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Ataxophobia (Fear of Disorder or Untidiness): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

Certain things that come off as usual to some certainly isn’t normal to others. Ever heard of the saying, “what is good for the gander, may not be good for the goose?” it does apply here.

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Some people have phobias for different things, and in case you are wondering, phobia means to have a fear of a particular thing.

In this case, ataxophobia means the fear of disorderliness. While you have no doubts about leaving your place disorganized, some people who find that their workplace is chaotic, tend to have severe problems with it. These problems start as psychological but may quickly span into a health issue.

Ataxophobia is coined from two Greek words, “taxo,” which means “a sense or feeling of order” and “phobia,” which simply means fear. Hence, ataxophobia implies the fear of disorderliness or untidiness.

A person who suffers from this condition can experience anxiety and panic attacks from just the mere thoughts of having the room untidy or finding their corners in disarray. Once they experience untidiness, they can go into a full-blown panic attack.

Due to their fear of disorderliness, people who have this disorder tend not to allow people into their personal space or their work. They believe that only they can arrange their space to their taste and let’s be honest here, it’s true!!!

They always believe that if anything is disorganized, only they can organize it to perfection. According to psychiatrists, their fear of disorderliness doesn’t necessarily have to be about material things.

They can have ataxophobia when it comes to arranging events, seminars, specifications of a personal schedule, and so on.

Their irrational fear almost always places a limitation on their societal engagement, their social presence, as well as their everyday lives. They always want things to be perfectly organized, and they give no room for imperfections.

However, humans are meant to be imperfect in some ways, and as such, they don’t engage in activities with others.

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Most times, people with ataxophobia are found to avoid that which they fear the most- disorderliness. More often than note, they take things to the extreme.

They are often obsessed with symmetry and overly concerned with cleanliness. This obsession is usually the reason for their mental breakdown when things don’t go the way they want it to be.

Generally, people with ataxophobia try to avoid their fear and not deal with it, and this is like preventing the inevitable. You may find out that they mostly shy away from gatherings and situations they aren’t totally in control of.

Doing this only worsens their condition in the long run because they will keep having reasons not to deal with their fear.

Causes

The exact cause of ataxophobia isn’t known yet; however, psychiatrists have pointed to a number of both environmental and genetic factors to be the cause of this disorder.

Generally, phobias have been seen to be caused by both external events such as traumatic occurrences as well as internal predispositions such as genetics and hereditary conditions.

Hence, people who have ataxophobia have been seen to have a family member(s) or a relative(s) who also has a mental illness, especially of anxiety and panic attacks or specific phobias.

Also, ataxophobia may be triggered by a past traumatic event that may have happened at an early age. Moreover, previous life experiences can lead a person to have an intense fear of disorderliness.

Experts have argued that for people who have had past traumatic events to develop ataxophobia, they probably have had the gene for it. They say that having the genetics is the trigger to developing ataxophobia.

You simply can’t develop it despite having a past traumatic occurrence without having inherited the specific gene for it.

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What are the requirements for establishing ataxophobia?

Before one can be considered to have ataxophobia, the person would have met the following requirements:

1. The fear of disorderliness must be inappropriate in the situation

Before one can be said to have ataxophobia, the feeling of disorderliness must be disproportionate to the situation at hand.

This means that although the place is not correctly organized, however, the response f the person is way out of control such that the person begins to experience panic attacks and so on.

2. Irrationality

For this person to be said to have ataxophobia, their fear must be considered irrational. This means that the fear that they usually experience being around things that are not correctly arranged can’t be explained with a reason.

The patient himself can’t explain the reason why they feel the way they feel, and there is entirely no evidence that supports the way he or she feels.

3. Uncontrollable responses

When a person has an uncontrolled response such as panic attack towards disorderliness, and he or she can’t manage his response as it is out of his control, then the person can be said to have ataxophobia.

4. Disadaptive

A person who has ataxophobia finds it hard to adapt to his environment no matter how hard he or she tries. The fear of disorderliness, as experienced in ataxophobia, is considered to be maladaptive or disadaptive as the case may be.

Ataxophobia has been seen to interfere with how the person related to his environment and the people in it. It also decreases the person’s functionality in society as such, making it nearly impossible for the person to perfectly blends into his environment.

5. Avoidance

When a person continually avoids any social gathering without an explanation or reason for his or her actions, then the person might just be suffering from ataxophobia.

Due to the high intensity of fear he or she is experiencing, the person will experience panic attacks and intense levels of anxiety when exposed to situations of disorder such as events, societal functions, and so on.

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Because of this, the person will tend to want to hide away from the world-leading to avoidance. This way, the person feels like he is trying to help himself by preventing the situations that bring discomfort to him or her.

Doing this only worsens his or her condition as he or she doesn’t know how to respond to trigger situations. Avoidance can sometimes lead to the depression of the patient as they seldom wish to be normal and do the things everyone does without them having to hide all the time.

