Cat phobia (aelurophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

Cats are one of the favorite pets of humans; but while some individuals love these little creatures, others feel intense fear of them.

It seems hard to believe that there are people out there who feel scared by the presence of these animals, especially since a lot of scientific research has shown that these little cats bring a lot of benefits to humans. For example, they help prevent allergies in children, improve self-esteem and mood, or prevent respiratory infections. however, the world of phobias is diverse and to some extent independent of rationality.

    Cat phobia: what is it

    While cats tend to have a reputation for being a bit selfish and selfish, especially when there is food in between, a scientific study found that they love humans more than we think. (you can find out more about this study by clicking here). But whether we like cats more or less, some people they have an irrational fear of these animals, A fear that causes them great anxiety and makes them try to avoid their presence at all costs.

    this disorder it is known as aliurophobia or phobia in cats.

    A phobia is an extreme, irrational, and persistent fear of a particular object, activity, or situation. It belongs to the group of anxiety disorders, in which exposure to the dreaded stimulus can cause different symptoms such as nervousness, anxiety, sweating, tremors, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, etc. The phobia towards cats is totally irrational, and even if a cat does not represent a real danger to such people, its mere presence can trigger this strong involuntary reaction.

    What are the causes of this phobia

    Experts say phobias have different causes, although the most common is the occurrence of a traumatic event from the past.

    For example, when a child is bitten by a cat, he may generalize and see all animals of that species as potential attackers, whether aggressive or tame. This goes for a type of associative learning called classical conditioning, Which was originally discovered by Ivan Pavlov and later popularized by John Watson.

    Classical conditioning is also referred to as the learning stimulus response or RE. If you want to delve into how this learning happens. you can read this article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”

    False beliefs can also cause this phobiaBecause cats are often associated with black magic, witchcraft, sadism, and evil, especially black cats, thanks to Halloween legends, superstitions, and countless literary works.

    In addition, some researchers believe that genetic origin it may or may not promote the development of phobias, which means that some people are more likely to suffer from this type of fear than others. Other experts believe that personality plays an important role in phobias, as people with anxious personality traits are more likely to suffer from this irrational fear.

    What are the characteristics of this pathology

    Phobias are a far cry from the fear that a person may have towards a cat who may show an aggressive attitude. And it is that normally cats are generally not a threat to humansBut they feel very comfortable in their presence, especially domestic cats. Some of them, in fact, seek constant displays of affection when around people.

    In order for the fear of cats to be considered a phobia, it must be irrational and not be associated with coherent thoughts, cause great discomfort in the presence of any cat, be persistent, be uncontrollable and therefore avoid phobic stimuli, in this case, cats.

    Symptoms of aliurophobia

    The most common symptoms of aelurophobia in men are:

    • Extreme, irrational fear (can also be caused by a thought or picture of a cat)
    • Fugitive combat response in the presence of a cat, idea or thought of it, that is to say to try to avoid the situation that the person considers threatening.
    • Also avoid places where cats are or can be found. For example, do not accept the invitation at home and at a friend’s house because he has a feline.
    • Lots of discomfort and anxiety in the presence of a cat, a thought or an idea.
    • Realize that fear is irrational but cannot control it.
    • Hypervigilance and extreme nervousness thinking he might run into a cat.
    • Panic attacks with signs such as restlessness, shortness of breath, sweating and wet hands, rapid heartbeat, etc.
    • Dizziness, nausea and intestinal disorders.

    treatment

    The treatment for this phobia is no different from that of other phobias and, as it is usually administered by classical conditioning, cognitive behavioral therapy is generally one of the preferred treatments for its high effectiveness.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing the thoughts and behavior of a person who is considered maladjusted and which is the cause of the discomfort. The therapist, as a first step, usually helps the patient understand why he has developed a phobia, and only provide him with a series of tools so that he can overcome it.

    The idea is that the subject replaces the negative and irrational thoughts he has about cats with more realistic and adaptive ones. The therapy sessions also help release stress and tension due to the phobia.

    Techniques used

    Some of the most widely used techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of phobias are exposure techniques and relaxation techniques. Therefore, the therapist guides the person through regular exhibits that include the presence of cats.

    This is usually done gradually and usually starts, for example, with photos of cats, videos, stuffed animals and finally real cats. In addition, the purpose of one of these exposure techniques, called systematic desensitizationThis is to encourage more useful coping skills when the patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus.

    Different forms of relaxation are also taught in psychotherapy sessions, including breath control and mental visualizations, And may use other therapeutic methods such as mindfulness or clinical hypnosis.

    Medicines, usually anti-anxiety drugs (but also antidepressants), can be used in more severe cases, those in which the patient has panic attacks.

    New technologies applied to the treatment of phobias

    New technologies are also starting to be used for the treatment of these pathologies, as they have proven to be very useful. Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality improves the patient’s therapeutic experience.

    There are also various “apps” for mobile which can be used to treat phobias and are useful for this purpose.

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