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It’s easy to forget how small you are until you find yourself looking up at the tall, glassy facade of a skyscraper. While some may marvel at these pieces of work, large buildings and objects can induce fear and anxiety in others.
What is megalophobia?
Megalophobia is an intense fear of large things. It’s a type of specific phobia, which is extreme fear or anxiety about a specific situation or object.
In the case of megalophobia, the specific object is what large object you specifically fear (Thng, 2020).
What causes megalophobia?
Any large object can trigger megalophobia. And yes, large is a subjective word, but there’s no specific size requirement needed to cause a reaction.
Common examples of things that may trigger megalophobia include:
- Large animals
- Large statues
- Wind turbines
Signs and symptoms of megalophobia
Large things cause anxiety and panic attacks in people with megalophobia. Symptoms include (Cackovic, 2020):
- Fast heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Upset stomach
To avoid a panic attack, people with megalophobia may actively avoid situations where they might encounter a large object. This avoidance strategy could involve living somewhere flat, rural, and inland to avoid objects like mountains or tall buildings.
In severe cases of megalophobia, individuals stop leaving their homes altogether to avoid any interactions with a large object.
Anxiety: types, symptoms, causes, and treatments
Can you diagnose megalophobia?
Megalophobia and other specific phobias are medical conditions that can be diagnosed by a medical professional. To do so, your provider will need to gather information regarding your fear.
They’ll want to know when your fear started, and if large objects always cause immediate anxiety. If avoiding large objects affects your daily life, let them know that too. Examples of this include deliberately not applying for jobs located in tall buildings, or skipping out on a family vacation on a large cruise ship.
This information will also help rule out other medical conditions that could explain symptoms, such as paranoid personality disorder and panic disorder.
Treatment for megalophobia
Different types of psychotherapy can treat specific phobias like megalophobia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-studied, effective form of treatment. In CBT, you’ll learn strategies for changing how your brain reacts to whatever triggers your fear. A therapist will work with you to understand why you fear large objects and cultivate a more rational perception of them.
Another component of CBT is exposure therapy, where you’re shown images of large objects. Exposure therapy aims to get you familiar with what you fear by exposing you to them in a controlled setting. This can be especially helpful if you’ve been avoiding large objects in your everyday life (Thng, 2020).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): what is it and what does it work for?
How to cope with a fear of large objects
As part of therapy, you’ll learn techniques to help you cope with megalophobia.
One example is deep breathing––a type of relaxation technique that alleviates anxiety. Practice inhaling for four seconds through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth for six seconds. We don’t usually breathe that slowly, so it may help to use a timer if you’re first starting out (Shiban, 2017).
Other relaxation and coping techniques include listening to soothing sounds and music, going for a walk, and taking a long shower.
- Cackovic, C., Nazir, S., & Marwaha, R. (2020). Panic Disorder. [Updated Jul 10, 2021]. In StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28613692/
- Shiban, Y., Diemer, J., Müller, J., Brütting-Schick, J., Pauli, P., & Mühlberger, A. (2017). Diaphragmatic breathing during virtual reality exposure therapy for aviophobia: functional coping strategy or avoidance behavior? a pilot study. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1), 29. doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-1181-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28100203/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2016). Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30199183/
- Thng, C., Lim-Ashworth, N., Poh, B., & Lim, C. G. (2020). Recent developments in the intervention of specific phobia among adults: a rapid review. F1000Research, 9, F1000 Faculty Rev-195. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.20082.1. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32226611/
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.