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Toxicophobia (Fear Of Poison): Causes, Symptoms, Complications, And Treatment

Last Updated: Jun 10, 2024

What is Toxicophobia?

Toxicophobia is a psychological disorder that can be described as an irrational or exaggerated fear of poison or of being poisoned. Toxicophobia is also known by the name of toxophobia and toxinophobia. It is not necessary that only adults can be afraid, but children who are aware of what is poison are also prone to mental disorders. It can be easily confused with other sorts of psychological disorders like schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Unlike fear, a phobia is an elevated version of fear which makes its decisions on the basis of irrational situations. Your fight and flight response gets clouded by an intense sense of fear, which makes it harder to control or manage. While fear can only make you sweat a little, a phobia can make your heart beat faster, and cause serious medical conditions like heart attack, panic attack, etc. Phobia is not important, rather it is harming an individual physical and mental health.

On the other hand, Fear is considered a general human emotion. Like every other human emotion, it is a crucial part of our lives. Without fear, one will not be able to take logical reasoning. Sense of fear actually keeps us away from harmful situations and triggers fight or flight response in emergency cases. Fear works on logical reasoning, we only fear those which can be life-threatening, which is why it is easy to take control over your fear.

While fear can be a symptom of some underlying medical condition, a phobia is a whole disorder of its own.

What are the causes of Toxicophobia?

As mentioned earlier, phobia, or in this case Toxicophobia works on the basis of irrational logic and overpowering thoughts about a particular subject like poison. In Toxicophobia, one may feel the high intensity of fear, anxiety, and panic when the thought of being poisoned came into their head.

If the phobia stays for too long in your life it can eventually create a negative impact on personal, professional, and social life. Like any other phobia, the root cause of this irrational fear is still not accurately concluded. But there are some things that can be behind Toxicophobia, they are:

  • Hurtful or negative encounters with non-consumables items.
  • Genetics.
  • Cultural or environmental factors.
  • Alterations in your overall brain functioning.

Groups that are at risk of Toxicophobia:

Since most of the root cause of Toxicophobia is associated with individual past experiences and cultural negativity, some people are more prone to have this phobia than others, some of the groups are:

  • Children around the age of 10 or less.
  • Already have anxiety, panic, or any other psychological disorder related to Toxicophobia.
  • People who are sensitive, negative, or inhibited personalities or temperament.
  • Negative experience with poison.
  • Living in a social environment that is negative towards poisonous items.

What are the further complications associated with Toxicophobia?

If not detected on time, phobia like Toxicophobia can cause major psychological and physical harm. Especially in children, the side effects are worse. Here are some of the complications that one may affect an individual under long term exposure to Toxicophobia:

  • Social isolation.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Anxiety disorder.
  • Panic or cardiac disorders.
  • Physical damage to oneself or others.
  • Tachycardias.
  • Hyperventilation.

What are the symptoms of Toxicophobia?

Here are some of the symptoms one may experience in the case of Toxicophobia:

  • An intense sense of fear, panic, and anxiety when the thought of having poison pops into the head.
  • Having full awareness of being insane or irrational about your fear, but does not have any control over your thoughts.
  • Sense of being triggered when a poisonous item comes in front of it, it gets worse when any non-consumable is used near them.
  • Try to avoid any situation where you may have to encounter non-consumable items. One may feel intensely worried or anxious in case they fail to avoid the situation.
  • Your thoughts and irrational feelings started to hamper your daily life activities. They also trigger physical symptoms like sweating, a rapid heartbeat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, nausea, dizziness, or fainting.

In the case of children, they may showcase trauma by crying and clinging when comes in contact with poisonous substances.

What are the signs that calls for medical attention?

It may seem crazy at first. Since you are aware it is irrational to fear poisonous items, you may feel annoyed and stuck many times. Prolong exposure to the irrational fear of getting poisoned can be harmful to physical and mental health. Here are some signs that may signal you to visit a mental health professional:

  • It has a negative impact on professional, personal or academic performance.
  • Creating a drastic impact on social life, especially your relationships with your close ones.
  • Hamper your daily life activities.

