Within the long list of more than 200 registered phobias there are some more known than others. One of the least known, but which generates a great deal of discomfort in those who suffer from it, is dermatophobia.
Throughout this article we will describe the characteristics of dermatophobia, as well as its symptoms, causes and which treatments have been most effective for this phobia related to skin problems or diseases.
What is dermatophobia?
Also known as dermatopathobia or dermatosiophobia, dermatophobia is one of the many specific phobias that a small percentage of the population suffers from. This anxiety disorder is characterised by the fact that, in the cases of people who suffer from it, a profound terror of skin diseases or any kind of damage to the skin appears .
Although it is not a very common phobia, dermatophobic people experience extremely high rates of discomfort and anxiety, even to the point of living obsessed, hyperprotecting their skin so that it does not suffer any kind of damage and constantly checking and checking the condition of their skin .
Another of the main characteristics of dermatophobia is the great variety of manifestations that it causes in different people. Given that any stimulus that may represent or be a precursor to a skin disease is susceptible to being perceived as a threat, it is complex to determine exactly what is causing the anxiety response in the person .
For example, a person with dermatophobia may experience an anxiety response when they notice that their skin is a little dry, while another person may react to an itch or believe that using cosmetics or soaps can damage their skin. Therefore, in dermatophobia, interpretation of the stimulus depends entirely on the person’s judgment.
Fears associated with this disorder
Unlike other phobias, in dermatophobia a person can fear both the fact of having a skin disease and those other objects or external agents that may cause it.
Likewise, this phobia is not caused by a series of concrete or fixed stimuli , but rather these may vary depending on the person’s beliefs or subjectivity.
Therefore, other stimuli associated with dermatophobia that can generate an anxiety response in the person are
The mere possibility of an insect causing any type of injury or damage to the skin through a sting, causes the person to have an anxiety response typical of an anxiety disorder .
2. Changes in temperatures
Both sudden changes in temperature and situations of extreme cold or heat can cause itching or irritation of the skin, as well as dryness . Therefore, a person with dermatophobia will tend to avoid any context in which these changes may occur.
A person with dermatophobia will tend to avoid spaces where there are fires such as chimneys or places where people smoke because the possibility of this burning is perceived as very high .
Although they have a specific phobia, it is not the needle itself that causes fear but the possible damage it may cause to the skin.
5. Piercings and tattoos
Both the idea of making a tattoo or piercing and the fact of observing them on other people’s skin provokes in dermatophobic people a feeling of aversion or repulsion .
Because dermatobia is included in the category of specific anxiety disorders, it shares its symptoms with most phobias .
This wide range of symptoms is the result of an increase in the activity of the nervous system which is accelerated in the presence of nerve stimulation. This activity causes three types of symptoms in the person: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms.
1. Physical Symptomatology
When the dermatophobic person perceives a change in his skin or is faced with a possible threatening stimulus, a series of changes in his body begin to urinate, which are characteristic of the anxiety response. These changes include
- Increased heart rate.
- Accelerated breathing .
- Excessive sweating.
- Muscle tension .
- Pupils dilated.
- Nausea .
- Chills or tremors.
- Sense of unreality.
2. Cognitive symptomatology
Like all phobias, the appearance of physical symptoms is triggered by cognitive symptoms. That is, by a series of beliefs and fears that the person has in relation to the phobic stimulus .
In this case, the person has a distorted set of thoughts or mistaken beliefs about the skin diseases, their symptoms and the agents that cause them.
3. Behavioral symptomatology
As a consequence of the cognitive symptoms mentioned above, the person will also experience a series of behavioural symptoms, which are manifested by avoidance or escape behaviours .
Therefore, in dermatophobia people will carry out all kinds of behaviors to avoid changes in the state of their skin, such as constant checks, excessive hygiene or fear of using cosmetics or avoiding areas where they may encounter possible threats.
As with many other anxiety disorders, the causes or origins of dermatophobia have not been specifically established .
However, it is hypothesized that a genetic predisposition coupled with the experience of some type of highly stressful or traumatic situation in which the person, or someone very close, has suffered some damage to the skin could cause the appearance of this type of phobia.
In the treatment of dermatophobia, it is essential to use psychotherapy to end the distorted thoughts and beliefs that generate the rest of the symptoms. In addition, intervention through systematic desensitization along with relaxation training is usually the most effective option.