Thelephobia: The Fear of Nipples
The definition of a phobia is the persistent fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it. The three types of phobias are social phobia (fear of public speaking, meeting new people or other social situations), agoraphobia (fear of being outside), and specific phobias (fear of other items or situations).
If not treated, a phobia may worsen to the point where the person’s life is seriously impacted by the phobia and by attempts to avoid or hide it, resulting in problems with physical health, friends and family, failure in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope.
Phobias tend to run in families, can be influenced by culture and parenting style, and can be triggered by life events. People with phobias seem to be more likely to deal with stress by avoiding the trigger for the stress and have trouble minimizing the severity of the fearful situation. Symptoms of phobias often involve panic attacks.
Phobias are largely underreported, probably because many people with phobias find ways to avoid the situations that they fear. Therefore, statistics for how many people have phobias vary widely. Phobias are fairly common. Women are thought to be twice as likely to develop a phobia as men.
If not treated, a phobia can worsen to the point in which the person’s quality of life is seriously impaired, both by the phobia itself and/or by attempts to avoid or hide it. For example, a fear of flying can result in the sufferer being unable to travel. Some people have problems with their relationships, have failed in school, and/or been unable to maintain employment as the result of a severe phobia. While there may be periods of spontaneous improvement, a phobia does not usually go away unless the individual gets treatments that are specifically designed to address this condition. Alcoholics can be up to 10 times more likely to develop a phobia than nonalcoholics, and phobic individuals may be twice as likely to suffer from alcoholism or another addiction than those who have never been phobic. It has even been found that phobic anxiety can be life-threatening for some people, increasing the risk of suffering from heart disease in both men and women.
Thelephobia is known as the fear of nipples, somewhat related to Aichmophobia which is a kind of specific phobia and is the morbid fear of sharp things, such as pencils, needles, knives, darts, a pointing finger, or even the sharp end of an umbrella and different sorts of protruding corners or sharp edges in furniture and building constructions/materials. It is derived from the Greek aichmē (point) and phobos (fear). This fear may also be referred to as belonephobia or enetophobia.
Thelephobia can also be related/ lead to Anthropophobia, or the fear of people, which is a commonly misunderstood phobia. It often resembles social phobia but is not precisely the same fear. Depending on the severity, anthropophobia may cause a phobic reaction even when in the company of only one other person. In extreme cases, those with thelephobia/anthropophobia may withdraw altogether particularly from the female gender, communicating with others only through snail mail or electronic means such as e-mail or text messaging.
While there is no single known cause for phobias such as these, they are thought to run in families, be influenced by culture and how one is parented and can be triggered by different life events. Immediate family members of phobia sufferers are about three times more likely to also have a phobia than those who do not have such a family history. People whose parents either were overly protective or were distant in raising them may be at more risk of developing phobias. Phobia sufferers tend to be more likely to manage stress by avoiding the stressful situation and have trouble decreasing the intensity of the fearful situation. Another possible contributor to the development of phobias is classical conditioning. In classical conditioning, an individual responds to something that scares them by generalizing the fear of that specific thing or situation to more generalized things or situations. For example, a person may respond to a real threat by one dog to developing a phobia of all dogs.
Helping phobia sufferers is thought to be most effective when psychotherapy and medications that are specific to the treatment of phobia are both used. One type of mental-health therapy involves the supportive and gradual exposure of the person with phobias to situations that are increasingly similar to the one they are phobic about (desensitization). These circumstances can either include actual or computer-generated anxiety-provoking stimuli.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to often quite effectively decrease phobic symptoms by helping the person with the illness change his or her way of thinking.
Research studies are focused upon how well phobias respond to various treatments over the long term, as well as how age-related changes in thinking ability (cognition) may interact with anxiety. The use of herbal and other dietary supplements in the treatment of phobias is being explored, as well. If your thelephobia/anthropophobia is extreme, therapy may take more time. You may need to spend several sessions learning to tolerate sharing space with the therapist before you can progress. Nonetheless, with persistence and hard work, it is possible to overcome even the most extreme fear of people. Be patient and kind to yourself, but keep pushing through.