What is Scoleciphobia?

Scoleciphobia is the irrational fear of (parasitic) worms. Considered the same as Helminthophobia and Vermophobia (fear of worms) and related to Teniophobia (fear of tapeworms), all these phobia names are sometimes specifically used to denote a fear of parasitic worms. Parasitic worms are a cause of several problematic diseases in poor areas with poor water quality and are also the cause of syphilis. Scoleciphobia is thus usually associated with a fear of unhygienic conditions and the belief that worms represent poor hygiene or diseases.

The name comes from the Greek word 'scoleci' meaning 'parasitic worm' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Scoleciphobia

  • 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 Scoleciphobia

Scoleciphobia 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.

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

Fear of worms can be associated with primal fears of injury in the manner of reptiles, poisonous snakes, etc. Worms might be thought of as “tiny versions of snakes” and can thus evoke disgust or fear of injury or disease.

Unconscious / subconscious causes such as a traumatic sexual experience may play a role as well.

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Treatments for Scoleciphobia

  • 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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