Different people have different fears. While some fears are considered to be general fears, others are considered to be specific phobias. One of such specific phobia that we would love to explore today is placophobia.
Placophobia is the irrational fear of tombs and graves. As unusual as this fear may sound, so many people have this phobia. According to research, about 30% of people battle with this fear on a daily basis.
Placophobia is often related to some other phobias such as thanatophobia (fear of death), coimetrophobia, or koimetrophobia(meaning the irrational fear of cemeteries), necrophobia(fear of dead things or corpses), taphophobia(which is the fear of being buried alive).
Anyone who suffers from placophobia will do their best to stay away from tombstones, funerals, and anything that has to do with burial ceremonies. Often, a person who suffers from placophobia can develop severe anxiety attacks from just the mere thoughts of tombstones, let alone seeing them in reality.
In some cases, a person who has developed placophobia can have full-blown panic attacks when thinking or seeing tombstones. However, although it is not in all cases, some of them can’t handle the thought and will likely have panic attacks when confronted with their fear.
Some of the likely symptoms of people who have panic attacks due to placophobia include rapid heartbeats, increased heart rates, increased breathing rates, racing pulses, increased blood pressure, strained muscle tensions, and excessive sweat production, among others.
Like other phobias, people suffering from placophobia will go to great lengths to avoid their fears. Often, they go to extreme lengths to ensure that they are not exposed to tombs or graves in any way.
No matter who dies or how close a relationship they once shared with that person, they will ensure that they don’t participate in the funeral ceremony of that person. In some cases, people dealing with placophobia will avoid cemeteries even though they aren’t required to enter inside.
If they are driving and have to pass through a cemetery, they would rather avoid that route even if it means taking a longer route than driving by a graveyard. For people who suffer from placophobia, their main cause of mental anguish is their excessive worry and irrational way of thinking.
Although people with this condition often believe that avoidance will help them cope better and help them reduce the chances of having any panic or anxiety attacks. However, in the long run, they end up worsening their condition by increasing the symptoms of placophobia that they experience.
Causes of Placophobia
Just like other phobias, placophobia has no known cause. However, according to research, many psychologists believe that placophobia is often as a result of a combination of two different factors, namely;
Every human is made up of genetic components. Genes are what defines us and make us unique as humans. However, some parts of our genes are gotten from our parents. Hence, it is entirely possible for us to get some of our attributes from our parents, including some of our fears.
According to research, most people who have presented with certain specific phobias, including placophobia, have had parents who have dealt with one mental disorder or another. Hence, it is safe to say that if your parent or family member has had an anxiety disorder, then you are at a higher risk of developing placophobia.
However, it is essential to note that although you are at a higher risk of developing a phobia, you may likely end up developing a different phobia than that which your parent or a close relative had.
For example, if your parent had a phobia such as levophobia, you might end up developing a phobia that is different from theirs, for instance, placophobia.
Most times, for people who already have the genetic predispositions of developing placophobia they may end up not displaying that trait if there are no triggers around. Generally, before a genetic marker is being manifested, there has to be a trigger that is adequate enough to set that gene in motion.
In the case of placophobia, a person who already has that gene, which then goes on to have a traumatic experience strong enough to trigger the expression of that gene, will go on to develop placophobia.
There are a number of triggers that can result in the expression of that gene. They include;
The patient’s upbringing
Patients who have been raised by a set of people who have intense fears of tombstones can trigger the expression of placophobia in them.
In other words, if your parents or guardians have had an irrational fear of tombstones such that they tend always to have a feeling or sense of uncertainty and danger anytime they see a graveside, they can easily pass on this fear to their wards.
In the long run, the child goes on to develop placophobia, which becomes fully evident as he or she grows.
It is often said that the mind never forgets an experience that happens. A person can go on to develop placophobia following a past traumatic experience he or she had or following a one-time event that occurred and was said to the patient.
Symptoms of Placophobia
As it is seen in almost all phobias that exist, a person who has placophobia will most likely show signs of anxiety and panic attacks, especially when they are close to their triggers. As we have mentioned beforehand, some patients may begin to show extreme anxiety symptoms that can eventually result in a full-blown panic attack.
It is important to note that not everyone will develop panic attacks. Also, depending on how severe the panic attack is, some patients may need to be hospitalized before they feel better. However, there are many factors that will determine if the patient will be in need of medical assistance or not.
One of the striking signs that will tell you for sure that a person has developed placophobia is avoidance. When a person is dealing with any type of phobia(in this case, placophobia), most times, they tend always to try to avoid their fears.
Most times, this may mean that they will ensure that they don’t come in contact with their fears in any way. People who suffer from placophobia may have two different forms of symptoms; Physical and Psychological symptoms.
Most people who suffer from placophobia often experience panic attacks, which can be very distressing and frightening when they have such experiences. Sometimes, these symptoms show up without prior warning.
Usually, the patient may not even need to be near the trigger before experiencing a panic attack; the mere thought of tombstones and graveside is enough to trigger a response from them.
