Dementophobia is one of the most common fears in the world. Whether the fear of insanity stems from a delusion that you are crazy or you have a genuine concern about mental disorders and their possible effects on your mind, it can be debilitating.
It can impact almost every aspect of your life and may cause you to avoid social situations for fear that you will be labeled insane by those around you. But fear not. You’re not alone. In this article, you’re about to learn everything there is to know about the fear of madness or dementophobia.
What Is Dementophobia?
Pronunciation of dementophobia
Fear of insanity or madness is known as dementophobia. A specific phobia is an intense and irrational fear of going insane or suffering from mental illness. Dementophobia is derived from the Greek words Dementos which means ‘to lose one’s mind,’ and Phobos, which means ‘fear.’ People with dementophobia are afraid of losing their minds or will go crazy.
The fear of being insane can be related to fear of madness, hallucination, delusions, irrational behavior, and other mental illness. The people living with dementophobia are afraid that they might start acting insanely and behave irrationally. They feel they are not in control of their behavior, which might drive them to do something terrible or irrational without any reason.
What Causes Dementophobia?
Most people with dementophobia have a family history of mental illness and have witnessed some close friends or family members go through a similar situation during adolescence or adulthood. Their fears might also be triggered by the fact that they associate certain personality traits with insanities such as anger, violence, stubbornness, anxiety, depression, or forgetfulness.
Dementophobia is a pervasive problem, not just among those genuinely mentally ill. Many people who are perfectly mentally healthy suffer from fear of insanity all the same. This fear can be defined as a form of anxiety that may or may not include actual symptoms of mental illness. The most common cause for fear of insanity is a mental imbalance or disease in the family history.
For example, if one or both parents were diagnosed with some mental illness or suffered from depression, their children will likely suffer from some underlying issues. The second most likely cause for fear of insanity is an incident in your past where you experienced something traumatic and had to seek help because you thought you were going insane.
Perhaps you had some hallucination, panic attack, or maybe even a nervous breakdown; anything along those lines could trigger your underlying fears and make you feel like you’re losing your mind. Whatever the cause for your fear of insanity may be, it’s essential to understand that this problem cannot be solved without help.
What Are the Symptoms of Dementophobia?
The severity of dementophobia varies greatly. In its most severe form, a person suffering from fear of insanity may be utterly crippled by the fear and unable to carry on everyday life. Some of the symptoms include:
- The patient may show signs of distress and anxiety. This may take the form of trembling, pallor, sweating, etc.
- He may even feel fatigued and lethargic.
- How he behaves or reacts towards other people or events may change.
- He may become too self-conscious about his behavior.
- He might also develop irrational fears regarding sudden memory loss or suddenly getting mentally ill.
- In most cases, persons with this phobia tend to isolate themselves from others and become reclusive.
- They may avoid taking up challenging tasks that require concentration.
Treatment for Dementophobia (Fear of Insanity or Madness)
Fear of insanity is a common phobia and one of the easiest phobias to conquer. Knowing you have a phobia is the first step to overcoming it. The next step is to face your fear. People fear insanity when they cannot cope with their emotions. They feel like they are losing control and know this is not normal.
Treatment for fear of insanity involves helping the patient work through the issues that caused their fears. This may involve behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, or psychotherapy sessions with a psychiatrist.
Psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for dementophobia. The therapist will ask you how you feel and why you think the way you do. The therapist will then help you challenge your fears and teach you coping skills to deal with your anxiety when it arises. Psychotherapy aims to help you become more comfortable with your emotions and the situations that may trigger them.
Exposure therapy is another key to permanently beating dementophobia. It is a treatment in which a person is gradually exposed to what they fear, either in real life or through pictures and videos. Eventually, this exposure helps people overcome their fear. This relaxation response can weaken your anxiety and phobia symptoms. There are three phases to exposure therapy:
You’re gradually exposed to the thing or situation that makes you anxious until your symptoms lessen and eventually go away.
Your anxiety level is measured again at this point, and if it’s low enough, you move on to the next phase of therapy. If it’s not, more exposures are added until it is.
You continue practicing what you’ve learned until it becomes second nature.
Medications can reduce symptoms of fear of insanity, but they are ineffective in treating the cause of the fear. Antidepressants sometimes treat this condition because they reduce anxiety by altering brain chemistry. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium can also have a calming effect in small doses; however, these medications should be taken under the guidance of a mental professional.
The symptoms and factors that cause dementophobia can be different. Fear of insanity can be a lifelong, long-lasting problem. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to get in the way of your life anymore. The first step in overcoming it is confronting it head-on and avoiding or running away from the situation. The second step is to seek help. Treatment must be sought for this phobia as it can have a very isolating effect on sufferers and make them feel helpless.
- Caldirola, D., & Perna, G. (2019). Toward a personalized therapy for panic disorder: Preliminary considerations from a work in progress. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Volume 15, 1957–1970. https://doi.org/10.2147/ndt.s174433