Chemophobia is a rare psychological syndrome. People with this syndrome have an intense, irrational and persistent fear of chemicals that leads to many difficulties and obstacles in life. In addition, prolonged fear also increases psychological problems.
Chemophobia – What is Chemophobia?
Chemical is a term referring to substances, compounds and mixtures of substances that have chemical properties. It sounds abstract but in fact, chemicals are used very commonly in life. The development of the field of chemistry brings many benefits to life. However, a few people have an irrational, obsessive fear of chemicals.
Chemophobia is an extreme, excessive and irrational fear of chemicals. People with this syndrome often have a false perception of how dangerous chemicals are. Patients often have thoughts like chemicals will damage, erode the skin and cause cancer. Excessive fear causes patients to avoid using chemicals and favor products labeled “organic”.
Chemicals include not only man-made substances and compounds, but also natural things such as DNA, proteins, water, oxygen, etc. Therefore, chemical phobia will make patients face with many troubles in life.
Currently, Chemophobia is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, in essence, this syndrome is a form of phobic anxiety disorder, so it has similar symptoms and treatment. Therefore, if you suspect that you have this disease, you can seek medical examination and intervention.
What causes chemical fear syndrome?
Fear is considered a natural human response. Few people know that this emotion is actually the result of evolution. The amygdala inside the brain will create a feeling of fear before potentially dangerous situations to help people know how to protect themselves. However, due to some unusual problems, many people form an excessive and unreasonable fear of situations/objects that are not really dangerous.
Experts still don’t know the exact cause of chemophobia. Even so, several factors have been identified that are involved including:
- Having had a chemical-related accident: People who have experienced chemical-related accidents such as skin burns, irritations, fires, etc. may develop an excessive and irrational fear of chemicals. Negative experiences cause the amygdala to remember and “replay” feelings of fear and insecurity when in situations where the chemical components are present.
- Misperception: In the minds of many people, chemicals are something dangerous and unhealthy. This misperception may be the result of education and the influence of negative media coverage. Due to a lack of awareness of the dangers of chemicals, some people become fearful, anxious, insecure, and panicky when they see chemicals.
- Witnessing someone else’s cancer from chemicals: In fact, exposure to certain chemicals can increase cancer rates. However, the potential risks are much lower than the benefits that chemicals bring. However, if they see someone with chemotherapy-related cancer, some people may become fearful and avoid chemotherapy for fear of getting cancer or other incurable diseases.
The chemical ingredients used in the products are strictly controlled with appropriate concentrations. Therefore, the products on the market are not hazardous to health and can be used safely. However, people with chemical phobia (Chemophobia) still show fear, anxiety, and avoidance of use.
In some cases, the patient may be aware that his or her fear is irrational but cannot be controlled. This is why all cases of phobias and anxiety disorders need to be examined and treated.
Recognizing the fear of chemicals (Chemophobia)
In fact, when hearing the word “chemicals”, everyone has a feeling of apprehension and most prefer to choose benign and natural products. However, people’s anxiety is usually transient and does not affect quality of life. Meanwhile, chemical phobia causes excessive, unreasonable and persistent fear that makes life difficult and difficult.
Signs of chemical phobia:
- Always have negative thoughts about chemicals as chemicals will corrode the skin, poison the body and increase the risk of cancer.
- Fear and insecurity when hearing the word chemicals and may become panic when seeing products containing chemicals.
- Avoid using chemicals and often choose organic, benign products to feel secure when using.
- Carefully check the ingredient list and talk to the staff to make sure the product you choose does not contain chemical ingredients.
- Most people with chemical phobia choose public transport or ride an electric car for fear that gasoline may adversely affect their health.
- Do not use some products because of the belief that the chemical ingredients inside can be harmful to health. Products that patients often avoid are soap, dishwashing liquid, skin care products containing chemical ingredients, carbonated soft drinks, some toothpastes, mouthwashes, etc.
If accidentally exposed to chemicals or using products containing chemical ingredients, patients will become extremely afraid, panic and anxious. In this case, the patient will experience the following symptoms:
- Fear, extreme anxiety
- Dizziness, dizziness
- Nausea, vomiting
- Discomfort in the epigastrium
- Shortness of breath, shallow breathing
- Increase heart rate
- Chest pain
Patients can flare up these symptoms right in public places that can’t be controlled. This makes many people limit going out for fear that they will be examined by the unwelcome glances from those around them. Moreover, because of being aware of their own strange and unreasonable fears, patients easily form a lack of confidence and self-isolation.
Is chemical phobia dangerous?
All phobias and anxiety disorders affect health as well as quality of life. Therefore, people with chemical fear syndrome will face many consequences if they are not examined and treated promptly.
The first effect that the patient has to face is the inability to relax, the body is always in a state of stress, anxiety and insecurity because of the chemicals present around life. This mentality not only makes patients irritable and impatient, but also leads to many other problems such as insomnia, neck pain, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, etc.
In addition, constantly having to check the ingredient list also wastes time for patients. Besides, the behavior of avoiding the use of chemical-containing products will cause many inconveniences and obstacles in life. Choosing organic products instead of conventional products also costs patients money.
If not treated early, fear, anxiety, and stress can lead to mental stress and suffocation. Patients may turn to alcohol, tobacco and drugs to reduce stress and suffering. However, unhealthy habits can only reduce stress temporarily but have many potential long-term consequences.
Chemical phobia also makes patients afraid to go out for fear that they will panic and lose control in the crowd. Therefore, if there is no timely intervention, the patient will face guilt, lack of confidence and, more seriously, self-isolation.
