- It is an irrational and intense fear of accidents.
- The phobia is so overwhelming that it interferes with their daily life and functioning.
- The phobia can be a result of being in an accident, witnessing an accident, genetic predisposition to phobias, or having pre-existing mental health conditions.
- There are multiple treatments available for this phobia, the most effective of which is Exposure therapy, CBT, and virtual reality therapy.
Have you ever avoided getting in your car due to the fear of getting into an accident? Do you avoid taking cabs or riding two-wheelers because you think they might be unsafe and dangerous for you? People suffering from dystychiphobia have difficulty being around or thinking about accidents.
Being fearful about accidents is a normal thought, but it becomes a phobia when it is intense fear which is affecting the individual’s daily life.
Fear is usually rooted in a real rational situation, but it becomes an irrational and intense fear when the individual starts fearing it all the time and lives a life of avoidance.
Dystychiphobia, which is an irrational fear of accidents, affects people’s lives drastically. Specific phobias can happen to anyone and can be difficult to get rid of.
The irrational nature of the fear may be known to the individual but they still cannot help it without any therapeutic intervention.
Roads and transportation centers connect the world, and the only way we can be social and live a prosperous life is to take part in this system. When a person is anxious about getting into a car or a transport-related accident, life becomes difficult for them.
People with dystychiphobia are such people that they would miss an important event or opportunity in their life because of their fear of accidents. These thoughts can range from themselves driving a vehicle to being around them and or working with them.
A negative thought about such a situation itself can lead to extreme reactions in people with dystychiphobia. They also fear causing or being in an accident at school, at work, in public spaces, around their home, and against other vehicles.
Comorbidity of dystychiphobia
Since dystychiphobia is a specific phobia, you may be diagnosed with some of the following overlapping disorders. These disorders may also be a reason why someone may have dystychiphobia. The disorders are:
1. Panic Disorder
The intensity of the fear and the resembling physical as well as psychological symptoms around a distressing situation makes panic disorder and dystychiphobia relevant to one another. A person can get this phobia after they experience a panic attack or get a panic attack while someone is already suffering from dystychiphobia.
2. Anxiety Disorder
The main element of dystychiphobia is that of fear and anxiety. Some of the known anxiety disorders can give birth to someone becoming more specifically fearful of cars and accidents.
Anxiety disorders differ in type and intensity so does the fear of accidents. Having an extremely anxiety-provoking situation where they’re anxious around cars or road accidents can manifest into dystychiphobia.
3. Substance use disorder
Using and abusing substances also leads to physical and psychological symptoms that are similar to dystychiphobia. Abusing substances increases the chances of having a panic or anxiety attack regarding a fearful situation such as a road accident or driving under the influence.
4. Co-existing phobia
If you have gone through a trauma and are suffering from PTSD or already have an irrational fear of that situation, you may also get another phobia. Someone who got in an accident near a bridge may become fearful of bridges altogether and also develop dystychiphobia as a result of it.
Other dystychiphobia-related phobias
Since fear of accidents is a general and broad category, people with many different types of phobias can also claim to have dystychiphobia.
The following phobias are all accident-related and can be linked with dystychiphobia due to the similarity of fearful objects/situations.
- Amaxophobia: This is the fear of being in a vehicle, making it difficult for people daily to travel or b have a regular life.
- Agoraphobia: This is the fear of leaving one’s home and being fearful that one won’t be able to return back or escape a situation if one leaves.
- Aerophobia: This is the fear of flying. Although not a transport to be used every day, it still hinders one’s personal and social life as well as other opportunities that may come to them.
- Algophobia: This is the fear of pain. This also causes people to avoid daily situations where they cannot guarantee that they won’t be hurt or in pain.
- Hodophobia: It is the fear of traveling. The intensity of fear of traveling is so much that they may avoid even small travels that they need to do for their basic life needs.
- Tachophobia: This is the fear of speed, so much so that they will avoid even slow-moving vehicles.
- Thanatophobia: This is the fear of dying. People may start avoiding transport and or anything they consider dangerous and unpredictable that can lead to death.
Symptoms of Dystychiphobia
The fearful symptoms can range in intensity and duration. These symptoms are a signal to the person experiencing it that their fears have been triggered and that their life is in danger.
People with dystychiphobia may include the following symptoms.
