Mental health is something that, fortunately, is receiving more and more attention. Gradually the population becomes aware of the existence of various psychiatric disorders and disorders and the difficulties they cause, it is no longer rare to hear about a person suffering from depression or anxiety disorders, and the need to consult a professional in the presence of symptoms.
However, there is still a great social stigma towards mental disorders, especially in cases like schizophrenia, as well as a great fear of all they represent.
In some people there is also an excessive, crippling and even pathological fear of fear of a psychiatric disorder, which is colloquially referred to (although it is a derogatory, inaccurate term that ignores many variables and generates a separation between “healthy” and “clinical” subjects who are not as bipolar as they appear) “to go mad” or to lose their mind. This is what happens to people with dementia.
Dementia and its main implications
Also called agaetophobia or maniaphobia, dementia is conceptualized as the phobia of the possibility of going crazy or losing your mind. It is a specific phobia which can lead to serious limitations in the life of the patient. As phobia as it is, it presupposes the appearance of an irrational and disproportionate fear of the danger that a certain stimulus actually entails. In general, the fear is generally recognized as excessive by the subject himself.
Exposure to the stimulus itself or the possibility of its occurrence triggers a high level of anxiety, which in turn usually leads to physiological alterations such as sweating, tremors, tachycardia, hyperventilation or even anxiety attacks. This anxiety leads to active avoidance or flight from the situation in which the phobic stimulus appears or may appear.
In this case, the fear of “going mad” implies a high level of anxiety faced with any situation generating this possibility or exposure to situations in which the subject may lose control or have impaired capacities, as well as the connection of his own person with what is related to the mental disorder (especially if it is severe) . This fear of loss of reasoning can be in situations where there is a permanent loss of ability, but it can also appear in situations where the loss is transient.
It should be borne in mind that, as with other phobias, we are talking about a fear that must be disproportionate and irrational. We are not talking about a certain fear of suffering from a psychological problem: it is highly doubtful that there is anyone who really wants to suffer from a mental disorder, because it is something that in any case generates great suffering or limitation for those who suffer from it. Not to mention the disorders that cause cognitive impairment, Such as dementias. It is natural to fear to some extent the possibility of suffering from a progressive limitation or loss of abilities.
The problem exists when this fear generates by itself a limitation in the subject’s life and prevents a normative exercise of his daily life, to the point of avoiding certain stimuli or people, and generating anxiety in the face of chance minimal of it. event.
Symptoms in everyday life
While it may seem that we are generally not exposed to situations that someone who fears losing their sanity might fear, the truth is that in severe cases we can be faced with severe daily limitation.
People with dementia can suffer from great anxiety about any situation in which they may interpret as suffering from a loss of faculties or of control over reality. So, for example, memory loss that occurs at the normative level with age will be a cause of great distress and quickly associated with dementia. Alterations such as memory loss due to stress or fatigue or phenomena such as the tip of the tongue (Whether you don’t just bring up the word, you mean you still have the feeling it’s there) they also generate a high level of suffering.
Another aspect to consider is the possible occurrence of compulsive controlling behaviors, frequently assessing their mental state or abilities. Rigid and inflexible patterns of behavior that hamper alterations in your mental state are also likely to occur (although it is natural that our abilities, emotions, motivations and levels of activation vary from day to day).
the same the presence of perceptual alterations generally generates a high level of anxiety, Avoiding any situation that could generate it. This can include the consumption of alcohol or other substances, but also certain medications.
They also tend to avoid mental health centers and contact with people with different disorders, sometimes showing a clear rejection of them. While less common, it’s also possible that the reverse could happen: that fear of suffering from a problem or going crazy leads them to constantly frequent contact with industry professionals who confirm that they are not suffering. no alteration.
In extreme cases, the child can become completely isolated, harming social, interpersonal or even work environments (as he is likely to avoid stressful situations).
Causes of this phobia
There is no single cause of dementia, as this phobia has a multicausal origin that can be affected by several variables. First of all, it is possible that there is a possible biological predisposition to suffer from phobic reactions, born from a strong physiological reactivity, which can end up triggering a phobia if the necessary environmental conditions are given for it.
Since suffering from a mental disorder involves a certain level of difficulty and suffering, dementia arises from fear to some adaptive extent in the sense that it seeks to protect the subject from a state considered aversive. Likewise, the strong social stigma that has diminished even today continues to exist around mental health issues that affect subjects, such that the association of loss of control with pain, loss and marginalization social increases the risk of suffering, this type of phobia.
In this sense, the onset of dementia can also be fostered by having been brought up in an environment and with rigid parenting models in which special emphasis has been placed on the importance of reason and control. Likewise, the reverse situation can also be fostered: overprotective educational models in which the child is not exposed to reality and the existence of diversity in mental functioning between people.
The interpretation given to him of the mental disorder at the place of origin it can also be decisive: if it is seen as a punishment, or as something horrible that directly interferes with the person’s life, the fear will be greater.
In addition, to have observed during development (especially in childhood) and / or throughout life that people in our environment have undergone a neurodegenerative process or a mental disorder which generates a high level of dysfunction or has caused damage to the affected person or other people. can trigger the fear of suffering from a similar problem, to the point of causing great anxiety and may culminate with the onset of the phobia.
The treatment of dementia is certainly complex, because on the contrary it occurs in the face of phobias such as animals (such as spiders or dogs) or in specific situations such as storms, airplanes or now there is no is not a subject to avoid physically, the fear being directed towards a mental aspect not visible to the naked eye.
Anyway, dementia is treatable. While fear-generating situations can be very various, it is possible to develop a hierarchy alongside the patient in order to do progressive exposure therapy or systematic desensitization. This point is one of the most fundamental, because it generates the subject to be able to resist the anxiety in the situations that generate it and over time it is diluted.
In addition, another fundamental point and in particular in this type of phobia is the treatment of the beliefs and fears of the patient, so as not only to reduce anxiety, but also to learn to interpret reality in a more adaptive way. In it, it would first be necessary to analyze the meaning of what it means to “go mad” or lose the reason of the subject, whether he has experienced a situation in which this has happened or what this could imply for him. Also the fears that may be behind this. After that, cognitive restructuring would be carried out, Raise the subject’s beliefs and fears as a hypothesis and then try to construct other interpretations in this regard.
In extreme cases, the use of tranquilizers and anxiolytics can be helpful in lowering the level of activation and being able to work more effectively psychologically.