What Is Dystychiphobia?

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What Is Dystychiphobia? 

Dystychiphobia is the excessive fear of having an accident. A person with this fear will experience anxiety and a disruption to their quality of life, as well as exhibit avoidance behaviors to steer clear of any situation that has the potential to produce an accident (even where it is unlikely one would occur).

This phobia is often seen in a person who has been in a serious or near-fatal accident in the past. In some cases, the phobia can be triggered by an accident involving someone else, such as a friend or family member.

It is similar to amaxophobia, or the fear of driving, which often results from a past accident-related trauma and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dystychiphobia encompasses a fear of all forms of physical accidents, including those that occur in the home, the workplace, public spaces, and roadways. A person with this phobia fears the accident above all, which includes the consequences of accidents such as harm to themselves and/or others.

Symptoms

Like all phobias, dystychiphobia varies widely from person to person. Some people are afraid only of industrial accidents, others of transportation-related crashes. Some feel only a mild case of nerves, while others are virtually paralyzed by their fear.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists a variety of symptoms related to specific phobias. Those with dystychiphobia may find themselves experiencing:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sweating
  • Feeling sick
  • Shaking
  • Chest pain

In addition to the physical symptoms, emotional symptoms are common as well. These can include feeling out of control and intense anxiety. Despite the fact that you may know your fear is not currently a real threat, the emotional response is very real.

Specifically with accident-related phobia, you may experience a fear of dying. Sometimes the emotional responses of people experiencing phobias may escalate into panic attacks.

While panic attacks generally subside on their own, if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of an attack and are concerned, don't hesitate to contact a health care provider who can address the situation.

If you or a loved one are struggling with panic attacks, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.


For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Diagnosis

The criteria used to diagnose specific phobias have expanded over time. Often, people don't need a formal diagnosis from a healthcare professional to recognize that they have a phobia. However, for phobias to be diagnosed, your health care provider will typically look for the following:

  • Unreasonable fear associated with an object or situation
  • Avoidance of the object or situation
  • Persistent fear over time
  • Distress resulting from the fear

Another method of diagnosis some health care providers may look for is whether or not a person recognizes their fear to be irrational. This presents a conflict within the person experiencing the fear: They know it interferes with their life, but they don't know how to stop feeling it so intensely.

It's possible someone coping with dystychiphobia has comorbid phobias, or multiple phobias existing together. For instance, these might include thanatophobia (fear of dying), nosocomephobia (fear of hospitals), or agoraphobia (fear of going places outside the home).

Since these are all scenarios that might be associated with an accident, they could play a role in a person's dystychiphobia.

Causes

Though the causes of specific phobias like dystychiphobia are generally unknown, there are many factors that experts believe may produce this fear. For instance, if you have a co-existing mental health condition such as anxiety, you may be more likely to develop a phobia.

Trauma may also play a role in developing dystychiphobia. If, for instance, you were involved in a traumatic accident, you may be more likely to develop a phobia of accidents.

Genetics are thought to influence phobias, too. If having phobias runs in your family, or even other mental health conditions like anxiety, it's possible you'll be more likely to develop a phobia as well.

Even how you're raised may have an effect. There are theories that phobias might be "learned responses," say, if you were raised by a parent who taught you to be afraid of accidents.

Certainly, most people could say they are afraid of accidents to an extent. However, what makes people with dystychiphobia unique is that the fear is usually out of context and it is disruptive to their daily lives.

Treatment

Though it can be difficult living with a phobia, you do have options to improve your condition. Depending on your symptoms and your circumstances, your health care provider might prescribe you medication in addition to psychotherapy, which is a very common treatment combination for phobias.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in the treatment of specific phobias. Through CBT, a therapist would be able to help you identify the situations that trigger your fears and even the reasons behind them.

The goal is to reframe the beliefs and behaviors you have that restrict you from being able to live your life uninterrupted by this phobia.

Exposure therapy works in small steps to gradually expose you to your fear, and it is another common treatment type for people with phobias.

One study found that virtual reality may be even more effective than in-person exposure therapy in helping someone with a phobia overcome their condition. This would be similar to traditional exposure therapy, but instead of facing your fear in person, you would be exposed to it virtually.

Systemic desensitization, which usually starts with imagining yourself in a progression of fearful situations and using relaxation strategies that compete with anxiety, is also used to treat phobias.

Medication

In addition to therapy, your health care provider might prescribe you medication to cope with your dystychiphobia. Usually, a medication would be prescribed with the ultimate goal of weaning you off of it as your symptoms improve.

Medications prescribed for phobias are often similar to those prescribed for panic attacks and/or panic disorder. This can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) are usually reserved for acute symptoms and are not recommended for long-term use due to the potential of addiction. Be sure to work closely with your health care provider to monitor your symptoms over time and evaluate how well your medications are working for you.

Coping

There are coping strategies for phobias that you can begin to practice on your own. Methods that have been found effective in addressing the anxiety and panic associated with a phobia include:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Visualization
  • Self-help groups
  • Exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Getting enough sleep

Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness can help to control your breathing and calm your body amidst the physical responses that often arise when your phobia becomes triggered.

Visualization is almost like exposure therapy in that you are imagining how you'd cope with a situation or object that you fear. Support groups can connect you with others who experience dystychiphobia and other phobias, too.

Having a safe space, such as a support group, in which to share your experiences and hear others share theirs may help you feel more positive about your recovery.

Diet, exercise, and adequate rest may sound like simple concepts, but their effectiveness shouldn't be underestimated. They are all equally important in helping your body, nervous system, and overall health function as well as possible.

Limiting caffeine may also help reduce symptoms of anxiety you experience as a result of your dystychiphobia.

A Word From Verywell

Most of us fear accidents and injuries to a certain extent, especially if we've experienced a traumatic incident. However, if your fear is more severe, you might find yourself significantly limiting your daily life. If it's difficult to function at home, school, or work, professional assistance is always recommended. There are plenty of treatment options for phobias, as well as coping strategies you can learn. Recovery is possible, and these can start you on the path to feeling better.

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8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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