Siderodromophobia (train phobia): symptoms, causes and treatment

Sheldon Cooper, one of the characters in the series “The Big Bang Theory”, is well known for his great penchant for trains, almost rubbing the obsessional, although this is not the only peculiarity that defines him.

In today’s article we will talk about a phobia, siderodromophobia which could be seen as the opposite of how this character feels. It consists of an irrational fear of trains, similar vehicles and running over them.

This is a relatively common fear, especially related to information about rail disasters and urban legends in which trains play a prominent role. Let’s take a closer look at what characteristics define this specific phobia.

    What is siderodromophobia?

    Siderodromophobia (from the Greek “sidero”, “iron or ferry”; “drom”, “course, circuit”; “phobos”, “fear, fear”) is fear of trains, railways and metro, in addition to traveling with these vehicles. Those who suffer from this specific phobia feel unable to travel by train and, in the most severe cases, to approach it, talk about it or see pictures about them.

    Siderodromophobia is linked to other phobias associated with travel, whether in general or in specific vehicles, such as motorphobia (fear of cars), amaxophobia (fear of driving at night), aerophobia (fear of planes and flying) or navifobia (navigate).


    As with other phobias, the person with AIDS experiences very high levels of anxiety in the face of the phobic stimulus, in this case training, or if they are plunged into a situation related to it, such as being mounted on one of these vehicles.

    The physiological symptoms coincide with those of any other phobia, being mainly palpitations, tremors, excessive sweating, irregular heartbeat, dryness and stickiness in the mouth, nausea and difficulty in breathing. As for the psychologists, they are very anxious, thinking that the train is going to derail, afraid of having to take a …

    People who are afraid of trains adopt behaviors with the intention of avoiding any situation related to them. This may involve avoiding getting on one of them, watching movies or series in which they appear, staying away from the train station, among other things. This can lead to a very variable degree of interference in the life of the patient., Since it is common for other means of transport to follow the same route, it must be said that depending on where you live, the train may be the only or the fastest mode of transport, so avoid It means wasting a lot of time looking for alternative routes.

    Possible causes

    The causes of siderodromophobia can be very varied, being a combination of external events, such as having a bad experience with a train, With some personality traits that are used to resolve a phobic disorder, especially if you are very neurotic. We have tried to give several explanations to understand why fear appears in trains and associated vehicles.

    From psychoanalysis, starting with Sigmund Freud himself, the sensations of traveling by train have been linked to sexuality. In 1906, Freud explained that the relationship between train travel and sexual desire was linked to the sensation of pleasure generated by the journey, especially with the movement of the wagon. The person who suppresses their sexuality may consider the train journey to be inappropriate and therefore be afraid of it, seeing something obscene about it. This explanation has no scientific basis.

    However, it is important to mention that in Freud’s time it was not uncommon for crimes to be committed on trains, and this means of transport could suffer fatal accidents. All kinds of news about rail disasters appeared in the newspapers, so it’s no surprise that at that time, being the fastest form of transportation, it was also considered the most dangerous.

    This is also happening today. While trains and subways are transports that have improved their safety compared to a long time ago, so many while accidents occur, some fatal, which make society tremble with fear. This can become the reason why a person starts to fear these vehicles, avoid taking them until they get to the point where it is impossible for them to get close to one again.

    Another interesting cause to mention is the way trains are viewed in popular culture, especially when it comes to spooky stories and urban legends. There are many stories of people who committed suicide while jumping on the tracks or were accidentally run over while crossing the tracks. While these misfortunes do happen in real life, it’s how it turns into a scary story that would make these vehicles very scary.


      Depending on your fear on trains, the person may or may not dare to take one, but probably not. That is why professional help is needed to treat this specific type of phobiaIn addition to using a program organized in stages that gradually allow the person to take the train or the metro.

      This phobia has some similarities with the phobia of planes, only it has one difference that makes it easier to treat the siderodromophobe: traveling by train (for example, in the suburbs) or by metro is much cheaper and affordable to take a flight. It is for this reason that the therapist can work by accompanying the patient to enter the station, get into the vehicle and stay by his side throughout the journey.

      However, and although the train and metro are more common means of transportation than airplanes, the patient will not always be willing to start being exposed to their phobia so directly, Not even approaching the station. That is why, as has been done with the fear of planes, there are treatments that use virtual reality that allow you to work on siderodromophobia without having to give up the security that offers to be in the consultation of the psychologist.

      In addition to psychological treatment, there is the pharmacological option, although it should be noted that drugs do not help eliminate the phobia. Anxiolytics, which are used to prevent panic attacks, and antidepressants, which are not only helpful in depression, are some of the most used for phobias, and also common in the treatment of other anxiety disorders.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
      • Bados, A. (2009). Specific phobias: nature, evaluation and treatment. Electronic publication.

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