As a phobia is an intense feeling of anxiety and dread, there are also some physical symptoms that follow along with it.
It would be wise to keep an eye out for the following symptoms to understand someone’s level of phobia.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Chest pain.
- Trouble breathing.
- Dry mouth.
- Upset Stomach.
Psychological symptoms are those that come up in people’s behavior. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms to understand if someone is suffering from this phobia.
- Fear of dying.
- Extreme anxiety.
- Always on the lookout for threats on the road.
- Feeling not in control.
- Constant anxiety when in a situation where there’s a possibility of an accident
- Panic attacks.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Constant dread.
- Avoidance of common driving situations.
- Unable to drive due to anxiety about getting into an accident.
- Anger and irritability.
- Withdrawing from others and feeling disconnected.
- Self-blame and low confidence.
Causes of dystychiphobia
There can be multiple reasons and causes for dystychiphobia. These reasons can be varied based on personal experiences or situational outcomes or as a side effect of already-known mental health problems.
These relations aren’t a guaranteed correlation, and therefore, can manifest in unique ways depending on each individual. Some of the reasons include:
1. Learned Experiences
What is experienced or witnessed in childhood can become a very strong response later on into adulthood. People can learn the behavior of other people around them and then instill it in themselves.
Someone with dystychiphobia may have seen in their growing years how someone reacts to road accidents and how they might have projected their fears onto the individual or given them a fearful chain of thought to catch on from.
2. Genetic predisposition
For people with a family history of anxiety disorders and panic disorders or those who were also suffering from a phobia, a change in gene mutation is also possible to make people more susceptible to phobias.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can also influence someone to have dystychiphobia. Someone who has suffered through their own or someone they hold precious’ accident, may develop these negative thoughts and fearful responses to deal with what had happened.
Seeing the aftereffects and actually being in the situation where they have to support other people who’ve been through an accident, the fear of it all can fester into dystchiphobia.
4. Co-existing mental health conditions
Having an anxiety disorder, BPD, PTSD, and or other disorders where you can experience extreme levels of anxiety can result in people having dystychiphobia.
People with phobias can develop other phobias and also other conditions if left untreated.
When these disorders are not treated effectively and in time, it results in multiple disorders and related illnesses, both physical and psychological.
Treatment for dystychiphobia
Dystychiphobia is a specific phobia and it can be treated in the same way that therapists treat phobias. These treatments are what would be suggested based on their effectiveness and tailored by a therapist to the individual experiencing these symptoms.
1. Exposure Therapy
It is a therapy used to help people overcome their fear by exposing them directly to the fearful situation/ stimulus. It usually works on the people’s behavior of avoidance and tries to change or interrupt that pattern.
During this therapy process, the professional helps you through the situations and triggers around your fear. They help you experience the fear head-on and then give you tools to deal with it.
Exposure therapy helps in the following way:
- It helps you in processing the emotions behind this fear and helps you in creating a realistic belief system moving forward.
- It helps you unlearn the negative thoughts, reactions, reflexes, behaviors, and actions that are associated with the fearful stimulus.
- It believes that repeated exposure to the fearful situation or object makes it less intense over time and more bearable as each session passes.
- It also makes you more self-reliant and shows you how far you have come with the fearful situation.
All of the above can be achieved through one of the following types of exposure therapy:
- Imaginal exposure: Here the client is asked to deeply imagine the situation that they fear.
- In Vivo exposure: This involves the client actually interacting with the fearful situation in real life. With dystychiphobia, this may involve being around an accident site.
A recent 2020 study showed that in vivo exposure was the most effective treatment for various specific phobias.
- Virtual Reality exposure: Since visiting a crash site is not always feasible or possible, new VR technology can be used to mimic the fearful situation. With VR, it is possible to create specific situations and road stimulants that are exactly what the client fears. The closer it is to the client’s imagination, the more effective it is in VR.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps in reframing the negative thought that one has. CBT works on looking at a situation and changing how someone reacts to it by reflecting on their thoughts and behaviors.
Most of the time, CBT is used with exposure therapy to better strengthen the effectiveness of the therapy.
CBT will help a client to understand their thoughts of dystychiphobia, ask them questions regarding the situation to uncover the depth of the fear, give the client space to realize their negative thoughts and behaviors regarding this fear, and then work together on these thoughts and fear, to change them into something more acceptable and healthy.
