Megalophobia is a fear of large objects. A person with this phobia experiences intense anxiety when thinking of or viewing certain very large objects, such as a cruise ship or a tall statue. Megalophobia is relatively rare, but for those affected, it can become serious enough to interfere with daily life. Megalophobia is not recognized as a disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but it shares similarities with other specific phobias.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The three main types of phobias are specific, social, and agoraphobia. Megalophobia is categorized as the former because the fear focuses on specific objects, much like a fear of snakes, heights, or tunnels. Exposure to large objects causes a person with megalophobia to experience intense anxiety that can include panic attacks.
A person with megalophobia will almost always have an immediate anxiety response when they are exposed to their feared large object. Most people recognize that their level of fear is out of proportion with the actual danger. Some symptoms those with specific phobias experience are:
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of losing control
A person who has a first-degree relative with a specific phobia is more likely to be at risk for a disorder like megalophobia. People who tend to experience intense anxiety about physical sensations — somatic symptom disorder— also tend to be more prone to experiencing phobias. Having other anxiety or mood issues raises the risk, as well.
Diagnosing a specific phobia can be fairly straightforward using an assessment of the symptoms. According to the DSM-5, anxiety, fear, and avoidance must be present and persistent for at least six months. They must cause clinically significant impairment of functioning in important areas of daily life and not be better explained by a different disorder.
The good news is that phobias are one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Cognitive-behavioral and exposure therapies can help change a person’s response. A doctor might additionally prescribe anti-anxiety medication — like beta-blockers, anti-depressants, or tranquilizers — for short-term use. Some self-help techniques can also address megalophobia.
Living with Megalophobia
A person with megalophobia can make lifestyle changes to help reduce their anxiety. Aerobic exercise is associated with a reduction in phobic anxiety. It is also useful to learn relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation. Practicing mindfulness can help a person with a phobia cope better when they are exposed to a trigger object.
Specific Phobia vs. Normal Fear
It is normal for children to have unreasonable fears as they grow up. Fears of the dark or monsters are common. However, sometimes a child doesn’t grow out of a specific fear and it develops into a phobia that negatively impacts their life. Phobias are different from fears or anxiety around things or issues that pose a real danger. In most cases, the reaction to the feared object or concept usually significantly overshoots the actual level of danger.
Any oversized object can trigger anxiety, fear, and avoidance behaviors in a person with megalophobia. Skyscrapers, sculptures, and buses can induce symptoms. Sometimes, just looking at a photo of an oversized object can trigger anxiety. Video games or TV shows might also show over-sized images that make people with megalophobia feel anxious.
Why Seek Treatment
When megalophobia gets in the way of a person living their life the way they would like to, it can cause significant complications. People can become socially isolated if they are consumed with avoiding triggers. Sometimes, these issues lead to substance abuse in attempts to self-medicate. The risk of suicide is also higher in some people with specific phobias.
Where to Get Help
If a person has uncomfortable sensations when exposed to massive objects, they could have megalophobia. There are screening assessments available online to get a better picture of the symptoms and how much they are impacting one’s life. While it is sometimes possible to self-treat phobias, there are also many therapists available who specialize in the treatment of specific phobias.