Sunday, November 23, 2008
Podophobia describes an abnormal or persistent fear of feet. Not to be confused with ipod-phobia which is a fear of MP3s. Podophobia is reasonably common anxiety phobia which describes people with an acute aversion to the sight of feet, either their own or other peoples. Symptoms vary from a mild dislike to physiological changes such as breathlessness, dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, or even a complete anxiety attack. Further some people become quite angry and very upset at both sight and touch of their feet and in some cases even when others like the doctor or podiatrist, is talking about their feet. Podophobics receive little sympathy and are often made fun of by others who do not quite understand anxiety phobia.
Podophobia most often presents as a specific phobia triggered by feet or their association but can also be part of a social phobia which involves fear of other people and social relationships. Most podophobics cope by adopting abnormal behaviours which usually involve ornate rituals covering their feet from sight even when sleeping. Many avoid the company of others and usually demonstrate low self esteem. The symptoms manifest only when the person has to display their feet in the company of others.
Most specific phobias can be traced back to a triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age but social phobias are more complex and the cause remains unknown. This most seriously affected by social anxiety suffer clinical depression with many resorting to alcohol and drug dependency. Podophobics are usually fully aware their reaction to feet is quite illogical and groundless but they have no control to stop the high anxiety cause by their presence.
Biochemically anxiety arises as part of the natural flight or fight mechanism when the hormone adrenalin is released. Once the danger has passed blood adrenalin level usually return to normal but in some people the high adrenalin levels continue causing the heart rate to continue to speed up matched with faster breathing. Temporary reduced blood supply to the brain may cause dizziness and other changes caused by high anxiety produce many sensations and thoughts that are mostly misinterpreted by the sufferer as being sinister or threatening. Podophobia is classified as an anxiety disorder and is neither a physical nor mental condition.
Anxiety is a natural response to fear and, like other bodily systems that can falter under stress podophobia is no different to nervous indigestion, palpitations or sensitive eyes. Phobias often occur after a stressful event such as bereavement, divorce or other anxiety-provoking situations. Anxiety sufferers need support, advice and reassurance during their high anxiety episodes and this may not be available which tends to make them rather reclusive. Severe specific and social phobias maybe treated in different ways usually involving a combination of counseling, systematic desensitisation including cognitive behavioural therapy as well as anti-anxiety medication. One method currently under research is Neuro Linguistic programming where the person learns to restructure their mental approach to better control their emotions and anxiety levels.
Podophila which describes a sexual attraction to feet may be the flip side and early incidents of high anxiety involving the feet may correspond to periods of significant sexual development which when reinforced leave the person particularly partial to intimate contact with feet.