Humans can feel fear for a wide variety of objects or situations, a reaction that can be normal as long as that fear is objective and realistic. However, there are times when a person can feel great fear of seemingly harmless things, as is the case with anthophobia, the irrational fear of flowers.
In this article, we will delve deeper into the most characteristic aspects of this disorder and review its causes, symptoms and consequences.
What is Anthophobia
Antophobia may not be one of the most well-known phobias, but it is one of the most curious. This pathology is an intense and irrational fear of flowers, that they are stimuli that pose little or no real danger. On the other hand, it is something that happens with all phobias: even if you do not know how to explain why, the person develops an irrational fear of elements which are in principle harmless. The cause of this has to do with the functioning of emotional memory, as we will see.
With the exception of individuals who may be allergic, the majority of the population should not be afraid of the reproductive system of most plants; however, some people are afraid of flowers and this disorder can become very disabling for them.
Phobias belong to the group of anxiety disorders and hence one of the most characteristic symptoms that people experience with this condition are anxiety and distress (In addition to fear). Phobics tend to avoid the dreaded stimulus in an attempt to reduce the discomfort. Fortunately, and despite the great suffering that this phobia can cause, anthophobia is curative.
Causes of this phobia
People who develop a phobia are not born with this disorder, But they learned it. In most cases, this happens implicitly after a traumatic experience that causes negative and intense emotions. Phobias are learned through classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning is a type of learning that occurs by pairing a stimulus that is originally neutral with another that elicits a fear response. A person may have had a negative experience while running in a flower garden, and the impact of this situation causes that the next time you meet a flower, you develop great anxiety and a disproportionate fear of the seemingly innocuous situation.
- If you want to know more about classic conditioning, you can read our article: “Classic conditioning and its most important experiences”
They are also learned by observation
But experiencing a traumatic situation is not only the only cause of the onset of anthophobia, but phobias can appear as conditioning by proxy. For example, seeing a scary movie in which roses appear in bloody scenes from the movie. In this way, an association is created in our mind between a stimulus which in principle did not have a very important emotional charge (flowers) and another which causes us aversion, so that we perceive the first makes us feel bad because of this “emotional memory”.
Phobias do not respond to logical arguments, largely because the emotion of fear is tied to the primitive brain. In this regard, some experts claim that phobias are caused by primary associations and have a survival function and not by cognitive associations.
Symptoms of fear of flowers
Symptoms of phobias appear by imagining or coming into contact with the stimulus, in this case the flowers. Anxiety and avoidance of stimuli are some of the most characteristic symptoms; however, the phobic experiences cognitive, behavioral and physical symptoms.
The most characteristic cognitive symptoms are irrational fear, anxiety, catastrophic thoughts, lack of concentration, or confusion. It is also common for intrusive ideas to be presented, And usually “mental images” which cause great discomfort and which appear in the consciousness in a disturbing way, without anything being done to prevent it.
The most characteristic behavioral symptom is avoidance of the stimulus. Regarding the physical symptoms, we can highlight:
- Difficulty in breathing
- rapid pulse
- dry mouth
Treatment of anthophobia
The cases of anthophobia are not very frequent, but they are those of phobic disorders in general. For this reason, a lot of research has been carried out in this direction, which has led to the development of very effective treatments to put an end to these irrational fears. Thus, although these pathologies cause great suffering, the prognosis for the patients is good.
When seeking help, the first step many phobics take is to go to a general practitioner, but the option is to receive treatment from a professional psychologist. There are many methods that work for treating phobias, but the best known and the one that seems to work the best is cognitive behavior therapy. This form of therapy consists of different techniques, among which relaxation and breathing techniques stand out and exposure techniques.
For the treatment of phobias it is usually applied by systematic desensitization, Which includes the two previous techniques, and which gradually exposes the patient to the dreaded stimulus. Of course, you must first learn coping strategies like relaxation and breathing techniques.
In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or acceptance and engagement therapy have also been shown to be very effective. Both types of psychotherapy belong to third generation therapies.
- If you would like to know more about third generation therapies, you can read our article: “What are third generation therapies?”
Treatment of phobias today
In recent years, the development of new technologies has also made it possible to differentiate the treatment of phobias, since it is now easier to create situations in which the person feels close to the phobic stimulus. In addition, this can be done at the same consultation where psychological intervention services are offered, in a controlled manner and with a professional supervising the process.
The emergence of virtual reality allowed the patient not to be exposed to the phobic stimulus, But you can do it by simulating reality. Some psychologists use this technique with excellent results, which can also be found in mobile applications. You can read more about this topic in our article: “8 applications to treat phobias and fears of your smartphone”