It is a type of therapy where the therapist puts the client under hypnosis to remove the fearful feelings of the individual. Hypnosis is basically a heightened state of suggestion, concentration, and focused attention.
Hypnosis allows for changes in thoughts, behaviors, perceptions, memories, and emotions. Under hypnosis, people with dystychiphobia will learn to identify their triggers, learn acceptable and healthy ways to change, understand what to do to change, interrupt the pattern, and understand healthier alternatives to develop when feeling one-self triggered.
Professional diagnosticians may provide actual anti-anxiety meds to deal with the level of intense fear that people face. Medications should only be accepted from a mental health professional and adhered to as they instructed.
Medications usually lessen the symptoms that are present, so it is important to treat the source of the problem along with the symptoms.
5. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
MBSR is an effective relaxation-based method to help people deal with their phobias. MBSR has a group-based approach where you can also interact with other people suffering from phobias and get their insight and help when feeling overwhelmed by your fear.
MBSR teaches the client mindfulness-based meditation, relaxation techniques, and yoga. All of these techniques help the client to be centered, in control of their thoughts and take control of their stressors.
MBSR helps clients with effective tools and techniques that they are equipped with for life. Once they get a hang of it in the session, they can use it anytime, anywhere they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy’s main goal is to help people with their thoughts and emotions and help people live in the moment and develop healthy habits, as well as give them tools to regulate their emotions. DBT can be given in an individual setting, group setting, or over a phone call.
DBT addresses the negative behavior then addresses how it affects them and the people around them, and then helps them get the most out of their life which is to strengthen their behavior and make positive changes in their personal and professional life.
Self-care Tips for Dystychiphobia
These self-care tips are not meant as a replacement for therapy. These tips are there to enhance your experience with the therapeutic approach if you do suffer from dystychiphobia.
Self-care is important as these are minute and overall healthy lifestyle tips that would enhance your life regardless.
1. Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation generally help you get less stressed out and work exceptionally to give your life levity.
Yoga and meditation also enhance better concentration skills and make it a good habit to have, making focused attention a good skill to achieve for careful driving.
Yoga and meditation also open up the door for practical breathing techniques that help you in case of severe anxiety or stress.
2. Getting enough sleep
Sleep is important for our brains and bodies to function properly. Not getting enough sleep can cause unfocused, detrimental, and over-indulgent thinking. It can also make someone more prone to anxiety and irritability.
Enough sleep in one’s cycle makes an individual more sharper and focused to deal with life’s challenges. You will be easily stressed out if you do not get enough sleep.
Exercise can help people get that dose of adrenaline and get their brain a booster shot that is required to feel more adequate and woken up.
Exercising leads to a healthier lifestyle and therefore, is essential to people who are stuck in a fearful cycle. Getting out and exercising also helps you not focus on the fearful situation and be more active while giving your brain a break. From all the negative thinking.
In this, you imagine how you would cope with a fearful situation. When you feel your anxiety about accidents gets triggered, you visualize composing or calming images that relax you.
Visualization can be done at any place and helps strengthen coping with fearful situations.
5. Avoiding caffeine
It is a known fact that caffeine increases anxious feelings in an individual and also physically induces symptoms such as sweaty hands, heart racing, etc.
Limiting the intake of coffee can make the day-to-day experience and make it less intense if you do get a trigger for dystychiphobia.
6. Try out self-help groups
Self-help groups allow participants to share their stories and a sense of community is shared between those in the group. This provides for a non-judgemental peer group that one can rely on for understanding and help.
Summing up from the “PleasantMind”
Dystychiphobia is a serious phobia to overcome, especially since it severely affects one’s ability to travel anywhere. Even in a mostly online world, it is impossible to avoid not driving or getting in a vehicle. Therefore, it is important to seek help when you know you need it.
If left untreated, it can hinder you daily while making you feel worse about yourself and also hamper your relationship with other people around you. There are resources always available to help you understand what it is and how it affects you, but only a mental health professional can guide you to what is best for you.
Passionate about both writing and psychology. A Counseling psychologist by profession and a writer by desire. Her aim has always been to combine the two wherever she can. You can always catch her updating her reading list and reflecting on the world around us. Empathetic to a fault and hoping to help people enough to leave a positive impact.