A walk in the woods, camping in the Hamptons or by the beach, a stroll among the garden ornaments – none of this is new to you. However, if you have xylophobia, such experiences could create a terrorizing experience.
Being afraid of wooded areas is undoubtedly within normal limits. We probably all have a little xylophobia in us as we picture ourselves lost in the wilderness, with no way to find water or food, and getting lost with every step we take because there’s a chance something dangerous lurking behind us every tree.
However, some people take their phobia to the extreme and become so afraid of wooded areas that they avoid them entirely and never venture into them for any reason at all. The mere sight of a wooden building, trees, or even the presence of wood in a popsicle can trigger a panic response and cause the individual to have an anxiety attack.
Whether you are an individual who has xylophobia or knows someone who does, it is essential to realize that treatment is available. In addition to providing valuable information about xylophobia, this article presents numerous treatments that have proven effective in managing this fear.
What Is Xylophobia or Fear of Trees?
Pronunciation of xylophobia
Xylophobia, also known as hylophobia, comes from the Greek word ‘xylon,’ which means ‘wood’ or ‘forest.’ It is considered one of the oldest phobias that have been around since ancient times. It is a specific type of phobia in which one feels extreme anxiety at the slightest chance of coming into contact with a forest and any wooden object.
Causes of Xylophobia
The causes that lead to the development of xylophobia can be different, but it is a selective or multiple causes in most cases. The factors that can be the components leading to the phobia are:
1. Fear of animals
Although humans often view the woods as a place of beauty and tranquility, having to spend time in this unknown territory is frightening for some people. Xylophobia is more common than some realize. Many people can recall a traumatic incident or experience that caused them to develop a fear of animals like snakes, spiders, and other woodland creatures or predatory animals.
Besides, when fairies, goblins, animals, and other mythological creatures are mixed with these fears, it can create a phobia that causes further distress. These fears become overwhelming for those who have xylophobia to the point where they start avoiding woods and forests.
2. Fear of darkness
Many people feel unsettled when they enter a densely wooded area that is not well lighted. While some dislike the woods because of their association with wild animals or dangers such as getting lost, others fear being in an area where they cannot see clearly. The dark is sometimes considered a frightening, dangerous place and might trigger xylophobia.
3. Fear of unknown places
Some people are afraid to enter the woods alone or with others. Although it may seem irrational, being in the forest can make people with xylophobia feel vulnerable. They may feel uneasy hiking in wooded areas because they worry about getting lost or being exposed to an attack by unknown humans or animals.
In other cases, xylophobia can be based on a fear of moving parts or objects that make unexpected noises. Trees move with the wind and rustle in the breeze, shedding leaves and branches as they do. These unsettling sounds, especially in an area where you know human activity is limited, can cause xylophobia.
For others, a fear of the woods is based on experience. This can be anything from being lost as a child to being terrorized by an unknown creature in the woods as an adult.
Symptoms of Xylophobia
Sufferers from xylophobia generally perceive the sound of wood tapping or the sight of a forest as a threat. In worst situations, they may become anxious or fearful when small sticks or twigs touch their skin. In general, the symptoms of xylophobia include:
- Sweating and trembling,
- Shortness of breath,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Headache and dizziness,
- Dry mouth,
- Loss of control over body,
- Irregular heartbeat and rise in blood pressure, and
- Anxiety and fear.
How to Treat Xylophobia?
There are different ways to live with a phobia, but it becomes problematic when the phobia stops you from living your everyday life, the situations where you need to get over the fear of causes. In such cases, you need help because there is no way to overcome them on your own.
Here’s a list of the most common techniques to treat xylophobia:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
If you have been diagnosed with xylophobia and have not been able to get over it on your own, you might consider visiting a therapist who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to teach us to replace negative, destructive beliefs with constructive ones and gradually helps reduce irrational fears.
- Exposure theory
Exposure therapy is the most commonly used treatment for xylophobia. This form of anxiety disorder treatment uses exposure to forests gradually, controlled to help you feel less anxious and less afraid in these situations.
For the treatment of xylophobia, many different types of studies and investigations have been carried out. The most frequent medications used are antidepressants and beta-blockers. The results obtained from the other studies on the subject do not turn out to be very conclusive.
However, if there is any consensus about the cure of xylophobia, it has been found that cognitive and behavioral treatments are effective for the disappearance of xylophobia along with the prescribed medicines by the health professionals.
How to Cope With Xylophobia?
If you have ever walked into the woods and felt an unexpected sense of dread where once there was calm, xylophobia is likely to blame. Fear can immobilize a person and, therefore, keep him from going on. With some knowledge, you can adjust the expectations about walking in the forest and stop the dread before it even begins.
- Get to know the great outdoors. An invitation to spend time in the woods is suitable for people who suffer from a fear of the woods. Take a hike to get to know trees, plants, and wildlife. Make sure that someone accompanies you so that you have no reason to worry about being attacked. Also, familiarize yourself with the hiking spot beforehand.
- Consider some field trips. Touring one of the many tree farms can be a great way to get acclimated to taking a stroll through the forest.
- No matter what the season or time of year, if you are in an area that’s new to you, there’s always a chance you could get lost. GPS devices have become much smaller and more accurate in recent years, and it might be worth investing in one.
- Whether you’re hiking through woods or just passing through dense forest, knowing how to read and use a map, follow wildlife tracks, and identify the plants and animals around you can make you less anxious.
Xylophobia can be highly debilitating – some people choose to avoid certain situations altogether, while others might experience short periods of intense panic. No matter what your phobia is, there are people out there who can help alleviate the symptoms.
So, do not hesitate to reach out. The sooner you seek help, the better you’ll be able to work with your doctor to get effective treatment for your fear.
- Spitzer, R. L. (1995). DSM-IV Casebook: A Learning Companion to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4. Ed. American Psychiatric Press.