Neophobia (fear of novelty): symptoms, causes and treatment

In the face of novelty, everything that is unknown to us always generates a certain feeling of tension and even a little nervousness. This response can be quite natural as long as it is within certain limits, because we do not know what we are going to face or whether we will like it or not.

However, when this response becomes disproportionate and excessive, to the point of interfering with the person’s daily life, one can be confronted with a case of neophobia. In this article, we will talk about the characteristics that define it as well as the relationship with food neophobia.

    What is neophobia?

    In the long list of anxiety disorders or specific phobias, we find conditions as curious as neophobia. This disorder is characterized by a disproportionate, persistent, irrational and uncontrollable fear of all these situations perceived as new.

    For these people, events such as facing the first day of work or school, as well as having to travel to an unfamiliar place or perform an experience they had never faced before are virtually impossible due to the l anguish and torments they suffered. impossible to cope with these situations.

    There are many situations that can generate fear and anxiety neophobic people, including any type of change in their life or usual routine.

    Patients with neophobia are characterized by being very routine people, with very established lifestyles, and preferences for everything that is familiar to them. Therefore, this anxiety disorder becomes a protective shield for all those people who they are afraid of breaking their routines.

    On the other hand, nosophobia can manifest as a way to have control over what surrounds them, because a new situation necessarily involves a certain margin of uncertainty, which generates a fear of not being able to control the situation.

      What about food neophobia?

      In the category of neophobia we find a special situation, which due to its high incidence has its own name. It is food nosophobia. This type of alteration consists of constant, insistent, and heightened resistance to trying new foods.

      In other words, people with food neophobia in any way avoid trying or eating foods that they have never tasted before. While this is not always the case because, in more severe cases, food neophobia can develop into an eating disorder, it is specifically presented as a symptom of food avoidance / restriction disorder.

      This disorder mainly occurs in young children, Which show a strong resistance to the consumption of certain fruits or vegetables. In this particular case of infantile food neophobia, it is associated with certain personality factors such as irritability, sadness or discomfort and tends to be accentuated between 2 and 6 years.

      After this stage, the symptoms of neophobia subside although they may persist into adulthood, most often accompanied by other emotional symptoms such as anxiety and distress.

      What are the symptoms?

      The main symptoms of neophobia they are typical of any specific anxiety disorderThis includes high levels of anxiety when faced with the dreaded situation or even just imagining it.

      However, there are a large number of symptoms associated with neophobia. These can be classified into physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and behavioral symptoms. Although they do not have to manifest in the same way and with the same intensity in everyone, they will have to experience signs of all three categories.

      1. Physical symptoms

      The experimentation of high levels of anxiety and distress caused by phobic fear they usually involve a series of changes and alterations in the body. This is because there is an overactivity of the nervous system, which can cause the following symptoms:

      • Heart rate increased.
      • Increased respiratory rate.
      • Feeling of suffocation or shortness of breath.
      • Increased sweating.
      • Increased muscle tension.
      • Headache.

      • gastric changes.
      • Dizziness and vertigo.
      • Nausea and / or vomiting.
      • Fainting.

      2. Cognitive symptoms

      Along with the physical symptomatology, neophobia is characterized by a series of distorted beliefs and irrational thoughts about the dreaded situation. In this case, to anything that is perceived to be new.

      This cognitive symptomatology is presented as follows:

      • Intrusive and uncontrollable ideas about the danger or supposed risks of the phobic stimulus.
      • obsessive speculation.
      • Catastrophic imagination.
      • Fear of losing control and not being able to handle the situation effectively.

      3. Behavioral symptoms

      Finally, behavioral symptoms include any repertoire of behaviors that the person adopts with the intention of avoiding or escaping the feared situation. These behaviors are known as sidings or exhaust ducts.

      The first type, avoidance behaviors, includes all acts that aim to avoid encountering a new situation. Following the daily routine inflexibly or avoiding contact with anything unfamiliar with it allows the person to temporarily avoid experiencing feelings of anxiety and anxiety typical of a phobia.

      On the other hand, escape behaviors appear when the person with neophobia could not avoid the feared situation, so they will do their best to escape the situation as quickly as possible.

      What are the causes?

      The task of concisely determining the origin of a phobia can be very complicated, as there is not always an event that triggers it. Be that as it may, the existence of a genetic predisposition, with experiencing highly traumatic experiences and eventsThey can promote the onset of a specific phobia such as neophobia.

      Likewise, there are many other factors that can predispose the person to develop a specific phobia. Among them are certain personality types, cognitive styles or the influence of proxy learning.

      Is there a treatment?

      In cases where neophobia significantly interferes with the person’s daily life, it is advisable to consult a mental health professional. Currently, different psychological interventions can be found that can promote the remission of symptoms until they disappear.

      Cognitive-behavioral psychological treatments they use cognitive restructuring techniques that can help eliminate irrational ideas and beliefs, which often form the basis of this disorder.

      This cognitive intervention is most effective if it is accompanied by treatments such as systematic desensitization or live exposure that are exposed to the patient, gradually and accompanied by training in relaxation techniques, thoughts or situations they cause this fear.

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