They give us bad news, we get up too quickly, we exercise too much, we have heatstroke, or we feel in such extreme pain that it causes us to pass out. These are all situations that can lead to fainting, which is understood as a transient loss of consciousness that occurs and that is extremely common.
Almost no one likes to faint, because it involves a feeling of discomfort before and after loss of consciousness and puts us in a vulnerable situation; but for some people, the mere idea of being able to do so generates intense panic which greatly complicates their daily lives. It’s asthenophobia, Trouble which we will talk about in this sense.
What is asthenophobia?
It is understood asthenophobia in the ‘ by extreme or phobia to pass out. It is a specific phobia, which involves the existence of a high level of panic and anxiety about the presence or exposure of a stimulus or a particular situation.
This disorder is classified under the group of phobias of blood injection injury or SID. This problem can appear uniquely and without other problems, but also it is usually linked to other psychiatric disorders such as agoraphobia, In which there is fear of suffering some sort of accident in situations where it is difficult to receive help (such as in open spaces where there are many people or where there are very few people, or in closed and crowded places such as public transport).
Likewise it may be linked to panic disorder. And it is that the anticipatory anxiety typical of this disorder eases the symptoms that can be associated with dizziness and weakness or in some cases even causing fainting.
Interestingly, damage and blood-related phobias can have a physiological response that can lead to fainting or sensations related to debilitation and the presence of damage, so the phobia itself favors the occurrence of the situation. generating panic.
Physical sensations such as sweating, dizziness, or a feeling of weakness are common in anxiety, but are also common shortly before passing out. In this way, the anxiety itself is sent back to itself, which makes this problematic thing that it generates a lot of suffering for those who experience it.
This panic and anxiety can lead to it strong physiological activation, causing tachycardia, hyperventilation, sweating, tremors, tingling… and even an anxiety attack.
The fear that arises usually generates anticipatory anxiety, which leads the person to avoid any situation in which what is feared or related to may arise.
Assignment in daily life
Asthenophobia is a very common condition in several conditions such as agoraphobia, and can have a big impact on people who have it. It should be noted that feelings of weakness and dizziness can occur for several reasons.
like that, exercise, intense heat, or nervousness can lead to anxiety in these people if they come to see themselves as a risk or associate it with the possibility of passing out, especially if this has happened before. They may also avoid crowds or public transportation, if they also suffer or end up suffering from agoraphobia. This can hamper their leisure time or even lead to alterations in their work performance depending on the professional field in which they work.
Likewise, health problems such as low blood pressure, feverish episodes, or those that cause weakness or dizziness they can be experienced as something traumatic as they can be associated with the possibility of passing out. Pregnancy can also be a very painful stage, due to hormonal changes and the risk that fainting can harm the baby as well.
In addition, the fear of fainting will prevent actions that could pose a risk in the event of unconsciousness. among them we can find for example to drive or handle heavy machinery. too much this can lead to situations of dependence on others, Not being able to leave the house alone for fear of fainting.
Possible causes of this disorder
The exact causes of this or other phobia are not known, but in general we can talk about the interaction of a wide variety of factors and there are many theories of respect.
First of all, it should be borne in mind that this phobia can have evolutionary significance: fainting means losing consciousness and being in a state of vulnerability which in nature could mean death. In this sense, it could be a kind of phobia for which there is a certain hereditary predisposition, because it warns us of an evil.
Another common explanation can be found in the experience of aversive and even traumatic experiences that have been associated with fainting. For example, passing out in public and being teased and harassed for it, having experienced or witnessed some sort of traumatic event in which unconsciousness ended up having painful repercussions. It is even possible that the aversive event that the fainting was associated with happened to another person.
It is also possible that the phobia was born through the acquisition of cognitive patterns in which fainting is linked to weakness. This is especially relevant in rigid environments where vulnerability is neither allowed nor punished. Thus, there may be a deficiency in the educational models that have been received throughout life.
Asthenophobia can be a crippling problem, but luckily it is possible to treat it with psychotherapy. As with other phobias, the most effective is exposure therapy.
This type of therapy consists of developing a hierarchy of anxious situations between the patient and the therapist which can be ordered according to the level of discomfort they generate, for later and starting with the intermediate level to make an exposure to the stimuli. dreaded, until the anguish subsides. down alone (or, if another procedure known as systematic desensitization is used, until it has been successfully reduced through activity incompatible with anxiety).
Gradually and as the subject manages to lower his level of anxiety (at least halfway), he will rise in the hierarchy.
In the case of asthenophobia, exposure may be made to situations avoided by fear of fainting in order to reduce the impact on a daily basis. But it is also necessary, to treat it truly, to make an interoceptive exposure. That is, to expose the subject to sensations similar to those he would experience when he is close to fainting.
It is also necessary to work on the cognitive level: it is necessary to discuss the reason for this fear, which it implies for the subject or how it limits it, as well as to restructure the possible biases and the inappropriate beliefs. It may be useful to consider the risk and the actual likelihood of fainting, or in the event of traumatic events (such as rape or a car accident), this factor should be carefully developed and help to restate the problem. ‘event. in a way that does not limit the patient’s life.
Finally, the use of relaxation techniques can be helpful, and even in extreme cases, certain anxiolytics may be prescribed in order to work on the problem more easily (although this is generally not recommended).
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.