Aichmophobia is a form of specific (or isolated) phobia where the sufferer has an intense irrational or unnecessary fear of sharp objects. Specific phobias tend to have a previous trauma – frequently occurring in childhood, and often leading to physical injury – as a root cause. The word is derived from the Greek aichmē, meaning (point) and phobos meaning (fear).
The phobia can be set off by anything pointed, such as pencils, pins and needles, knives, a pointing finger, protruding corners or sharp edges on furniture and building constructions or materials, or even the spiked end of an umbrella.
If left untreated, aichmophobia can worsen over time. The phobia can also hinder normal everyday activities and development. In extreme cases, people who suffer from this disorder can become so fearful they may faint when in the presence of a sharp object. The accompanying increases in heart rate and blood pressure can, in some instances, be life-threatening.
Aichmophobia is often referred to as:
- Belonephobia (fear of needles)
- Enetophobia (fear of pins)
- Algophobia (fear of pain)
- Trypanophobia (fear of hypodermic needles, injections)
While the fear of medical needles is often thought to be a subdivision of aichmophobia, the two phobias are very different. Trypanophobia is specific to medical procedures and sufferers are not afraid of other sharp objects.
Aichmophobia may have a drastic effect on a person’s ability to execute the common tasks of daily living. Opening a package, making a minor household repair, sewing and many other craft projects normally require the use of knives, scissors or other sharp objects.
Mageirocophobia – the fear of cooking – is sometimes related to aichmophobia. It is difficult or impossible to prepare a meal from scratch without using a sharp knife. Ironically, aichmophobia increases the likelihood of a person cutting themselves during the cooking process. Many people with a fear of sharp knives might also use knives incorrectly, believing it to be safer to hold the knife handle further back. This provides less control and increases the risk of injury.
Causes of Aichmophobia
Like all phobias, aichmophobia is triggered differently from sufferer to sufferer. Some are only afraid of particularly sharp knives, such as chef or hunting knives, whereas some fear all knives. Others are afraid of pins and needles. Some people fear all objects that they perceive as sharp. The worse the phobia is, the more items can be perceived as triggers.
While the original reason for the phobia may be due to a real-life experience, the condition may be caused by countless events such as movies. If the negative reaction is powerful enough, the unconscious mind will think the entire thing or event is dangerous.
People suffering from Aichmophobia tend to avoid a lot of activities that may cause them to miss out on some of the important events in their lives. It also leads them to be picky when looking for work or being involved in activities leading to the possibility of their social life being impaired.
In aichmophobia – and all kinds of phobias – external experiences and/or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected.
Symptoms of Aichmophobia
Identifying the phobia should be easy. If the sufferer becomes extremely fearful or exhibits other nervous behaviors when exposed to sharp objects, they may have aichmophobia.
Some of the most immediate symptoms include:
- Extreme anxiety, dread or panic when in the presence of sharp objects
- Automatic or uncontrollable reactions – irritability or fainting, for example
- Rapid heartbeat, pounding heart, palpitations
- Chest pain and/or discomfort
- Shortness of breath, shaking or trembling, excessive sweating
- Stomach distress and nausea
- Extreme avoidance
- Feeling of being detached from reality
- Confusion/inability to articulate clearly
As with any phobia, the symptoms may vary from person to person depending on their level of fear. Patients may recognize that their fear is unreasonable and excessive, but they will try as much as possible to avoid places or situations related to their fear. This avoidance may interfere in their normal routine and may cause significant distress.
Treatment of Aichmophobia
Like all phobias, untreated aichmophobia tends to worsen over time. For example, a mild fear of very sharp knives could increase to include knitting needles, then straight pins, and eventually scissors. With treatment, however, aichmophobia is generally easy to overcome. Many people find they can beat a mild fear through education and exposure. Learning proper knife skills, studying expert seamstress videos and working alongside a competent handyman can provide confidence.
If the fear is more severe, however, professional assistance may be required.
There are various professional treatments and therapies that can help to eliminate aichmophobia such as:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
- Habit strategies to relax
- Cognitive Therapy (CT)
- In-vivo exposure
- Response prevention
- Group therapy
- Energy psychology
A psychotherapist or mental health expert is one of the best sources of treatment for aichmophobia. The goal of any such expert is to first target the initial inciting factor that caused the phobia. The patient and therapist talk about why the fear is unfounded, how they can come to terms with any traumatic experiences that caused the phobia, as well as ways to deal with the symptoms of the condition.
However, unlike other phobias, aichmophobia may be grounded in far more than simple psychological factors. Physical factors such as hypersensitivity may also contribute. In this case, exposure to a sharp object such as a hypodermic needle would understandably and justifiably cause panic and fear. Typical treatment for hypersensitivity is usually some type of anesthesia.
Other forms of psychotherapy include exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. With this type of treatment, the patient meets with the therapist on a regular basis and, in a systematic and gradual progression, confronts the source of fear while learning to control their physical and mental reactions to it. By facing the phobia head on, the patient becomes accustomed to it and thus ultimately realizes that his or her initial fears were not grounded in real or imminent danger.
Medicine can be prescribed, but these medications can have severe side effects and/or withdrawal symptoms. It is also important to note that medicines do not cure phobias; at best they only temporarily suppress the systems.
Learning and understanding a phobia can be the first step in overcoming it. Know that negative and anxious thoughts can trigger the fear, so it is important to learn how you can challenge it.