A television show on the History Channel is dedicated to a group of Americans who believe in collecting items from our past. Some call it ‘junking’ while others use kinder phrases to manage the task of describing what is explored on “American Pickers“. Each episode Mike and Frank peruse barns, shed, opera houses and homes trying to find a piece of nostalgia that they can turn into a profit. The show is entertaining, informative and may help show the lives of a few who may live with a fear of empty spaces known as Kenophobia.
There are those who feel the need to fill space in their home, yard or outbuildings with things. They may view this as something like wrapping themselves in a protective blanket. They feel safe in the comfort of ‘stuff’.
What Causes Kenophobia?
A dark corner may seem less ominous if it is filled with things. A garage may be less scary if there are items that make it difficult for others to get around easily. Filling voids gives the phobic personality the feeling that they are placing boundaries around themselves that offer safety and comfort.
This idea may be passed along from a parent or guardian who may have lived in what others viewed as clutter. The sense of serenity in the midst of much can be a primary motivator towards accepting this as a form of personal security. Open spaces can be the thing that inspires fear.
This phobic personality may have been overwhelmed with the immense nature of open space as a guest in a home. Their obsession with so much space may lead them to fill the space and continue to do so until most guests view their surroundings as cluttered and perhaps even unsafe.
Symptoms of Kenophobia
This individual may not mind having guests come by to visit, but they may be very uncomfortable in visiting others. Their surroundings allow them to feel safe, but may not be welcoming to others. This individual will not be overly interested in public settings unless the area is compact and busy, although this will not be universally true. There are some that only feel comfortable in a setting of their own devising.
Other symptoms may also include…
- Elevated heart rate
- Temporary elevation in body temperature
- Air hunger
- Control loss
- An urge to flee empty spaces
Understanding this fear can be an important aid in empathizing with those who live with the fear.
How to Overcome Kenophobia
While some might argue correctly that an individual with lots of belongings is a proverbial pack rat there are those that find the close proximity of things to keep their fear at bay.
A therapist can help determine if this is the case, but they can also assist by providing tools to help patients understand the fear, their response and how to moderate future fear triggers.
Some individuals may also respond well to prescribed medication to reduce anxiety.
The fear of voids or empty spaces is also referred to as:
- Empty space fear
- Fear of voids