Atomosophobia (fear of a nuclear explosion): symptoms, causes, treatment

Atomosophobia is a clear example that humans can develop extreme fears of highly improbable phenomena. This mental disorder is based on the fear of atomic explosions, which the vast majority of the population has never known or will experience.

Let’s see what are the symptoms and causes of atomosophobia, As well as the possible psychological treatments associated with this disorder.

    What is atomosophobia?

    Atomosophobia, or nuclear explosion phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that belongs to the group of specific phobias.

    In him, which produces one intense fear is waiting for a nuclear explosion in a nearby location. This means that symptoms of the disorder do not only manifest if one of these outbursts is observed, but can appear in virtually any setting, as long as intrusive ideas related to this type of disaster are at the center of it. attention of the person.

    It should be noted that phobias are disorders because in them there is a fear of something that should not be feared with such intensity, As it does not present any danger. In the case of nuclear explosions, it is clear that these are dangerous, but in this case the problem is a question of probability: what should not be feared is the risk of an imminent nuclear explosion and imminent, because the more it is certain that this will be the case. not happen.

      the causes

      As with other phobias, there is no single specific cause that is the same in all cases, but there are a variety of situations that can lead to the development of these disorders and the persistence of their symptoms.

      Exposure to a traumatic experience linked to real or imaginary nuclear explosions is one of the causes. This association between the experience and an emotional state of high anxiety can be achieved in the most elaborate way.

      For example, living near a collapsed house, which looks like a bomb exploded, or seeing a loved one die of cancer, in this case the most anxious of the nuclear explosion would be radiation that he would leave in his path. .

      It should be noted that phobias are based on mechanisms inherent in fear and anxiety which in most cases they are useful for survival, But that in some cases can escalate and give way to psychopathology.

      This means that these anxiety disorders are not something that can be controlled by rationality, but are based on the emotional facet that has been floating for millions of years at the heart of the functioning of the nervous system and without existence we could not understand l ‘human. listen.


      As for the symptoms, they are common to any type of phobia, and they all have to do with a strong anxiety reaction to a real or imagined stimulus.

      On the one hand, there are the symptoms of a physiological type. These are increased blood pressure and respiratory rate, tremors, cold sweats, nausea, and the possibility of passing out.

      On the other hand, there is the psychological component, in which obsessive ideas based on the image of the nuclear explosion stand out, and the inability to draw attention to something else while the crisis lasts, as well as the feeling of fear.

      Finally, we have the purely behavioral part, in which the escape behaviors and the avoidance of the phobic stimulus stand out.


      Fortunately, phobias have a good prognosis if they are treated with the help of professional psychologists.

      In this sense, the most common techniques to treat this type of disorder in which we find atomosophobia are systematic desensitization and exposure. Both are based on the idea of ​​exposing the person to the phobic stimulus in a controlled situation, under the supervision of the psychotherapist, and moving from the easier to the more difficult situations.

      In the case of atomosophobia, since it is not possible to find the phobic stimulus in real life, the most useful is take advantage of forms of virtual reality based on a three-dimensional graphics engine.

      On the other hand, in parallel, psychological intervention pathways can be used which appeal to the cognitive component and mental patterns. For this, cognitive restructuring is used, in this case related to improving self-esteem and personal efficiency.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cavallo, V. (1998). International Manual of Cognitive and Behavioral Treatments for Psychological Disorders. Pergamum.
      • Myers, KM, Davis, M. (2007). “Mechanisms of fear extinction.” Molecular psychiatry. 12 (2): pages 120-150.

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