Diagnosis of chemical fear syndrome
Phonophobia will be diagnosed based on the criteria of a phobic anxiety disorder. This syndrome is usually identified when the following 4 criteria are met:
Fear is irrational and disproportionate to the danger level of the object/situation
Intense fear lasting at least 6 months
Fear of chemicals leads to avoidance behaviors such as not using chemical products, refusing medical procedures using chemicals such as botox, fillers, alcohol antiseptics, etc.
Quality of life is significantly reduced due to fear of chemicals
Chemophobia syndrome will be diagnosed through clinical manifestations. However, if the symptoms are suspected to be caused by some other psychological problem, the doctor may order laboratory testing to rule it out.
Methods of treating chemical fear syndrome
Chemical phobia needs to be treated as soon as possible to avoid serious effects on health and life. The goal of treatment is to help patients improve their lives, reduce irrational fears, and gain better control of their own emotions.
Chemophobia can be accompanied by a number of other psychological problems, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression. In the case of multiple psychological problems at the same time, the treatment process will often be more complicated and take longer. However, in general, treatment interventions bring positive results for most cases of chemical phobia.
Methods used in the treatment of chemophobia include:
1. Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is considered the “golden key” for phobias and anxiety disorders in general and chemical phobia in particular. This therapy is highly effective in reducing irrational and excessive fear. Most people with chemophobia will get this treatment first.
Exposure therapy is performed by exposing the patient to repeated, progressively increasing levels of fear. This will help the amygdala adapt and reduce the fear of seeing or touching the chemical. The therapist exposes the patient to situations that cause mild to severe fear to avoid panic and agitation.
When exposed to fear, the specialist will guide the patient on how to deal with the fear and overcome the situation with ease. The exposure to fear is repeated until the person no longer reacts with fear to the chemical.
Although well-regarded for its effectiveness, the limitation of exposure therapy is its relatively high dropout rate. Because exposure to fear causes stress and increases anxiety levels. Therefore, this therapy is usually performed only by qualified and experienced professionals.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often applied to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. In addition, this method is also effective for the syndrome. chemical fear.
While exposure therapy eliminates fear by exposing the situation/object that causes fear, CBT helps patients correct misconceptions about chemicals. Most people with chemical phobia believe that chemicals will cause peeling, skin erosion and cancer. These negative thoughts make the person afraid to see or touch products containing chemicals.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, professionals help patients reframe their thinking and become more aware of the potential benefits and risks of chemical ingredients. In essence, chemicals bring countless benefits to human life and products on the market are rigorously tested before being circulated. By changing negative thoughts, patients can reduce irrational fears and contribute to improved avoidance behaviors.
3. Exercise relaxation therapy
Exercise relaxation therapy is part of a chemoprevention treatment plan. This therapy is considered for patients who are overly stressed by a fear of chemicals. Exercise relaxation therapy includes a variety of exercises to help relax, release emotions, and stress. Among them, qigong breathing and some yoga postures are most commonly applied.
Exercise relaxation therapy will be performed in parallel with the above two methods of therapy. Because exposure therapy can cause patients to become stressed and intend to give up treatment. Therefore, the specialist will instruct the patient in qigong breathing techniques, meditation and some yoga postures to control emotions. Maintaining mental stability will help patients persevere in treatment and have a better response.
4. Drug use
Most people with anxiety disorders do not need to use medication. Therapeutic interventions can effectively remove fear and help patients deal with negative emotions. However, taking medication will be considered in some cases such as patients with extreme stress, insomnia, hypertension, depression, etc.
All psychotropic drugs can cause dangerous side effects. Therefore, doctors only order drugs in cases of necessity. Medications that may be considered include:
- Sedatives: Benzodiazepines can be addictive and are rarely used. However, this class of drugs can be used short-term in low doses to improve insomnia, stress, and excessive anxiety.
- Antidepressants: Antidepressants are often used long-term because they are slow-acting. This group of drugs is considered for use in the presence of depression, depression, pessimism, anorexia, etc. There are many classes of antidepressants, but serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often preferred. used because of its high safety and few side effects.
- Other medications: Your doctor may consider adding beta-blockers, synthetic vitamins, and minerals. If the patient is debilitated, it may be necessary to take additional drugs to strengthen the brain and enhance nerve cell function.
5. Self-care measures
The process of treating chemophobia often takes a long time. For treatment to be successful, patients should have self-care measures to support the effectiveness of medication and psychotherapy.
Self-care measures for patients with chemophobia:
- Excessive fear of chemicals will make the mind always frustrated and stressed. Therefore, it is advisable to equip relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, warm bath, massage, drinking herbal tea, listening to music, etc. Performing these measures daily helps a lot in reducing stress. Straightforward and mentally stable.
- Chemophobia can cause physical problems such as headaches, insomnia, weakness, neck and shoulder pain, etc. To improve these symptoms, patients should exercise regularly and sleep for 7-8 hours. / day.
- Diet plays an important role in the treatment process. In fact, eating a balanced and scientific diet will help improve mood, reduce anxiety, depression, etc. Therefore, patients should increase healthy food groups, abstain from spices, fats, alcohol and drugs. caffeinated beverages.
- Patients can relieve their emotions by sharing with others or keeping a journal. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs as these habits will make your chemical fear worse.
- Chemical phobia increases the incidence of social anxiety and self-isolation. Therefore, patients should participate in volunteering, social activities, etc. to maintain interaction with people, and at the same time improve communication skills and expand relationships.
Chemical phobia is a rare psychological syndrome that has similar mechanisms to other phobias. This syndrome will be considered for treatment if it greatly affects health and quality of life. Therefore, patients should actively seek medical attention for timely diagnosis and therapeutic intervention.