6. Continuity and Perseverance

The kind of fear that ataxophobia brings isn’t the one that begins and ends just like that. Instead, it is persevering. This means that once a patient is exposed to the trigger, he or she will continually display symptoms that show that he has this disorder.

It is important to note that the fear that people who have an ataxophobia, the display isn’t restricted to a particular stage or environment. This means it can occur at any time, in as much as the person is exposed to the trigger.

It is also vital to note that once this disorder starts, it doesn’t stop. It is not just a passing feeling or a fleeting experience. If the person is not treated and the disorder isn’t controlled, the fear remains constant and will keep reoccurring once the person is exposed.

Signs and Symptoms of Ataxophobia

A person who has ataxophobia will experience one common symptom which people with other specific phobias have, and that is the feeling of intense anxiety.

The anxiety they would experience will likely become extreme and result in a full-blown panic attack if not quickly controlled.

Sometimes, depending on the extent of their panic attack, they may require the need to be hospitalized and probably sedation to help them calm down.

However, the need for hospitalization depends on who the patient is, the kinds of symptoms he or she is experiencing, and so on. Also, people who have ataxophobia often go to great lengths to avoid their fear.

This means that they will make conscious efforts to avoid situations that will trigger their symptoms and actively try to avoid opportunities by having a hand-on or fleeing approach.

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Asides the common symptoms of anxiety and full-blown panic attracts when it is extreme, the person who suffers from ataxophobia may also experience the following physical symptoms:

  1. Anxiety when the thoughts of disorderliness or untidiness occur.
  2. Always avoiding situations that will lead to disorderliness
  3. Sometime, they may be unable to cope with their anxiety and may suffer from unexplainable, uncontrollable hand tremors.
  4. Muscle tension, sweating, and the patient will experience shakiness.
  5. Increased respiratory and cardiac rates
  6. Increased heartbeats that are leading to tachycardia.
  7. Dilation of the pupils
  8. Elevated levels of sweats
  9. Stomach aches
  10. Severe headaches
  11. Some patients may exhibit a drowning sensation
  12. Dizziness, lack of coordination as well as Nausea
  13. Extreme feeling of the unreality unfolding before them.

Asides the physical symptoms, the patient will also experience behavioral problems such as;

  1. Avoidance of situations that can trigger the symptoms of ataxophobia.
  2. Extreme organization. This means that the patient who has this obsessive disorder will try to organize everything around them even though they have already been appropriately positioned.
  3. High meticulously and organized rearrangements will be carried out by the patient.
  4. Always trying to preserve the order by isolation.

Treatments of Ataxophobia

Many people who have ataxophobia don’t usually agree that they have the disorder. They typically feel that they have control over the situation and that sorts of gives them the feeling that they have the power steering of the problem.

However, it is impossible to avoid disorderliness, especially if you live in certain areas. It is essential that a person who suffers from ataxophobia to seek professional help. This way, they can better understand what is happening to them and how they can best be cured.

Most phobias are considered treatable; however, there is no prescribed cure that is guaranteed to treat all phobias. The treatment for ataxophobia varies from person to person, and it is mainly dependent on the severity of the disorder as well as the signs and symptoms the person may be experiencing.

It is essential for you to note that if you have ataxophobia, it is vital that you don’t take your treatments into your hands. You are advised to meet a professional.

The medications that are mentioned below are only to give you an insight into what you are to expect and to keep you well informed. The treatments of Ataxophobia can be divided into segments.

1. Talking segment

This is probably the most dreaded segment when it comes to treating any phobia. This is because people who have this condition don’t find it easy to talk as they don’t see the need to.

Talking or therapies as others may like to call it allows the professional to understand you better, have an insight into how you feel, and the best way that he or she can help you.

Talking sections aim to help you do the following;

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  • Help you identify your destructive patterns in the way you act and think. Once you realize the loopholes, it is easier to help you cross over them.
  • In case there are any unresolved feelings, therapy will help you resolve them, or if they can’t be fixed, you find ways to leave peaceably with them.
  • Help you understand the things that are happening, why they happen to you, and how best to deal with them, especially in a public place.
  • Help you understand that you aren’t the only one with this condition. There are others out there just like you, and you aren’t alone.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT aims to help you decipher if they are actually within the realms of reality and if they are, how best challenge and overcome them.

3. The use of Medications

Remember, before you decide to take any drug, it must be prescribed by your doctor. For the side effects of this phobia, some drugs are prescribed as short term solutions.

The side effects of phobias, such as this, are anxiety and depression.

Mostly, for people who have phobias, their doctors will put them on antidepressants, tranquilizers, and beta-blockers.

4. Self-help

There is a particular saying, “Heavens help those who help themselves.” Well, self-help has to do with how to help yourself when you have the trigger, how not to allow the trigger rule your every decision as well as how to control your responses to the trigger.

It may be difficult but learning this process will help you focus even when you find yourself alone in certain circumstances.

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