Neophobia (fear of the new): symptoms, causes and treatment
Facing the new, everything that is unknown to us always generates a feeling of tension and even some nervousness. This response can be completely natural as long as it is within limits, due to not knowing what we are going to find or whether we will like it or not.
However, when this response becomes disproportionate and excessive, to the point of interfering with the person's daily life, we may be facing a case of neophobia . In this article we will discuss the characteristics that define it as well as the existing relationship with food neophobia.
- Related article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"
What is neophobia?
Within the long list of anxiety disorders or specific phobias, we find some conditions as curious as neophobia. This disorder is characterized by the experimentation of a disproportionate, persistent, irrational and uncontrollable fear of all those situations that are perceived as novel .
For these people, events such as facing the first day of work or school, as well as having to go to an unknown place or an experience that they had never before faced is practically impossible since the anguish and torment suffered make it impossible to face such situations.
There are a lot of situations that can generate fear and anxiety in neophobic people, including any type of change in their life or routine.
Patients with neophobia are characterized by being very routine, with very established patterns of life and preferences towards everything that is familiar. Therefore, this anxiety disorder becomes a protective shield for all those people who they feel afraid to break their routines .
On the other hand, nosophobia can manifest itself as a means to control what surrounds them, since a new situation necessarily implies a certain margin of uncertainty, which generates a fear of not being able to control the situation.
- Maybe you're interested: "Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics"
And the food neophobia?
Within the category of neophobia we find a special situation that, owing to its high incidence, has its own name. This is the food nosophobia. This type of alteration consists of constant, insistent and stressed resistance to try new foods .
That is, those people with food neophobia, avoid in all possible ways try or eat foods that have not tasted before. Although not always because, in the most severe cases, food neophobia can become an eating disorder, specifically it is presented as a symptom of the avoidance / restriction disorder of food intake.
This disorder occurs especially in young children , which manifest a strong resistance to eat some fruits or vegetables. In this specific case of infant feeding neophobia, this is associated with certain personality factors such as irritability, sadness or discomfort and tends to accentuate between two and 6 years of age.
After this stage, the symptoms of neophobia diminish, although they can remain until adulthood, being most of the time accompanied by other emotional symptoms such as anxiety and anguish.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of neophobia are those of any specific anxiety disorder , which include the experimentation of high levels of anxiety when facing the feared situation or even only when imagining it.
However, there are a large number of symptoms related to neophobia. These can be classified into physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms. Although they do not have to arise in the same way and with the same intensity in all people, they will have to experience signs of the three categories.
1. Physical symptoms
The experimentation of high levels of anxiety and anxiety caused by a phobic fear they usually bring about a series of changes and alterations in the organism. This is due to hyperactivity of the nervous system, which can cause the following symptoms:
- Increase in the cardiac rate
- Increase in the respiratory rate .
- Feeling of suffocation or shortness of breath.
- Increased sweating .
- Increase in muscle tension
- Gastric alterations .
- Dizziness and feeling dizzy.
- Nausea and / or vomiting
2. Cognitive symptoms
Along with the physical symptomatology, neophobia is characterized by presenting a series of distorted beliefs and irrational thoughts about the feared situation.In this case, to everything that is perceived as novel.
This cognitive symptomatology appears as follows:
- Intrusive and uncontrollable ideas about the supposed danger or risks of phobic stimulation.
- Obsessive speculations .
- Catastrophic imagination.
- Fear of losing control and not being able to manage the situation effectively.
3. Behavioral symptoms
Finally, the behavioral symptoms include all that repertoire of behaviors that the person carries out with the intention of avoiding or escaping from the feared situation. These behaviors are known as Avoidance behaviors or escape behaviors .
The first type, the avoidance behaviors, include all those acts that have as objective to avoid the encounter with a novel situation. Following the daily routine inflexibly or avoiding contact with everything that is not familiar makes it possible for the person to temporarily avoid experiencing feelings of anguish and anxiety characteristic of a phobia.
In contrast, escape behaviors appear when the person with neophobia has not been able to avoid the feared situation, so he will do everything possible to escape from the situation in the fastest way.
What causes does it have?
The task of concisely determining the origin of a phobia can be highly complicated, since there is not always an event that triggers it. In any case, the existence of a genetic predisposition, together with the experimentation of experiences and highly traumatic events , can favor the appearance of a specific phobia such as neophobia.
Likewise, there are many other factors that can predispose the person to develop a specific phobia. Among them are some personality types, cognitive styles or the influence of vicarious learning.
Is there a treatment?
In cases in which neophobia interferes significantly with the person's day-to-day life, it is advisable to go to a mental health professional . Currently you can find different psychological interventions that can promote the remission of symptoms until they disappear.
Psychological treatments of a cognitive-behavioral nature they use cognitive restructuring techniques that can help eliminate irrational beliefs and ideas, which often form the basis of this disorder.
This cognitive intervention is more effective if it is accompanied by treatments such as systematic desensitization or exposure in vivo which expose the patient, gradually and accompanied by a training in relaxation techniques, to the thoughts or situations that cause this fear.