Rectophobia (or proctophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

Phobias are very common anxiety disorders, and there are different types which are generally grouped into three groups. Specific phobias, social phobia and agoraphobia. Within specific phobias we can find arachnophobia (fear of spiders), cynophobia (fear of dogs) or rectophobia (fear of anorectal diseases).

In the following lines we will talk about rectophobia, A strange phobia also called proctophobia, and we will dig deeper into what it is, what are its symptoms, causes and treatment.

What is rectophobia

Rectophobia is a phobia, and therefore an irrational fear of a phobic stimulus; in this case, anorectal diseases. The human being, unconsciously, can be afraid of situations, objects and even thoughts.

This fear causes great discomfort and anxiety., And that is why this pathology is included in anxiety disorders. A hallmark of phobic disorders is that the person suffering from this condition tends to avoid the dreaded stimulus. A person with cynophobia will avoid contact with dogs, in case of arachnophobia, contact with spiders and rectophobia avoids any situation that may lead the person to suffer from any disease in this area of ​​the body.

Possible causes

Phobias usually have their origin in associative learning known as classical conditioning. Ivan Pavlov was one of the key figures to bring knowledge to this phenomenon for the first time. Classical conditioning is a form of learning that involves automatic responses or reflexes. This differentiates it from another form of learning known as operant or instrumental conditioning.

This is called classical conditioning to create a connection between a new stimulus and an existing reflex. (In case of phobia, fear). If we look at the formation of a phobia, the learning of this disorder would start in an originally neutral stimulus, which does not elicit a response (for example, spiders, thoughts about a disease of the rectum or the on an airplane).

Through a traumatic experience that would elicit a strong fear response, an associative connection of the originally neutral stimulus with that negative experience could occur. This would cause the phobic patient to unconsciously respond with fear, anxiety, and discomfort to the stimulus that previously did not elicit this response. Learning does not always happen through direct experience, but it is also possible that it happens through observation.

Although Pavlov pioneered classical conditioning research, John Watson made it popular in the West and was the first to provide insight into the relationship between emotions and this type of associative learning.

  • In our article “John B. Watson: The Life and Work of the Behavioral Psychologist,” we tell you a little more about his research and contributions to the field of psychology and education.

What role does genetics play?

While there is some consensus that classical conditioning has its origins in learning, other authors argue that genetics make some people more likely than others to suffer from such conditions. In addition, according to Seligman’s preparation theory, we are biologically predisposed to phobias because we can more easily associate certain stimuli with fear.

The reason is that fear is an adaptive emotion and thus promotes the survival of our species.. Phobias are said to occur through primitive and non-cognitive associations, which are not easily modifiable by logical arguments.

Symptoms of this phobic disorder

The different types of phobias usually have a very similar symptomatology caused by the presence of the phobic stimulus. Anxiety and irrational fear are undoubtedly characteristic symptoms of rectophobia. The same goes for the desire to avoid the dreaded stimulus and to avoid it.

It is important to note that this disorder has a strong relationship with other disorders such as hypochondria or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and is usually a secondary symptom of it. However, if the irrational fear is more pronounced than the obsessions or compulsions, the main diagnosis is rectophobia.

In summary, the symptoms of rectophobia are:

  • For irrationality to contract anorectal disease or to die
  • Anxiety and discomfort.
  • avoidant behaviors
  • Tingling (paresthesia)
  • Hyperspiration
  • Palpitations and increased heart rate
  • tremors
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
  • chest tightness
  • Nausea and abdominal discomfort
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • depersonalization

Treatment and therapy

As I said, phobias come from classical conditioning and are characterized because the person who suffers from them has an irrational fear of the phobic stimulus. Scientific studies have shown that behavioral therapies, both second and third generation, work very well and are very effective in treating this condition.

In referring to second generation therapies, I am referring to cognitive behavioral therapy, which it aims to modify the thoughts, beliefs or behaviors that cause discomfort in the patient. In the phobia intervention, relaxation techniques and exposure techniques are ideal for helping the patient to control the negative symptoms of the phobia and to make him understand that his fears and beliefs about the phobic stimulus are irrational.

An exposure technique widely used by cognitive behavioral therapists is systematic desensitization, which involves gradually exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus while learning different coping tools.

As for third-generation therapies, cognitive therapy based on mindfulness and acceptance and engagement therapy, which consists of accepting the phobic experience, among other principles, so that the patient relates differently to the events that occur to him. cause discomfort.

In extreme cases, the administration of medication is necessary, but always in conjunction with psychological therapy.

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