What is kenophobia?
Kenophobia is an intense, irrational fear of empty or wide open spaces. Keno means ’empty’ in Greek and ‘phobia’ means fear. Kenophobia is often described as a type of anxiety disorder . But a phobia is not just a mild anxiety; An uncontrollable, overwhelming fear of an animal, object, person, activity, environment, or situation.
The trigger for a phobia poses little or no real danger, and most people with a phobia know this. However, affected people’s symptoms of the phobia cause them to feel like they have no control over their reactions and cannot overcome them.
Someone with kenophobia feels strong anxiety when in open or empty space. This can range from an empty indoor room to an expansive outdoor landscape. Lack of defined boundaries or physical barriers can cause disorientation and even trigger panic attacks for a person with kenophobia.
Kenophobia is often confused with agoraphobia, which is the fear of going out in public or being in a situation that may be difficult to escape from. There is some overlap between the two, for example both agoraphobia and kenophobia can involve a fear of swimming in open water. But agoraphobia can also be triggered in an enclosed space, such as taking the subway.
What are the symptoms of kenophobia?
Like most other simple phobias, kenophobia has both physical and psychological symptoms. Symptoms can be mild, moderate, severe or even severe. Physical symptoms are the result of the body’s instinctive fight-or-flight response, which produces a release of adrenaline to prepare for a perceived threat.
Common physical symptoms of kenophobia include:
- Chest tightness or feeling like you can’t catch your breath
- Dizziness or feeling like you’re going to pass out
- nausea or vomiting
- unusual sweating
Other symptoms of kenophobia include:
- Avoiding empty or open spaces
- Awareness that the fear of emptiness is irrational
- Fear or anxiety of being in an empty or open space
- Guilt or shame about fear of open space
- Inability to control or overcome the fear of empty space
- Intense panic and strong desire to escape in an empty or open space
Children with a simple phobia may not be able to express what they are feeling. Emotions may manifest as inconsolable crying or tantrums.
When should you see a doctor?
The anxiety symptoms caused by kenophobia may or may not be severe. When kenophobia interferes with daily life or prevents you from enjoying professional, personal, or social interactions, it’s time to seek medical attention. If you find that the fear of empty space is affecting your (or your child’s) ability to live normally, it is recommended that you see your doctor early. Treatment will usually be effective when you address the phobia promptly.
What are the causes of kenophobia?
The exact cause of most phobias is still unknown. Like many other emotional or psychological conditions, a combination of genetic and environmental influences is likely. For some people, kenophobia can be traced back to a specific event, such as when a child gets lost in an open space or is left alone in an empty room. In these cases, this trauma is imprinted in the amygdala, a small area of your brain that controls emotional responses, including the fight-or-flight response. When you encounter new stimuli similar to the one that caused the past trauma, your amygdala invokes the same emotions and reactions you felt at the time.
However, many people with kenophobia are unable to identify a specific triggering event. In these cases, genetic factors may play a role, as certain personality traits and factors may be inherited. Some phobias seem to be inherited in families, but this may simply be the result of children modeling the behavior of their parents and relatives. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether phobias are genetic, environmental, or a combination of both.
How is kenophobia treated?
Many of life’s greatest adventures involve expanses: going to the beach, relaxing in the park, or driving on the open road. If the fear of empty space is hindering your ability to live your life or interact with loved ones, treatment options are available. Phobias don’t just mean you have to “grow” or “get over”. Phobias are real and admitting that you have a clinical disorder is the first step towards recovery. Then you can find a qualified doctor to begin treatment.
The most effective kenophobia treatments are forms of psychotherapy such as:
- Cognitive behavior therapy: This form of psychotherapy or talk therapy teaches you to identify and change unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A therapist will help you change your perception of open space and develop the skills to face your fear. It is possible that you and your therapist found the possible origins of your kenophobia in your childhood. Therapists often combine cognitive behavioral therapy with exposure therapy.
- Exposure therapy: This type of talk therapy gradually and repeatedly exposes you to your fear of emptiness. Also known as desensitization therapy , this process puts you through a series of controlled states around the source of your fear that gradually builds your tolerance and confidence. Your therapist can get you started by thinking about open spaces. From there you can look at empty landscape paintings or visit a large area. The goal is for you to control your fear, rather than having your fear dominate you.
Speech therapy is the most successful treatment for long-term relief of phobias. Doctors sometimes recommend short-term medications for social phobias as they can help people get started with talk therapy. Medications can also help with phobias involving temporary social situations, such as fear of public speaking.
What are the complications of kenophobia?
Social phobias, including kenophobia, can lead to complications if left untreated. Potential complications include:
- Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders that sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts
- Social isolation, loneliness, and problems with work, school, and social relationships
- Alcohol or drug use in an effort to self-medicate and cope with the symptoms of the phobia