There is a photo by Alex Remnick and while I don’t have permission to place it here it shows an otherwise normal girl admiring the beauty of a tree in springtime bloom appreciating the scene from the discomfort of a gas mask. The photo is entitled “Fear of Everything.” This fear is known as Panophobia.
You may fear noises, these sense of touch, a world of unseen germs, the sight of insects, the smell of a foul odor, a glass of water or words spoken in a raised voice. For the panophobe there is danger everywhere and a refuge from the fear is almost impossible to find. Darkness brings fear, but then so does sunshine. Open spaces seem too big and small places seem to small and the ones in the middle cause you to notice more things to fear. This phobia can cause individuals to wonder if perhaps they are losing their minds because they can never truly feel safe.
What Causes Panophobia?
This phobia may be the result of a single fear that grew too large without being addressed. This happens when one fear grows to the point that it needs a proverbial friend. Two fears become four – four become eight and the list becomes too big to count.
Within the mind of the panophobe there is the distinct dread that there is something evil dogging their every step and they firmly believe they will never truly escape, but they also believe that their only true hope is to be as vigilant as possible to escape for the moment.
Because they firmly believe they are in mortal danger they cannot accept reassurances to the contrary. In fact they may come to believe friends and family are part of the conspiracy against them. In essence their phobic responses become paranoia.
It can feel like a sense of madness.
Symptoms of Panophobia
Sufferers of panophobia will struggle with virtually all aspects of life. They may not be able to hold a job or interact socially. Some may require hospitalization, but there will almost always be a pronounced sense of dread that never really abates. The truth is the dread may actually increase based on recognition of new fear stimuli.
Other symptoms may include…
- Air hunger
- Crying or screaming
- Numbness or pain
- Feeling of control loss
- Feeling that you may be losing your mind
- A complete lack of trust in others
This is the most complex and all-encompassing phobia known to man. Any symptom related to any other phobia may also exist in this scenario.
How to Overcome Panophobia
Support groups alone will not help. Self-talk may only provide temporary relief. A sympathetic friend or family member will not be able to fully help. This phobia will require the help of a therapist. Medication will likely be required to minimize existing symptoms while therapy works to manage both fear response and future anxiety associated with what you fear.
It is possible for someone with such intense fear to become clincally insane. That doesn’t mean that therapy will not work at that point, but does expose the potential danger of failing to deal with the fear.