Most of us have completely rational fears. I have a fear of spiders and needles. But what about those fears which seem to make a little less sense to those of us with seemingly "normal" fears? I decided to look further into these "strange" fears and found one that may sound irrational, but in theory, makes a lot of sense and is actually very common. This fear is cacophobia; the fear of ugliness and things that are ugly.
Usually, this fear, similar to most, is developed when someone experiences a traumatic even in their life. In this case, if someone is constantly told they are ugly or that they are not beautiful, this can trigger cacophobia.
Once a person in confronted about their fear, the symptoms they may experience include, but are not limited to;
2. Feeling uncomfortable or nausea
3. In extreme cases, people may feel anxiety or panic attacks.
While this fear may sound extreme, it really can be reflected in everyone's day to day life on one level or another. What are the first things girls do before school? Pick out a "cute" outfit, do our hair, put on makeup. Everything we do is strictly to impress. In some ways, this can be seen as a fear of ugliness.
What makes us think this way? How do we register these fears?
The parts of the brain associated with fear are the sensory cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, and the hippocampus. This fear is brought on by a stressful stimulus (in this case, it may be an image of something that someone finds "ugly") and sets off a chain reaction that ends with the release of heart racing chemicals.
The thalamus starts this reaction with the sensory organs being used. In this case the eyes are responsible. The sensory cortex then is responsible for interpreting the data. This data is then sent to the hippocampus where the harmful memories are stored and retrieved. The amygdala is next. This is where emotions are decoded. It's where our brain decides "Yepp, I'm afraid of this." And finally, the hypothalamus is stimulated. This part of our brain activates the "fight or flight" response (howstuffworks.com).
Why do people have fears?
In most cases, fears are developed to keep us from dangerous situations. In the case of cacophobia, this may not be the case. Cacophobia can become even more dangerous to those who suffer from it. It can cause people to become anorexic and bulimic and lead men and women to undergo unneeded plastic surgery. Cacophobia may be protecting from a painful experience such as teasing or abuse due to someone's looks. If a child, or even an adult, were repeatedly told they were "ugly" and this was then followed by further emotional or physical abuse, this could lead to a chain reaction where whenever someone sees something unappealing, they immediately flash back to the fear they had felt.
How is cacophobia diagnosed?
Usually, it is self-diagnosed. People realize their irrational fears and understand that there is something there.
Are there any treatments?
Yes, there are. Many people are referred to specialist who deals with irrational fears such as cacophobia. These therapists will often use hypnotherapy, exposure therapy, and traditional "talk" therapy. There are even specific support groups for those suffering from this condition. Only in severe cases, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed.
I believe this is a fear that is so irrational; those who suffer from it may never be able to fully recover and get passed this fear. It is believed that if this fear goes undiagnosed, can develop into a debilitating condition that can interfere with not only one's personal life, but also their social life and other aspects of their life outside of their home (associatedcontent.com).