Millions of people across the world are affected by phobias of different types, but one of the least known is ommetophobia – the fear of the eyes. Surprisingly, it is more common than people realise with symptoms ranging from minor to serious. Indeed, some people suffer so greatly with ommetophobia that their ability to live a normal life is severely curtailed.
What is Ommetophobia?
Generally, any fears or anxieties that involve the eyes are classed as having ommetophobia. It is a condition that can be triggered by a traumatic life event, often involving eye accidents at an early age. This could be things like suffering a previous eye injury, being partially blinded, or seeing another persons eye popping out.
Genetic factors can also have a part to play – some people are more predisposed to anxieties than others, and as eye phobias are primarily a mental issue, there is evidence to show that brain chemistry imbalances can produce anxious behaviour.
It is important to remember that ommetophobia can affect people from all walks of life. Even eye doctors get it! If you think you may be suffering too, you can take a basic test online to give you some indication.
The impact upon individuals with ommetophobia may be significant, reducing their quality and enjoyment of life in general. It can lead to to these people avoiding social situations so they do not have to make eye contact with others, and may reduce their participation in outdoor activities – the thought of getting a fly or bit of dust in their eyes can seem catastrophic to people with eye phobias.
Ironically, the main concern of those with ommetophobia is protecting their eye health, but in reality it can have the opposite effect. Using contact lenses, glasses, and having regular eye examinations will often provoke fearful thoughts – making sufferers avoid them. This puts their eyes at risk of increased health problems.
Even using eye drops for infections can be a major issue for a person with an eye phobia.
What are the symptoms?
Like other phobias, a severe anxious reaction will occur when sufferers have an experience involving eyes that they perceive as uncomfortable:
Symptoms can include:
- shortness of breath
- increased sweating
- panic attacks
For some people, these reactions may happen merely on eye contact with another person, for others it could be when they get something in their eyes. Either way, these situations provoke an abnormal response which causes long term harm to their mental well-being.
Can it be treated?
Although there is no specific ommetophobia treatment regime to follow, successful reversal of the condition can be achieved by using methods that treat phobias in general. Counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), hypnosis, and medication have all been shown to have a positive effect on phobic behaviour.
CBT uses desensitization therapy which will involve confronting fears on a gradual basis, and reducing avoidance behaviours. When compared to hypnotherapy, they have a similar success rate. Medications that can help are also used for anxiety and depression. Sertraline has demonstrated efficacy in reducing fear symptoms.
If you think you may be suffering from ommetophobia, it is wise to consult your Dr and begin a treatment plan. The sooner you seek help, the sooner your life can begin to normalise, and your stress levels can be lessened.