Ailurophobia is the name that receives persistent, abnormal and unjustified fear towards cats. This disorder is also known as elophobia and deals with a specific type of phobia.
People with ailurophobia experience high feelings of anxiety every time they detect the presence of a cat. Likewise, the fear caused by these animals makes the subjects with this alteration constantly avoid contact with them.
Although cats are domestic animals that are perceived as harmless by a large number of people, ailurophobia is not a rare disorder in society.
At present, ailurophobia is a disorder that is well defined and has effective interventions to overcome the phobic fear of cats.
In the present article the characteristics of this disorder are reviewed. Its symptoms, causes and diagnosis are explained, and the interventions to be performed to overcome ailurophobia are discussed.
Ailurophobia is a type of animal phobia. Specifically, it is a phobic alteration in which the person suffering from it experiences an irrational, excessive and uncontrollable fear towards cats.
Thus, it consists of an anxiety disorder in which the main manifestations are related to anxious alterations.
People with ailurophobia experience elevated feelings of anxiety whenever they are exposed to cats. For this reason, it is common for subjects with this disorder to systematically avoid contact with these animals.
Ailurophobia can be a slightly disabling disorder for those people who are not forced to contact cats on a regular basis.
However, suffer this alteration is a significant reduction in the quality of life of the person. The fact of being exposed to a cat at any time generates a response of intense and unpleasant anxiety for the subject.
The fear of cats
Cats, unlike other animals, do not usually transmit threatening properties to people. In fact, in most cultures is a domestic animal with which individuals are accustomed to live together.
However, not all people have the same liking for these animals. There may be individuals who enjoy the company of cats and people who are suspicious of them.
In order to establish the diagnosis of ailurophobia, it is necessary for the person to present two main characteristics.
First, as the definition of the disorder itself indicates, the individual must be afraid or afraid of cats.
Second, it is necessary that the fear experienced by the individual is characterized by being phobic.
In this sense, not all fears of cats can be included in the diagnosis of ailurophobia. To be able to perform the necessary that the fear experienced is characterized by:
To be excessive
Experiencing certain feelings of suspicion or discomfort towards cats does not imply the presence of ailurophobia.
For the fear of cats can be considered phobic, it is necessary that this is excessive and disproportionate compared to the demands of the situation.
For a person with ailurophobia to come into contact with a cat involves experiencing extremely high feelings of fear.
Another important characteristic of phobic fear of cats is their incongruity. The typical fear of ailurophobia is characterized by being irrational and not being associated with coherent thoughts.
This factor is perceptible even for the subject who suffers ailurophobia. The person is aware that their fear is disproportionate and irrational.
Although the individual with ailurophobia is aware that his fear of cats is excessive and, on occasion, may wish to fear these animals less, he can not avoid healings of fear.
The phobic fear appears automatically and the person is not able to do anything to control or manage it.
Lead to avoidance
The phobic fear of cats is so high that it leads to the constant avoidance of these animals.
The person with ailurophobia will do everything he can to avoid contact with the cats since this involves experimenting with highly distressing sensations.
The fear of ailurophobia is not subject to temporary factors. In certain life stages, especially during childhood, people may have a greater predisposition to fear animals in general.
However, the fear of this disorder is characterized by being permanent. The person suffering from ailurophobia will present a phobic fear to the cats throughout their life if they do not perform the relevant treatments.
Apart from the specification of phobic fear of cats, in order to establish the presence of ailurophobia it is necessary that the person presents a series of manifestations every time they are exposed to these animals.
In this sense, the symptomatology of ailurophobia is characterized by being mainly anxious. The fear of cats is so high that it generates intense feelings of anxiety.
The most typical symptoms of the disorder are the physical ones. The person with ailurophobia will experience a series of changes in the functioning of their organism whenever it is exposed to a cat.
These modifications are produced by the increase in activity of the autonomic nervous system that generates phobic fear in cats and is mainly characterized by:
- Increase in the cardiac rate
- Increase in the respiratory rate.
- Increased sweating
- Increase in muscle tension.
- Pupillary dilation
- Dry mouth.
- Dizziness, nausea or vomiting.
- Sensations of unreality
Beyond the physical symptoms, a series of cognitive manifestations are present in ailurophobia. That is, one followed by thoughts associated with cats.
The thoughts of ailurophobia can adopt very different modalities and contents. Each person with this disorder can think different things about cats. However, the cognitive symptoms of ailurophobia are characterized by two main elements:
- Irrational thoughts result.
- They attribute highly dangerous and dangerous properties to cats.
Ailurophobia has well-established diagnostic criteria that allow determining the presence of psychopathology and differentiating it from “normal” fears towards cats or other anxious disorders.
In this sense, in order to establish the diagnosis of ailurophobia it is necessary that the person meets the following criteria.
- Fear or intense anxiety caused by cats (phobic element).
- The phobic element almost always causes fear or immediate anxiety.
- The phobic element is actively avoided or resisted with fear or intense anxiety.
- Fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the real danger posed by the phobic element and the sociocultural context.
- Fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, and typically lasts six or more months.
- Fear, anxiety or avoidance causes clinically significant discomfort or deterioration in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
- The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder.
Ailurophobia is a disorder that may be caused by different elements. In fact, today it is agreed that this alteration does not present a single cause and that various factors can contribute to its development.
In this sense, it must be borne in mind that it is often complex to detect specific elements that are directly related to the phobia. The anxious alteration seems to be motivated more by the feedback of different factors than by the effect of direct causes.
The factors that seem to have a greater association with the development of ailurophobia are:
Having lived negative or traumatic experiences related to cats seems to be one of the most potent factors for the development of ailurophobia.
Vicarious or informative conditioning
Having visualized traumatic images related to cats or having received educational styles during childhood in which special emphasis is placed on the rejection of cats could also be an important factor.
Although there are no specific data, many authors postulate that, as with most anxiety disorders, ailurophobia could present genetic factors in its development.
In this sense, having relatives who suffer from anxious alterations increases the risk of developing anxiety disorders, among which ailurophobia is included.
Finally, it is postulated that people with anxious personality traits or cognitive patterns focused on the damage received could present a higher risk of suffering from any type of phobia, including ailurophobia.
Currently, the treatment of first choice for ailurophobia is cognitive behavioral treatment. This type of psychotherapy has very high efficacy rates in the intervention of phobic fears and is a more appropriate therapeutic tool than pharmacotherapy.
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The cognitive – behavioral treatment is mainly based on exposure as a therapeutic element. The realization of a gradual and controlled exposure to cats allows the subject to get used to their phobic elements and gradually overcome their fear and anxiety response.