There are different types of phobias, some of them really strange. For example, hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia or fear of the number 666, turophobia or fear of cheese, or uranophobia or fear of heaven after death. Today we will talk about another rare phobia: the apeirophobia or fear of the infinite.
But before we start talking about this phobia, and to better understand what characterizes phobic disorders, we’ll start by briefly explaining what phobias are in general.
If you want to know more about strange phobias, you can read our article: “The 15 rarest phobias that exist”
What is a phobia?
Phobia is a strong irrational and uncontrollable fear of situations, objects, activities or people . It belongs to the group of anxiety disorders, and its most characteristic symptom is the excessive and irrational desire to avoid objects or situations as a way of reducing the anxiety or discomfort these people may suffer.
Experts say that certain genetic and environmental factors favour the development of a phobia. However, one of the most common causes among researchers is that phobias arise because the person has had a traumatic experience (mostly in childhood), which is then associated with the element that causes fear. This learning would be produced by classic conditioning .
Do you want to know more about classical conditioning? We recommend our article ” Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”
It is important to note that the association that would cause the phobia can be direct or indirect . We speak of a direct association when that element (object, situation, etc.) has been the very cause that leads to a phobia. For example, if a child is scratched by a cat that he was unconsciously bothering, and as a result of this experience he develops a phobia of cats. The indirect association refers to when the fear is displaced. For example, when a child has a phobia of vaccines just because he knows they hurt.
Classification of phobias
Phobias can be classified as follows: social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia.
- Social phobia: This type of phobia is characterized by an irrational fear of social interaction. For example, when they have to speak in public, they are afraid of being judged, criticized or humiliated. This is a serious disorder that should not be confused with shyness. People with social phobia may feel strong anxiety when talking on the phone or eating in front of other people, so they avoid these types of situations.
- Agoraphobia: Although many people think agoraphobia is the irrational fear of being in open spaces like big streets or parks, this is not exactly the case. Individuals with agoraphobia feel strong distress from situations where they feel unprotected and vulnerable when they have an anxiety crisis. In other words, they feel panicked that the situation is beyond their control. The patient with this type of phobia often goes into seclusion at home as a form of avoidance.
- Specific phobia: The irrational fear in this case occurs when faced with a stimulus, for example, a situation, an object, a place or an insect. Therefore, apeirophobia would be classified within this type of phobia.
Learn more about the different types of phobias in this article: “Types of Phobias: Exploring Fear Disorders
Characteristics of apeirophobia
Thinking about the universe and the infinite can provoke certain questions or reflections that are difficult to answer, which can cause us a certain degree of anxiety. Now, when this thought about the infinite or immense things produces an extreme irrational fear and a great discomfort, then we are before a case of apeirophobia.
The concept of apeirophobia refers to an unusual type of phobia . We usually talk about other phobias in which the phobic object is tangible: spider phobia or clown phobia, for example. All of these are objects or people that can be easily touched and avoided. For some, imagining the phobia of infinity can even be complicated.
The fear of infinity can appear both during the day and at night. For example, when the subject who suffers it is so quiet in his living room and an intrusive thought about infinity causes him a serious anxiety problem. Or when he is in his bed, trying to fall asleep, and the same image causes him a strong fear that does not allow him to sleep all night.
Apeirophobia is a type of phobia in which the focus of the fear is something totally abstract, and not a particular living being, landscape or object. This means that it depends on activities linked to introspection and imagination, although its symptoms do not necessarily appear only when you reflect in silence and with your eyes closed.
There are certain experiences that enter us through the senses and, in certain cases, can make us think of the infinite . These sensory stimuli depend on each person, but some of the most recurrent are the sky, the sea or numerical sequences that never end.
Aperiophobia is experienced as a feeling of vertigo produced by the idea that, as one is coming into contact with infinity, there is no point of support where the person can remain “anchored” and maintain some control of the situation. This idea makes it similar to agoraphobia in a certain sense, since in this one also appears a wave of fear before the idea that the environment becomes unmanageable and impossible to control.
Since apeirophobia is an anxiety disorder caused mostly by past traumatic experiences, it is necessary to see a mental health professional as soon as possible. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or Mindfulness have proven to be very effective in overcoming this type of disorder, although it is important to note that the symptoms of apeirophobia almost never disappear completely.
You can learn more about these types of therapy in our articles:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: what is it and what are its principles?
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: what is it?