In the case of children, parents need to keep a close eye on their offspring as Toxicophobia can outgrow their fears into something more drastic. The fear of getting poisoned not only hamper their childhood but also affects their ability to run into society normally. So you know any child, who may show the same symptoms take them to a mental healthcare professional as soon as possible.

What to expect from your medical professional during your treatment and sessions?

You will discuss your problems, any associated symptoms, and any emotional stress associated with them at your first appointment. Additionally, your medical, psychiatric, and social histories will be discussed to determine the severity of the case.

Psychological testing and physical examination may be part of the second phase of the session.

Your doctor will design a treatment plan for you if you are diagnosed with Toxicophobia, as well as its duration and exercises that go along with it.

What are the treatment for Toxicophobia?

Toxicophobia is characterized by irrational fears of poison, so most cases show signs of recovery. An individual who receives frequent therapy sessions will be able to fight back the basic instinct that caused the patient to feel fear. Therapy sessions generally consist of psychotherapy, such as talk therapy, in which the patient and therapist discuss the problems and discuss the best course of action.

In addition to talk therapy, the two most commonly used psychotherapies to treat phobias like Toxicophobia are:

  • Exposure therapy:

    This form of psychological treatment allows the patient to confront their fears in a safe environment. This method was developed because it has been shown that avoiding or ignoring the root cause suppresses your feelings, which may feel better for a short period of time, but not for a long period of time. Your situation will only get worse if you suppress your toxicophobic feelings.

    By creating a safe space, an individual can face their fears and allow suppressed emotions to surface, enabling them to process them. Your therapist may ask you to let the surface of your thoughts without any major physical or psychological triggers in a safe space since the source of fear is a poisonous substance. They will first start with images and visuals, then move to use non-consumable items without getting triggered. Eventually, these exposures to your fear will eventually fade its intensity and its further triggers to other medical conditions.

  • CBT:

    Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a strategy designed to establish an open conversation between the patient and the therapist/counselor. Toxicophobia and its associated fears and triggers are discussed in a structured manner through this activity. Through this method, the patient can become more aware of their irrational fears, negative thoughts, and clouded judgment regarding poisoning. The key purpose of the therapy is for you to practice the following in your daily life:

    • Be aware of the impact of fear on your emotional system and manage it.
    • Be aware of your physical triggers and learn to calm down when they occur.
    • Channelize negative emotions into positive ones.

In the event that Toxicophobia is not restricted to psychological effects, your therapist will prescribe a combination of medications and psychological therapies. In general, or during sessions, these medications are given to reduce the physical effects of anxiety or panic attacks. In general, these medications are prescribed in order to address triggers that may arise during therapy.

The amount of medication will diminish during the course of treatment as the patient begins to learn how to manage their fears and triggers leading to physical problems. Eventually, the medication will be used only in emergency situations. Toxicophobia is treated with some of the following medications:

  • Beta-blockers:

    During anxiety, your body produces an excess amount of adrenalin, causing you to feel in a tense state. In addition to creating the effects of adrenaline, beta-blockers tried to calm you down by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, pounding heart, trembling voice, and limbs.

  • Sedatives:

    Sedatives aid in reducing anxiety in individuals by directly affecting the conscious mind. In this case, benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly used sedatives. The fact that sedatives can be addictive should be kept in mind before taking them. One should avoid the consumption of drugs if one have a history of addiction or abuse as it can lead to relapse.

Summary: Toxicophobia is a psychological disorder that can be described as a fear of getting poisoned. Toxicophobia is a sense of fear one feels when came when a person comes near a poisonous substance or feels that they may get poisoned. It is not necessary that only adults can be afraid, but children who are aware of what is poison are also prone to mental disorders. Toxicophobia works on the basis of irrational logic and overpowering thoughts about a particular subject like poison. One can come out of this very easily with the help of therapy sessions and medication if treated on time.

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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