Symptoms and Factors of Dementophobia

Distressed looking man sitting on hospital bed, head in hand, night

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In This Article

Dementophobia is a type of phobia that involves the fear of madness or insanity. People who have this fear are afraid that they are going insane or losing touch with reality. The fear may be triggered by a family history of mental illness or periods of severe stress.

Mental Illness and Stigmatization

Mental illness has long been associated with confinement, painful treatments, and social stigma. At various points in history, those with a mental illness were thought to be possessed by evil spirits.

Only relatively recently did the medical establishment and the general public begin to recognize mental illness as a treatable medical condition.

If you have older relatives who went through the early or mid-20th-century asylums, you may fear to undergo the same treatment. You might also be afraid of social stigmatization.

Some symptoms of mental illnesses can cause tics, vocal outbursts, and socially inappropriate behaviors. While stigmatization is not as common as it was, it does exist. You may fear losing friends and family or being embarrassed in front of strangers due to mental illness.

Common Symptoms

Those with a phobia of going mad often exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Social withdrawal

Anxiety-Related Factors

Depersonalization and derealization are subjective changes in perception. They are extremely common during panic attacks and times of intense stress but can create a feeling of disconnectedness with the body and with the wider world. This feeling can lead to a feeling that you're going insane creating a self-reinforcing cycle.

A phobia of going insane can lead to panic attacks, which can also further heighten the conviction that you are, in fact, going insane. Therapy may be necessary to help break this cycle.

Research does show that those who have a relative with a mental illness are more likely to develop a similar illness. The knowledge that you are at a somewhat higher risk of developing mental illness can further add to the fear.

Getting Help

Phobias are often treated with a mix of medications and therapy. Therapists generally draw from a variety of cognitive-behavioral and other techniques to help sufferers challenge their beliefs and ultimately develop healthier ways of thinking and acting.

Psychoeducation, in which you learn more about specific mental illnesses, is often helpful. Your therapist may also work with you to explore the meaning that your fear has to you. The goal of treatment is usually to help you better understand the complex factors involved in your fear in order to minimize the impact it has on your life.

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