Fear has a special significance in human life. This feeling is capable of throwing an individual out of balance, disorganizing his or her life activities. Therefore, phobias caused by fear of something are quite diverse. Among them is heliophobia – fear of the sun and sunlight (from the Greek helios – sun and phobos – fear).
This disease affects a small number of people, about 1% of the population. Adequate therapy can completely get rid of the sinister disorder. When treatment is delayed, serious consequences develop, dangerous for the health and social activity of the person.
Causes and Consequences
Fear of the sun with heliophobia has an unfounded, irrational nature, that is, it does not carry a real threat. Such fear is capable of being born in the mind of an individual under the influence of several reasons:
- The presence of another phobia. More often, these fears are from the hypochondriac group, for example, the fear of getting skin cancer under the influence of ultraviolet light, especially when it is at its most aggressive;
- negative experiences. “Sunburn” fear may very well be the result of inexperienced time in the sun. Unsuccessful tanning, resulting in severe burns to the skin, can not only extinguish a desire to continue to take sunbaths, but also to develop a persistent phobia of the celestial sun. Heat strokes followed by fever, nausea, dizziness also give rise to a negative experience. Overheating, accompanied by delirium, hallucinations, to an even greater extent forms persistent, deep beliefs of the negative solar influence;
- childhood psychotrauma cannot be ruled out as a cause of the birth of heliophobia. Moreover, the role of the sun in this situation can be minor – the child has simply transferred it from a background meaning to a significant figure. Example: the boy was walking down the street on a hot summer day when the sun was in its active phase. Suddenly, a huge, fierce dog appeared from around the corner, rushing toward the boy. The boy was wildly frightened of the frightening animal, but the scorching sun “stuck” in his subconscious, firmly embedded in the picture of the incident. Subsequently, the child developed a phobia, but not of the dog, but of the sunlight.
If the child suffers a severe heat stroke with hallucinatory phenomena, formation of a phobia is also possible. But in this case, the child perceives the sun as something fantastic and unreal.
Fear of the sun a person may be instilled in childhood and parents, terrorizing his child about putting on a panama, systematically instilling that if you go out without it, the child risks being burnt to a crisp.
The girl developed heliophobia after her thyroid tumor was removed. Afraid to reacquire a malignancy, she went to extremes.
With heliophobia there is no real danger to the person from the sun. The problem is created by the very behavior of the patient, limiting his vital activities, which leads to undesirable consequences.
By limiting exposure to the light, a person risks getting vitamin D avitaminosis, because the latter is synthesized in the human body under the influence of insolation. This means that he will soon experience malfunctions in the body, leading to:
- softening of tooth enamel, tooth decay, tooth decay;
- brittle bones, bone deformities, tendency to fractures;
- loss of weight;
- rapid fatigue;
- muscle cramps.
Often in heliophobia, the patient’s sleep and wakefulness patterns are disrupted: he or she is active at night and sleeps during the day. Such a regimen slows down the production of melatonin, since the hormone is synthesized during certain hours during sleep: between 24:00 and 5:00 a.m.
Melatonin is vital to the human body because it is involved in many processes. This hormone regulates the endocrine system, biorhythms, affects mental, physical activity. It controls our emotions, regulates blood pressure, controls the work of the whole body. Consequently, if melatonin synthesis is disrupted, its functions and control are lost.
As for the social life of the heliophobe, isolation from society, being in a closed space leads to a breakdown of friendships and business connections, to complete isolation. Against the backdrop of loneliness, depression flourishes. A person is in a constant state of tension and fear. In this case, the phobia of light is capable of reaching delusions.
A frequent consequence of the disorder is the development of other phobias:
- Sociophobia – fear of people;
- Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces.
Symptoms of heliophobia
The main sign of the disease is a restriction or complete refusal to stay in the sun. In this case, the person is almost constantly indoors during daylight hours and does not leave his or her dwelling.
The severity of destructive behavior depends on the degree of the disorder. With a mild form of heliophobia, the patient still allows himself or herself to go outside during daylight hours. But, naturally, with a full arsenal of protective means: the eyes are secured with glasses, and clothes are worn so as to conceal the exposed areas of the body as much as possible. What is not covered up is covered up with auxiliary means: gloves, scarves, scarves, hats. In this outfit a person goes to work, to the store, anywhere.