Some often think that panic attacks aren’t a thing; however, sadly, they are. A panic attack can trigger real physical responses such as;
- Intense sweating
- Tremors and trembling
- Chills or hot flushes; some may experience them sequentially.
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
- Feelings of being choked
- Tachycardia, which is often characterized by rapid heartbeats
- Racing pulse rates
- Chest angina which is characterized by pains and tightness of the chest
- Feelings of butterflies in the stomach
- The uncontrollable urge to vomit
- Dizziness and severe headaches, which often progresses
- Feeling faint
- Pin or needle sensations in the hands and legs
- Occasional numbness in both hands and legs
- Dry mouth
- Feelings of having to use the toilet continually
- Ringing in your ears
- Inability to think straight
- Disorientation and confusion
- An increase in blood pressure
- Sometimes, an increase in body temperature
For some people, in addition to the physical symptoms that they usually experience, they might experience psychological symptoms. Some of these symptoms include;
- Fear of having to lose control
- Fear of dying
- Feelings of dread
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of fainting
- Feelings of guilt, self-blame, and shame
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Irritability, mood swings, and Anger
Treatment of Placophobia
Many people who suffer from placophobia often think that they don’t need treatment. This is because they feel once they can avoid their fear, they are okay. However, they don’t realize that avoidance is only a quick fix and not a permanent solution to their anxiety.
Sometimes, avoidance may seem like you are in control of the situation; however, there are moments when avoidance won’t be enough or possible anymore. Hence, it is imperative that you seek professional help when it is possible.
Seeking professional help isn’t a sign of weakness, as you may think. It is a sign of strength and courage to do better with your emotions. It merely means you are ready to understand why you feel, behave, and act the way you do.
Although most phobias, including placophobia, are curable, however, there are no laid down treatment guides for all the phobias available for you to follow. In other words, the treatment of placophobia is highly dependent on the person who has the condition as well as its severity.
In most cases, a combination of treatment is often carried out. However, it is essential to note that no treatment option should be done on your own without the supervision of a health care professional.
You must always consult your doctor before using any of the treatment plans stated below. This article is strictly for information purposes and shouldn’t be used as a guide for treatment.
There are different treatment options that can be used in treating phobias; however, there are three options that are mostly used by psychiatrists, especially when treating placophobia. They include:
Talking treatment, also known as talking therapy or counseling, is a form of therapy that involves a one-on-one discussion with a seasoned and trained professional about how you think, react and act in response to your triggers.
Therapies are often classified as laid back treatments and are usually physically non-intrusive. There are many types of counseling sessions and talking treatments, but they all aim at doing the following:
- Help you understand yourself better and also make sense of things.
- help you take note of all the unhelpful patterns that can be seen in how you act, think, and behave as well as find ways to help you correct them.
- help you recognize and resolve all uncomplicated feelings that you may have and if they can’t be fixed, help you find ways to live with them.
- provide a safe place and time for you to talk to a person you know can help you and won’t judge you.
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of talking therapies; however, when it comes to the treatment of specific phobias, especially placophobia, therapists often employ the use of two types of therapies as they have been seen to be effective over time. They include;
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is often based on the concept that our behaviors are constantly being influenced by what we see and perceive. Anxiety, distress, and fear has the power to distort and rearrange our perceptions about reality such that we have a bent view on what reality is supposed to be like.
In other words, for people who suffer from placophobia, what they perceive as reality isn’t necessarily the reality hence their increase in anxiety levels. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy seeks to help the patient see that his view on reality isn’t the correct view that there is.
Once the patient can see other aspects of reality (using the correct lens), then it is not difficult to convince the patient of his or her false reality. CBT aims to identify the false reality of the patient as well as help them change their thoughts and views of their fears, in this case, placophobia.
Exposure therapy is usually done after Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Exposure therapy is often based on the understanding that whatever a person has a constant engagement with will, in the long run, not harm the patient.
People who have placophobia will often like to think that tombstones can somehow harm or react to them and would love to avoid such places. However, in exposure therapy, the patient is gradually introduced to his or her fears in a controlled environment, allowing the therapist to walk them through their fears and show them that their fears were nothing more than a distorted reality.
The use of Medications
Generally, medications are never recommended as the first step to treat phobias. In fact, it should be noted that drugs don’t treat phobias; instead, all they treat are the side effects of phobias, which are depression and/or anxiety.
Therapies are usually what is needed to help a patient overcome placophobia. However, in cases where the therapists detect certain side effects such as depression or anxiety, he or she may prescribe the following;
These three classes of drugs help in dealing with the side effects of phobia. However, it is essential to understand that one must never use these drugs except your therapist prescribes them else; one may become dependent and addicted if they are taken without control.
One of the most manageable groups of patients to treat are those who know that they have a problem, want to solve the problem, and are willing to do all that it takes for that problem to be solved. It is essential to know that one’s mental state is also part of your general well-being.
As such, you need to be intentional about taking care of your health and also how to control your phobia for tombstones. Doing this helps you quickly overcome placophobia and any other phobia that may arise in the near future.