Carcinophobia (extreme fear of cancer): symptoms, causes and treatment

Although the leading cause of death in adults today is heart problems, the fear of developing any type of cancer is much more prevalent in the population.

One of the main reasons why it can be found in carcinogenic diseases is irremediably associated with an image of extremely high suffering and anguish. This fact led to the development of a variety of specific phobia known as: carcinophobia.

    What is carcinophobia?

    As we have always clarified in articles describing a certain type of specific phobia, a normative or habitual fear does not have the same clinical significance as a phobic fear, existing between the two many and substantial differences.

    In the specific case of carcinophobia, this is part of anxiety disorders and involves an excessive, irrational and uncontrollable fear of suffering or developing some kind of cancer.

    This fear of developing a carcinogenic disease can be considered a specific type of hypochondria, In which the only conditions that the person fears are those characterized by the appearance of tumors or carcinomas.

    Comparison with other fears

    It should be clarified that the experience of feelings of fear and dread in the face of the possibility of developing is quite natural. As we have mentioned, the fact that this is a disease with a traumatic and painful development and course (both physically and psychologically) makes each case very striking, creating a sense of ubiquity.

    While it is true that cancer cases have increased dramatically in recent years and most people have experienced close cases, carcinophobia is an overreaction to this fact, because transforms a normal fear into an outrageous fear, With the consequent effects on daily life that this entails.

    The phobic fear that characterizes carcinophobia, and all specific anxiety disorders, is distinguished by being absolutely disproportionate and exaggerated, as well as irrational and permanent over time.

    In addition, in case of carcinophobia, the person tends to associate the symptoms or discomfort they experience with the onset of any type of cancer, Thus promoting a state of continuous anxiety and leading to information-seeking behaviors to thereby reinforce their suspicions.

    Finally, compared to other types of phobia in which the anxiety reaction only appears in the presence of a stimulus or a feared situation, carcinophobia is a constant fear because the fear simply arises from the expectations of the person, fueling a fear that escalates further in the presence of any cancer-related stimuli.

    What are the symptoms?

    The clinical picture of carcinophobia is similar to that of other specific phobias and its symptoms are related to the experience of severe anxiety states. This anxiety symptomatology is classified into three groups of symptoms: physical, cognitive and behavioral.

    1. Physical symptoms

    Specific anxiety disorders are characterized by causing an increase in the activity of the central nervous system in the person experiencing them. This increase generates a large number of changes and alterations at the physiological and organic level. These symptoms include:

    • Heart rate increased.
    • Increased respiratory rate.
    • Palpitations.
    • Feeling short of breath or suffocating.
    • muscle tension.
    • Increased sweating.
    • headache.
    • Gastric alterations.
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
    • Nausea and / or vomiting.
    • fainting.

    2. Cognitive symptomatology

    Like other phobias, in the symptoms of carcinophobia there are a number of beliefs or distorted thoughts about your chances of getting or developing any type of cancer.

    These irrational beliefs potentiate the development of this phobia and stand out because the person makes a series of illogical associations about the causes, risk factors or symptoms of cancer.

    3. Behavioral symptoms

    The third group of symptoms are behavioral symptoms, which refer to all the behaviors that a person adopts to avoid (avoidance behaviors) or flee (evasive behaviors) from potentially carcinogenic situations or agents.

    For example, people with carcinophobia they tend to avoid smoking areas or polluting places in which environmentally toxic agents capable of causing cancer may exist.

    Likewise, these people conduct constant research with the aim of determining which foods or products may be carcinogenic, as well as continually going to the doctor or requesting continuous medical examinations and examinations.

    Is there a treatment?

    In cases where worry or fear of developing cancer causes a person great anxiety or interferes with the progress of their daily life, it is strongly recommended to seek psychological help.

    Once the diagnosis is made, psychological intervention can take place. In the case of phobias, cognitive behavioral treatment has been shown to be the most effective system when it comes to decreasing and relieving the symptoms of phobia.

    Because the central symptomatology of carcinophobia is that linked to cognitive aspects. It is advisable to start treatment with cognitive restructuring, through which to banish irrational beliefs and ideas and to put the fear of cancer into perspective.

    In addition, this intervention can be accompanied by systematic desensitization techniques. This technique, accompanied by training in relaxation techniques, leads the person to mentally manage situations that generate fear and anxiety.

    These are just a few of the treatments or procedures that a person with carcinophobia can undergo. Outraged, it is also advisable to check with an oncology professional in order to avoid myths and false beliefs around cancer.

    Leave a Comment