I discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this phobia.
Heliophobia is an overwhelming, irrational fear of the sun or exposure to the sun. The heliophobic individual may also be fearful of any bright light. People coping with this phobia may cover themselves completely prior to going outside or in extreme cases of Heliophobia, will avoid going outside at all.
Heliophobia is derived from the Greek word “helios”, meaning sun and “phobos” meaning fear.
What Causes Heliophobia?
As with all phobias, the person impacted by Heliophobia has suffered a trauma at some time in their life. That traumatic experience is then automatically and consistently associated with the sun.
Perhaps the heliophobic person intensely fears skin cancer and feels that even the slightest exposure to the sun is extremely dangerous. This person may actually have an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition that causes hypersensitivity to the sun. Maybe the person suffering with Heliophobia has experienced severe sunburn in the past. Perhaps the person watched the negative and fearful reactions of others when confronted with exposure to the sun. In this example, the heliophobic individual would have learned to imitate the reactions of others.
What Are the Symptoms of Heliophobia?
The symptoms of Heliophobia are individual and will vary among people. Some people, when confronted with their fear of the sun, may begin to perspire, feel slightly uncomfortable or become nauseated. At the opposite end of the spectrum, other people are so severely compromised by this phobia, that they may experience crippling anxiety and/or panic attacks.
Other symptoms of Heliophobia may include:
* A Dry Mouth
* Heart Palpitations
* Heightened Senses
* Feeling Dizzy
* Muscle Tension
* Rapid Heartbeat
* Feeling Out of Control
* Feeling Trapped and Unable to Escape
* Intense Feeling of Impending Disaster
How Is Heliophobia Diagnosed?
The vast majority of cases of Heliophobia are self-diagnosed. The individual realizes that their fear of the sun is irrational and is severely compromising their ability to function on a daily basis.
The heliophobic person may discuss their phobia with the primary physician. Rarely would the doctor diagnosis Heliophobia based on that initial discussion with the patient. More routinely, after ruling out any medical reason for this phobia, the doctor will refer the person to a mental health professional for comprehensive assessment and evaluation.
How Is Heliophobia Treated?
When the fear of the sun becomes intense enough to disrupt an individual’s ability to function, there are a number of ways to treat Heliophobia.
These can include:
* A referral from the primary physician to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias.
* Traditional “talk” therapy that will teach the person to recognize and control their phobia.
* Exposure Therapy.
* Self-help techniques such as purposeful muscle relaxation.
* Support groups with other people who are coping with this specific phobia.
* Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Desensitization Therapy.
* Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
* In severe cases of Heliophobia, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed.
Heliophobia is an intense, irrational fear of the sun. Sometimes that fear can become so overwhelming as to completely halt a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Unchecked, Heliophobia can become a debilitating condition that interferes with an individual’s personal life, their social life and job responsibilities. Untreated, Heliophobia can have a devastating impact on every aspect of a person’s life.