Automatonophobia is a term that describes the fear of figures that have a human look. Examples of human-like figures would include dummies, statues, wax figures, mannequins, robots, and animatronics.
Automatonophobia is a special kind of phobia – one that involves being afraid of something that causes excessive and significant anxiety and stress and can impact negatively on your quality of life. Let us analyze some of the causes and symptoms of phobias, with emphasis on the diagnosis of automatonophobia, and its treatment.
How do I know that I have automatonophobia? What are the symptoms?
When a person has automatonophobia, he or she becomes automatically afraid of human-like figures. A mere thought or sight of these human-like figures can trigger very intense fear and anxiety in some people. A related term is a pediophobia. This has to do with the fear of dolls.
Studies have shown that people who have phobias usually have increased visual threat detection of those things that they fear, even when they are simply viewing pictures of it. Symptoms here include the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety.
The following are some of the psychological symptoms of automatonophobia:
- Anxiety attacks
- Inability to sleep
- Decreased concentration
- Worrying constantly
The physical symptoms of automatonophobia include but not limited to:
- Dizziness & disorientation
- Shaking and sweating
- Chest pain and difficulty in breathing
Most of the physical symptoms listed above are also symptoms of an anxiety or panic attack, which may occur after you are exposed to a phobia.
What are the causes of automatonophobia?
Studies have shown that two major factors contribute to the development of a phobia.
This condition may develop because the individual has been exposed or subjected to a traumatic event related to human-like figures. If this is the case, then it is called experiential phobia. Traumatic events that lead to this kind of phobia include watching a horror movie with human-like features or participating in an in-person event that has human-like figures.
But what do we call it when automatonophobia develops in the absence of a traumatic event? Well, it is simply called a non-experiential phobia. You may develop this for several reasons including:
- Development: one may be susceptible due to the early development of the brain
In particular research, scientists discovered that the development of some phobias may be related to certain genes that predispose an individual to anxiety disorders.
Before a phobia can be diagnosed, your doctor will, first of all, ensure that your anxiety is not caused by any underlying medical conditions. Persistent anxiety may be caused by certain physical conditions such as nutrient imbalances, and brain tumors.
Once it has been determined that there are no underlying disorders, your doctor will use some diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose a phobia.
Based on the DSM-5 criteria, you may suffer automatonophobia if you:
- Experience excessive, persistent, or unexplainable fear of human-like figures.
- Develop immediate panic attacks or anxiety symptoms when you are exposed to human-like figures.
- You exhibit a fear that is disproportionate to the seeming danger of threat posed by these human-like figures.
- You cautiously avoid any environment or situation in which you may be around human-like figures.
- Your fear of human-like figures affects your quality of life and daily living.
- You’ve had constant automatonophobia for over 6 months.
- You do not have any underlying medical or mental disorders that may contribute to this fear.
Treatment for automatonophobia
If you have been diagnosed with a phobia, then you can start treatment without delay. Treatment for automatonophobia may involve exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medication in some cases.
Exposure therapy is a component of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It focuses on exposure to fear in a safe environment. The goal is to reduce phobia behaviors due to anxiety or avoidance.
For individuals who have automatonophobia, exposure therapy can improve their quality of life greatly, especially if the individual has been staying away from activities due to fear.
Frequent safe exposure reduces the anxiety symptoms and immediate fear response that occurs when an individual is exposed to human-like figures.
This is a well-known form of psychotherapy that teaches an individual how to challenge his or her negative thinking patterns as a way of changing their behavior patterns.
Studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy can alter the brain’s neural pathway related to these conditions, thus making it a very effective option for anxiety and phobia therapy.
CBT is an important and very effective first-line treatment for people whose anxiety symptoms is caused by automatonophobia.
If cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy don’t do the job well, the medications may be included as part of treatment.
Antidepressants, for instance, may be used for long-term treatment of automatonophobia. Benzodiazepines may be used for short-term treatment.
It is worth noting that benzodiazepines may not be prescribed due to the risk of dependence.
Where to get help for anxiety and phobias
If you are seeking treatment options for automatonophobia, then there are some resources that may be of help to you. The website of the Department of Health & Human Services’ has a tool that can help with the location of treatment centers near you.
The organizations listed below also specialize in the treatment of mental health. You can visit them for more information regarding treatment options in your locality: