What is Ostraconophobia?

Ostraconophobia is the irrational fear of shellfish. The development of this fear may be linked to a traumatic instance of food poisoning, but the texture, taste, and/or smell of shellfish may also engender strong dislike leading to outright fear. The phobic individual may be afraid of developing an allergic reaction to shellfish, for instance, even if they have never had such an allergy.

The root word 'ostrco' is Greek meaning 'creatures characterized by a type of hard shell' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Ostraconophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

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Causes of Ostraconophobia

Ostraconophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Ostraconophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

This phobia may develop due to allergies or previous instances of food poisoning. Religious dietary restrictions can play a role as well, as the Jewish dietary rules (Kashrut) forbid shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams, and crabs, and in this case a fear of shellfish would be related to a fear of breaking cultural strictures.

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Treatments for Ostraconophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

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