Poisons are commonly found in household items. Whether in the kitchen, laundry, or bathroom, one can easily find toxic materials as ingredients in dishwashing, detergent, or other chemicals used for cleaning.
In the USA, in a study done in 2015, it’s recorded that poison was used as the murder weapon 7 times out of 15,969 murders. It only shows that intentional poisoning is very small as compared to other means of committing a crime.
However, that statistic does not bring much solace or comfort to a person suffering from Iophobia or Toxiphobia, which both means fear of poison. For them poison by itself is terrible. So why are some people fearful of poison and how would you know if a person is suffering from one?
Signs and Symptoms of Toxiphobia
All phobias exhibit signs and symptoms. While it varies, there are many similarities among social anxiety disorder phobias, in which toxiphobia falls under. There are physical and physiological symptoms and these are:
- Sweating or perspiring
- Shaking or trembling
- Hot or cold flushes
- Difficulty of breathing
- Feeling of being choked
- Increase heartbeat or palpitations
- Tightening of chest muscles
- Dry mouth
- Increase in blood pressure
- Increased heart rate or even palpitations, feeling of throwing up, and gastrointestinal problems.
- Excessive sweating, mild-shaking or trembling at a sight of a crowd build-up.
- Fear of dying from poison
- Fear of not being in control
- A feeling of guilt, or self-blame
- Fear of harm or illness caused by poison
- Not being able to concentrate
- Deep anxiety and fear
- Feeling of hopelessness
Causes and Common Triggers of Toxiphobia
There is no clear cause of toxiphobia. But according to experts, genes and the environment may contribute to a person having a toxiphobia. A persons family history of anxiety disorders or mental illness may trigger toxiphobia. They may also have been exposed to a poisonous substance or accidentally ingested one. Maybe they have a loved one who was poisoned which they were able to witness. There are also cases wherein an existing anxiety disorder contributes to the person developing a fear of poison.
Treatments of Toxiphobia
For mild cases of toxiphobia, self-help is sometimes the best option for treatment. Experts agree that certain practices or exercises can be done by a person suffering from this condition. Meditation such as yoga and similar exercises should help. Physical exercises might also help the patient as a healthy body is also necessary to have a healthy mind.
These are advisable for patients with a mild form of toxiphobia. For severe cases, the following therapies are highly recommended by experts:
For most phobias, exposure therapy is said to be the most successful. There are several studies conducted about treatments of phobias using imaginal exposure. This means for people with Toxiphobia, they will be gradually exposed to images of poison, or have the patient shown an actual poison and soon have them hold it in their hands and reassure them that it is harmless unless ingested.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This is another form of treatment for persons with phobias. It is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. What it does is it helps the patient to challenge or change their thoughts or beliefs, in addressing their problems. This treatment was originally meant to treat depression, but has since been expanded to treat other conditions including anxiety, which is common and exhibited by most or all phobic people.
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)
In this type of therapy, the patient is given a simulated experience using computer programs and artificially created environments. They use Virtual Reality gadgets to provide the patient a controlled stimuli as part of the treatment. They then monitor the patient’s reaction. It’s a series of VR-based treatment where it involves adjusting the virtual environment. Replaying virtual scenes multiple times with or without adjustment depending on the patient's reaction.
Societal and Cultural Impact of Toxiphobia
Just like other persons suffering from different types of phobias, a person suffering from toxiphobia may find it hard to function in a normal way in society. Fear of poison is an irrational fear and while the sufferer may know it, he or she might still not be able to control or eliminate the fear. It may then cause him or her to be embarrassed for having this fear leading him or her to be defensive and dismissive.
How Common Is Toxiphobia?
Toxiphobia is a form of social anxiety, and is not a common type of phobia. There is no available data as to how many people are afflicted with this condition, as there are those who will not seek professional help. But it is an acknowledged phobia by experts, and that’s why therapy is encouraged to treat the condition.
What Should You Do If You Have Toxiphobia?
As in any phobia, seeking professional help is vital to treatment. The first important thing is to admit to yourself that you suffer from it. By acknowledging the problem, you have a better chance of overcoming it faster, than being defensive. Joining support groups online who are also suffering from the same condition will help. These groups provide emotional support since most of them experienced what you are going through, and are either working to treat it, or have already overcome it and they want to share their journey.
As we know that toxiphobia is a form of a social anxiety disorder, it needs to be addressed and treated as soon as possible. There are many ways to overcome this condition, and successful treatments have been documented for persons not only with toxiphobia, but similar social anxiety disorders. The best way is to seek treatment so you or anyone you know, that has this condition will be able to live a healthy and normal life. Acknowledging the problem, as well as requesting support from loved ones and family members will help one to overcome it. Once all these have been done, the chance of “beating” the disorder is simply a matter of time.