What is Poliosophobia?

Poliosophobia is the irrational and abnormal fear of polio. Poliomyelitis is often called polio or infantile paralysis, and is a viral disease that infects nerves, leading to temporary or permanent paralysis or death.

Historically, polio was a serious world-wide threat during the 19th and 20th centuries, and as recently as the 1980’s, still paralyzed as many as 1,000 children per day. Polio outbreaks in the 1940’s and 50’s claimed thousands of lives per year in the USA, brought under control by the Salk vaccine only in the 1950’s.

As a result of the history and highly contagious nature of the disease, some concern is rational. The phobic, however, will fear contagion without reason, and may be part of a more generalized fear of germs or illness (Germophobia, Bacillophobia, etc.).

Poliomyelitis originated from the Greek words 'polios' and 'muelos' meaning 'gray' and 'marrow' respectively. The disease would then be known as 'polio' which the phobia's name is derived from. Additionally, the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Poliosophobia

  • 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 Poliosophobia

Poliosophobia 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.

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

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Treatments for Poliosophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

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

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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