects that trigger symptoms. Many healthcare providers use CBT along with exposure therapy.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): This modified form of CBT teaches you how to live in the moment. It can help you cope with distress, maintain relationships with others and regulate emotions. You may have DBT in a group setting or one-on-one with a therapist.
  • Hypnotherapy: Healthcare providers use guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help alter your perception of trees. They can also use hypnotherapy to find the underlying cause of your tree anxiety.
  • Medications: There isn’t a medication to treat dendrophobia. But some medications can help control panic attacks or treat mental health disorders. If you have depression or other mood disorders, talk to your healthcare provider about medications that might be right for you.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): This eight-week group program combines stress reduction and yoga. MBSR involves mindfulness meditation, which teaches you to relieve anxiety in the moment.
  • Yoga and meditation: A regular yoga practice can help you relax and reduce your stress levels. Meditation can help you focus on your breathing to prevent panic attacks.

What are the complications of dendrophobia?

Severe dendrophobia can impact your quality of life. You may not want to go for walks outside or even drive your car. Just the thought of meeting friends or family at a park or outdoor social event can cause extreme anxiety. Since trees are nearly everywhere, you may stop wanting to leave your house at all.

Some people with dendrophobia have panic attacks. These attacks can lead to noncardiac chest pain, racing heart rate and heart attack symptoms. Constant worries about having panic attacks can lead to a panic disorder. This condition may require long-term use of anti-anxiety medications.

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety that causes problems with daily life or sleeping.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long will I need therapy?
  • Should I look for signs of complications?
  • What’s causing this phobia?
  • What’s the most effective treatment for me?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Phobias like dendrophobia can impact your quality of life. You might spend less time with family and friends, skip outdoor social events or become afraid to leave your house. Healthcare providers can help you overcome your fear of trees. Talk to your healthcare provider about treatments such as exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. These treatments can help increase your comfort with going outside.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/22/2022.

References

  • Chandon KS, Abdijadid S. Specific Phobia. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499923/) [Updated 2021 May 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • 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 3/22/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Specific Phobic Disorders. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • National Health Service (UK). Overview: Phobias. (https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/overview/) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. Specific Phobia. (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia) Accessed 3/22/2022.

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