Hypophobia (fear of horses): symptoms, causes and treatment
The horse has been for centuries a symbol of nobility, strength and loyalty. Throughout history and until the invention and popularization of the automobile these animals have accompanied man in almost all their movements.
The horses have been from ancient times to today highly valued, admired and loved by the vast majority of people, even leading to the dreams of many children. But for some people, seeing or encountering a horse can be cause for great discomfort and panic. This is what happens with people who suffer from hypophobia , an anxiety disorder related to this type of animals.
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What is hypophobia?
Hypophobia is called fear or extreme and exaggerated panic produced by the presence of horses . This fear may appear in the presence of equines themselves or in the expectation that they appear, although it may also appear (although generally to a lesser extent) before representations of these creatures.
It is a specific phobia referred to animals, which means the existence for at least six months of an exaggerated and excessive fear or panic in relation to the possible danger that the stimulus in question could imply. The person who suffers tend to avoid, or to endure with a very high level of anxiety, contact with these creatures. Previously it was considered that the person himself is usually aware that his reaction is exaggerated for the real danger involved, but at present does not require such recognition to diagnose it.
The vision or the mere idea of the proximity of a horse can cause in a person with hypophobia the emergence of a very high level of anxiety that in fact can lead to a crisis of anguish. Sweating, tremors, headache, nausea and vomiting are some of the most frequent physiological symptoms, along with tachycardia and hyperventilation.
Given that in our daily life it is not usual to find horses, as a rule this phobia usually does not cause a great interference in the daily life of the sufferer. However, fear can also be triggered in situations associated with the presence of horses or in which representations of these creatures appear, avoiding, for example, merry-go-rounds, amusement parks or fairs in which such representations may appear or even real animals.
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Causes of this phobia
Like other phobias, the causes of hypophobia are largely unknown. But nevertheless, there are different hypotheses regarding its appearance .
The main hypothesis in this regard is that which proposes that fear of horses is acquired, learned from experience. It is common for people who have suffered accidents, be it kicks or falls. It can also be learned vicariously , either because someone from the environment has suffered accidents related to these beings or has been visualizing or reading accident cases related to horses.
Another of the most common hypotheses is that which presents the phobia to certain stimuli such as something partly phylogenetically inherited by genes, a natural reaction that allows the human being to escape from a dangerous stimulation. Although horses are herbivores that would not hunt us and would not pose a threat at first, they are animals of great power and size: the kick of a horse has the potential to be deadly, and a stampede of these beings It could easily lead to the death of a person.
Treatment of fear of horses
As in the rest of phobias, one of the main and most effective treatments to apply for the treatment of hypophobia is exposure therapy . This therapy is based mainly on exposing the subject to the feared stimulus without using avoidance techniques until the anxiety and panic caused by the phobic element diminish until they become practically imperceptible
Generally it is carried out in a graduated way: it would be to make a hierarchy of phobic stimuli , with different items or stimuli that generate panic sorted according to the level of anxiety that this involves, to gradually expose the subject to these stimuli in a graduated way. For example, in the case at hand, it could begin with the exposure to images of equines to gradually increase the complexity and level of exposure, such as visiting and riding carousels, exposure to the vision of a equine live and go approaching little by little, perhaps to the point of touching or even ride on the animal.
In the long run, you can even consider visiting stables or even practicing equine therapy.However, this is an example: the items that must be discussed must be negotiated between the patient and the therapist depending on what the patient assumes anxiety (something that can vary a lot depending on the patient, even if the phobic stimulus is the same) and what he is willing to do.
Beyond the exhibition, Cognitive restructuring can be very helpful in combating distorted beliefs and maladaptive, as for example a possible vision that approaching a horse will cause it to be hostile, that these are aggressive, that the subject is unable to cope with his panic or that he is most likely to fall a horse if it gets to ride.
The use of relaxation techniques can be helpful in the face of the emergence of anxiety, whether it is to prepare for a possible exposure as well as to reduce the internal tension associated with their panic.