Have you ever dreamt of driving down the highway and suddenly, without warning, your car veers off the road? You wake up in a cold sweat; it will happen again.
You know how this feels: the panic that grips your chest as you realize your brakes have failed; the helplessness of being unable to steer away from an oncoming collision; the desperate need to do something, anything, to avoid disaster.
This is what it’s like for people with dystychiphobia—the fear of having an accident. It’s characterized by a constant worry that something terrible will happen, often accompanied by nervousness and physical symptoms such as nausea, twitching, and hyperventilating.
Unfortunately, many people have the phobia — even if they don’t know it. In this article, I will walk you through Dystychiphobia, its symptoms, and how to overcome it.
So, What Is Dystychiphobia?
As hinted above, dystychiphobia is a phobia that causes sufferers to avoid everyday activities because of their fear of accidents. The word dystychiphobia comes from two Greek words: ‘dys’ and ‘tych.’ Dys means terrible, and tych implies an accident. It can come in many forms, including:
- A fear of being involved in a car accident
- A fear of being involved in any kind of accident (e.g., slipping on the floor)
- A fear of having one’s car break down while driving
- A fear of having one’s break down while driving
- A fear that one will get hurt while walking through a crowd or near a busy street
Symptoms of Dystychiphobia
People with this phobia fear that they will have a car crash or other accidents. They may also fear being in a dangerous situation, like being on a narrow bridge or near the edge of a cliff. Those with this disorder often avoid driving altogether, and if they do drive, they tend to avoid busy roads, highways, and bridges as much as possible.
People with dystychiphobia may also experience symptoms such as:
- A feeling of panic when they think about driving on major roads
- Difficulty concentrating while driving due to worrying about getting into an accident
- A feeling like they are constantly watching out for potential hazards on the road
- Distress and anxiety when in a situation where an accident is possible
- Avoidance of situations where accidents are likely to occur (driving, walking)
Other physical symptoms of dystychiphobia include sweating, trembling, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and chest pain.
Causes of Dystychiphobia
The exact causes of dystychiphobia are not known. People who develop this phobia may have had a traumatic experience in the past, such as an accident or witnessing someone else’s sudden death, which can lead to the development of this phobia.
People with anxiety disorders generally have more negative thoughts and feelings about themselves and their world. These thoughts and feelings can cause them to feel anxious or worried about specific situations or events in their life, leading to a fear of having an accident.
Other causes include:
- A genetic predisposition toward anxiety and panic attacks
- A previous history of physical or emotional abuse
- A family history of mental illness, including phobias, panic disorders, and depression
Treatment for Dystychiphobia
The first step in treating dystychiphobia is identifying what triggers your fear to avoid these triggers as much as possible. For example, if you are afraid of driving on highways because you think you might get in an accident, then you should try avoiding driving on highways unless necessary.
If your fear is related to flying in airplanes, limit your travel plans so that they do not include flying or take extra precautions, such as doing breathing exercises before each flight and using anti-anxiety medications if necessary before boarding the plane.
In addition to avoiding situations that trigger your anxiety, dystychiphobia can be treated with the help of a trained therapist. The treatment is divided into two parts:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The person is taught to deal with the symptoms and situations that trigger their fears. They are also taught how to cope with anxiety, stress, and other life problems.
- Exposure Therapy
This involves gradually exposing the patient to small amounts of anxiety-provoking situations, such as driving or going through tunnels. This helps them get used to being around these situations without feeling afraid.
In some cases, dystychiphobia can be treated with medication developed to treat other forms of anxiety. For example, a doctor may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as fluoxetine or sertraline. These medications help restore the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain and can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How to Overcome Dystychiphobia?
If you have dystychiphobia, you know how hard it can be to live with.
Every day feels like a challenge when you’re constantly worrying about the possibility of an accident. You’re always on edge, constantly scanning your environment for potential hazards—and even when there aren’t any, your mind will find something that could happen to cause an accident.
Here are some tips:
- Make a list of all the things that make you anxious. Then write down what you can do to mitigate those fears (like wearing seatbelts in a car or using an extra bathroom at home).
- Identify what triggers your fear of accidents (for example, if you trip over something in your house). Try not to let these situations bother you so much by breaking them down into smaller parts and seeing them as less dangerous than they seem in their entirety.
- Talk to someone who understands what it’s like living with anxiety, especially from having a phobia like dystychiphobia!
How to Cope With Dystychiphobia?
No wonder your anxiety and fears are taking over your life, making it difficult to enjoy anything. It’s time to take action! Here are a few things that could help you cope with dystychiphobia:
- Learning relaxation techniques like breathing exercises.
- Learning how to challenge your negative thoughts and beliefs.
- Develop a list of activities you can do when you feel anxious to distract yourself from your fear.
- Take positive steps toward facing your fear, even if it’s small.
- Practicing relaxation techniques during an anxiety attack helps reduce physical symptoms like increased heart rate or shortness of breath.
Dystychiphobia makes you feel you’ve never learned how to do anything right and can be a complex phobia to overcome. However, with the right help, you’ll know it’s possible to live a life free of this phobic anxiety.
Remember that the symptoms of this phobia come from how your brain is wired, so if you’re interested in learning more about how you can fix it, please contact a mental health professional today. They can help you find relief from your symptoms so that life is livable and doesn’t have to be defined by embarrassing accidents anytime that you go out of your comfort zone. You owe it to yourself to try to live a life without this debilitating phobia.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5.
- Eaton, W. W., Bienvenu, O. J., & Miloyan, B. (2018). Specific phobias. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(8), 678–686. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2215-0366(18)30169-x
- Thng, C., Lim-Ashworth, N., Poh, B., & Lim, C. G. (2020). Recent developments in the intervention of specific phobia among adults: A rapid review. F1000Research, 9, 195. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.20082.1