The chaetophobia is a type of specific phobia in which it has an excessive and irrational fear hairs. Caeto means keratin fiber called hair and phobia comes from fobos (in ancient Greek “panic”, personification of “being afraid” in Greek mythology, son of Ares and Aphrodite).
Specific phobias are classified within the Anxiety Disorders. In every phobia, the individual who suffers it gives an irrational fear to the object that causes that fear.
In the case of Chaetophobia, it is not only characterized in individuals who have an excessive fear of hair, but also in fear of furry individuals and animals. It is an irrational fear of both human hair and the hair of animals. This fear prevents us from being able to lead a normalized daily life, limiting the individual and damaging social life.
Throughout this article we will indicate its characteristics, its causes and its consequences, as well as possible effective treatments so that through all this information you can better understand its operation.
Although most specific phobias do not have a cause alone, there is a factor that can be considered prevalent in the case of catophophobia. This is usually a past event that has marked the patient and has not finished solving or closing correctly.
In psychological terms, we would be talking about classical conditioning, vicar conditioning (or the acquisition of behaviors through observation), information acquisition in the childhood of the individual, and, in some cases, there may be a genetic factor.
Particular characteristics of catopofobia
In chaetophobia, fear is not rational, but corresponds to a disproportionate fear accompanied by irrational thoughts. This fear occurs both in the presence of the phobic stimulus and in anticipation.
Sensation of complete lack of control
Fundamental characteristic of specific phobias. In the case of chaetophobia, the feeling of lack of control is intense every time the individual has to face the hair.
In daily life, there are many situations in which hair is an element that is irremediably present, so that discomfort is constant. Specifically, they are in situations of cleanliness or contact with others where the individual with this phobia can show more discomfort.
Need for avoidance
Due to the feeling of absolute lack of control before the situation, the individual has a complete need to avoid the object or phobic situation.
This avoidance or flight from any situation in which you can see yourself in danger affects your normal daily life with all the disturbances that this entails.
It is maladaptive
Fear in a fair and reasonable measure; it has always been considered as adaptive in the survival of the living being. The adaptive fear is a set of sensations that are set in motion as a normal response to real dangers (Marks, 1987), which benefits us to get away at times when our lives are in danger.
However, when intense fear develops in situations in which there is no real threat to the living being, it becomes maladaptive.
It is a long-term disorder
One of the ways in which it can be differentiated if it is a rational fear or a phobia is its duration and frequency over time.
If it is a specific fear, which occurs in isolation, we can not consider it a phobia. Phobias, in addition to their frequency, persist in the different stages of the individual (childhood, adolescence, and adult stage) if they are not treated by a professional.
This fear can not be argued
It is another of the fundamental characteristics of specific phobias, specifically of chaetophobia. This means that excessive fear of hair can not be explained in an objective way in relation to events. It is completely irrational, without objective evidence that can justify it.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the therapeutic alternatives for phobias, which we now call specific or simple, were basically reduced to treatment with psychoanalysis. From the work of Joseph Wolpe (1958), the so-called behavior therapy came stomping in the field of phobias.
Every phobia must be treated since it is an anxiety disorder that usually affects notably the individual’s daily life. In this type of problem has been contrasted a high efficiency of psychological therapy.
Therefore, it is not a disorder that can be cured, but if treated in time there is a high percentage of individuals who are cured. Psychotherapy must be performed by a Clinical Psychologist specialized in specific phobias for a good resolution of the problem.
The techniques that are most used in therapy to deal with a specific phobia are:
Exposure to the feared stimulus live or imagination
In the case of chaetophobia, since it is a specific phobia, the most appropriate treatment is gradual exposure. In the gradual exposure in vivo, the phobic situations are hierarchized so that later the individual can confront the dreaded object (the hair) little by little in order to perform the desensitization.
Thus, the advisable thing in this case is to make the visual exhibition to the hair to later pass to the visual exhibition including the physical contact with the phobic stimulus. Several investigations have proven how this technique is the most effective in the short and long term for the treatment of specific phobias.
In addition to individuals responding quickly to the technique, the benefits would last over time. There are cases of phobias in which for various reasons you can not make a live exposure so it is carried out, instead, exposure in imagination.
When performing this technique, emphasis will be placed on controlling the avoidance of these phobic situations until the anxiety in the subject decreases.
Scientific research shows that the success of this technique to treat specific phobias is due to the fact that exposure in the absence of the dreaded consequences results in the extinction of phobic reactions (both physiological and physical).
Anxiety control techniques
Anxiety control techniques are a group of techniques whose main function is the control and reduction of anxiety. All of them are of special importance at the time of facing the first stages in which the levels of anxiety are very high.
Among these are:
- The relaxation techniques: the subject is taught to manage and distracted from their anxiety by learning responses incompatible with anxiety. Some of these incompatible responses usually used are muscle distension or learning slow diaphragmatic breathing.
- Distraction and self-instructions.
Informative therapies, biliotherapy or psychoeducation
In these therapies the professional will have as objective that the patient investigates in the search of the determinants and maintaining factors of his phobia, with the intention that this research helps to encourage him to elaborate a plan of therapeutic action together with the professional.
For this, information will be provided about the causes or factors that originate and / or maintain phobic behavior.
Cognitive-behavioral therapies and virtual reality
These types of techniques are more recent than behavioral techniques. These are used in most cases in combination with exposure techniques, tandem through which the effectiveness of the treatment is increased.
In this area, the most used techniques are emotional emotive therapy (Ellis, 1962, Warren and Zgourides, 1991), training in stress inoculation (Meichenbaum, 1977, 1985) or systematic rational therapy (Golfried, 1977), all they are adapted to the treatment of specific phobias.
The objective of these therapies is to change the patient’s thought patterns, maintaining the emphasis on the difference between realistic and unrealistic thoughts or the difference between possible and probable (Marshall, Bristol, & Barbaree, 1992).
Therefore, the final objectives are that the individual can benefit from them in order to reduce anxiety over exposure therapies, in addition to correcting those irrational thoughts and modifying them by adaptive attributions of motor and physiological reactions (Anthony, Craske & Barlow, 1995 Shafran, Booth & Rachman, 1992).
The main consequence suffered by people with this phobia is that they need to be away from those individuals who have abundant hair and, in addition, have strange behaviors if circumstances make them stay close to someone’s hair.
There are even cases in which the problem is so great that the individual becomes averse to himself reaching the point of tearing his own hair. Likewise, they often feel discomfort every time they need to look in the mirror.
Some of the situations in which these individuals may be involved and in which they will suffer a noticeable feeling of discomfort may be:
- Feelings of disgust when washing hair, feelings that increase if this event is accompanied by hair loss.
- Upset each time the person has to cut their hair.
- Aversion to all those animals with hair. These individuals show great difficulty to visit any house where they live with an animal, especially a dog or cat.
- Difficulty to perform the daily tasks of cleaning the bathroom.
- Feelings of anguish every time you have to come in contact with someone or something with abundant hair.
- In the physiological plane, when the individual faces the phobic stimulus (the hair) a series of physiological responses are produced that are characterized by an increase in the activity of the SNA ( autonomic nervous system ): increase in the cardiac and respiratory rate, sweating , inhibition of salivation, stomach contractions, nausea, diarrhea, elevation of blood pressure, etc.
- Finally, on the cognitive or subjective level, the individual displays a whole series of beliefs about the feared situation and its ability to cope with it.
We can conclude by way of summary that the etiology of chaetophobia is still to be determined with precision. However, in relation to the treatments, cognitive-behavioral therapy is the one that has been most useful when dealing with the problem.