Tremophobia: what is the fear of earthquakes and how to control it?

Tremophobia is the name given to the fear of earthquakes and is characterized by presenting states of anxiety and persistent, excessive, and irrational fear of telluric movements.

Flor Gil Bernal, a specialist in the Department of Psychology at the Universidad Iberoamericana, assures that there are several types of responses after an earthquake:

  • Stress: overcome almost immediately.
  • Acute stress: attention decreases, consciousness is clouded, momentary amnesia, disorientation, tremors, aggressiveness, and restlessness occur, and can last for a few hours or up to four weeks.
  • Post-traumatic stress: the same symptoms appear up to a month after the events.
  • Acute post-traumatic stress: unpleasant recurrent thoughts, physiological reactions (sweating hands, tachycardia, chest tightness or dizziness), and behavioral reactions (limitations to work, study, or to carry out any activity), more than one month after the event.

However, in the case of tremophobia, health authorities assure that the symptoms of severe panic and/or excessive anxiety can last up to six months, and can even incapacitate the person when “they begin to have behavioral changes, less motivated, less energy, tends to isolate, to be more irritable and social relationships are often considerably affected”.

How to manage your fear of earthquakes

Given the fear of earthquakes, psychology experts suggest a series of measures that can be applied during and after an earthquake:

During an earthquake:

  • Assume that you are afraid and consider that it is a natural emotion and that it is motivated by an external factor
  • Recognize that you are not in control of the situation
  • Avoid catastrophic thoughts
  • Stay informed from official sources
  • Find a safe place

After an earthquake:

  • Talk about what you feel and experience
  • Avoid information overload
  • spend more time with family
  • Do activities that help clear your mind
  • Practice relaxation techniques and physical exercise

Why are we afraid when an earthquake strikes?

Fear of an earthquake is a psychological reaction that occurs in the face of a risk or threat, since it is something that cannot be controlled and, therefore, nothing can be done to avoid it, indicates the Official College of Psychology of Andalucía Orienta.

This reaction can generate feelings of anguish, anxiety, stress, recurrent thoughts, sleep disturbances, or loss of appetite, and can be reflected in bodily sensations or physiological reactions such as increased heart rate, sweating, chills, body tremors, muscle tension; in the short, medium and even in the long term.

José Ramón Grajales, a psychiatrist attached to the Mental Health Services of the Ministry of Health (SSa), explained in an interview with C NN , that when exposed to a stimulus such as earthquakes, people who suffer from tremophobia, can present crises of distress that can become incapacitating.

For their part, experts from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that tremophobia is part of what is known as “simple phobias”, where the phobia of clowns, closed spaces, or insects are cataloged.

  • Tremophobia affects 4% of the Mexican population and after an earthquake between 2.5% and 3.5% of those affected may suffer post-traumatic stress.

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