In the initial stage of the disease, the individual goes out in the daytime under an umbrella, applies sunscreen in large quantities.
As the process progresses, it causes avoidant behavior to form. The individual goes outdoors less and less frequently during the day. Creates semi-darkness in the apartment, protecting himself from the sun’s rays: he hangs up the windows with blinds, blankets. Chooses work which requires nighttime activity.
Panic attacks are a typical accompaniment to the disorder. On the whole, heliophobic person is an ordinary person, with clear consciousness, sound thinking, realizing the absurdity of his position. But as soon as he inadvertently enters the insolation zone, his consciousness seems to shut down. Stupor, panic, and chaos set in. The patient feels trapped. Attention dissipates, and it is difficult to make a constructive decision. Tachycardia develops, there is a feeling of suffocation, trembling throughout the body, and cold clammy sweat comes out. The condition is accompanied by unbearable headaches. Anxiety and fear are so pronounced that they provoke a powerful release of adrenaline, triggering all the symptoms of a panic attack. Nausea, vomiting appear, loss of consciousness is possible. There is only one desire left: to run to safety.
You can help the panic attacker by taking him into the shade, if there is no way to go indoors.
Do not get mixed up!
Heliophobia, as a separate phobia, is formed as a mental disorder devoid of any real health threat.
A pure phobia should not be confused with a fear of light caused by specific diseases:
- Keratoconus is an eye disease. Exposure to sunlight causes a particular, heightened sensitivity.
- Migraine – bright daylight provokes a headache.
- Xeroderma pigmentosa: the slightest exposure to ultraviolet light causes a burn on unprotected skin.
- Gunther’s disease. This is the name of the genetic disease that, like the previous pathology, causes changes in the skin by contact with ultraviolet rays in the form of ulcers. Subsequently, in their place are scars.
- Porphyria – Increased porphyrin content in the body causes multiple pathological changes, including photodermatosis. It is manifested by hyperpigmentation, the formation of ulcers, erosions, cracks in the skin.
In all of the above cases, heliobesity is justified, bringing real bodily suffering to the patient. For medical purposes, these pathologies even require photo-restriction. They cannot be regarded as mental heliophobia, which is worth considering when diagnosing the disease.
Light phobia can also manifest as part of other psychiatric disorders. A typical example is schizophrenia. However, in this case, the phobia has an unrealistic character – the patient is afraid of going out in the sun, justifying it by the fact that he will turn into a black person.
Another patient had a dream in which his relatives were afraid to go out into the light, since in doing so they decreased in size. The dream provoked the formation of sun-phobia, due to which the patient for a long time cardinally restricted leaving the house.
Heliophobia requires professional help, especially at the initial stage of treatment. Therapy of the disease is performed on an outpatient basis. Hospitalization is rarely necessary when the situation reaches a critical point.
Treatment of the disorder primarily comes down to the use of psychotherapeutic methods:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy uses the method of immersing the client in a traumatic situation with learning to come out of it in rational ways. Immersion, i.e. an exit to the sun, is carried out gradually.
- Psychoanalysis helps to uncover the underlying cause of the disorder, to get to the bottom of it.
- Hypnosis is considered a particularly effective way to treat phobia. For a short period of time it allows to root out the problem without much effort for the client. By putting the person in a trance state, the specialist is able to work with his unconscious. The hypnotherapist is able to influence the person’s deep-rooted attitudes received in childhood, establish traumatic events, change the patient’s attitude toward the fear and help form an adequate model of behavior. For the client, this method is considered gentle, as it does not cause stress and anxiety, and the treatment process is hidden from the patient’s mind. He or she is only given the opportunity to enjoy the result.
- In the compensated stage of the disease, auto-training and relaxation activities are available to patients.
Medication treatment is involved in individual cases. For depression, antidepressants are prescribed. To relieve panic attacks, the patient is necessarily prescribed anti-anxiety drugs. To relieve emotional tension, sedatives are used.
Most heliophobes take vitamin D to alleviate the developing hypovitaminosis or compensate for it with nutrition.
Heliophobia is a psychiatric disorder with a favorable prognosis. Stopped at an early stage, the disease goes away without a trace. The neglected form is dangerous, since it causes disturbances in the mental activity of the patient.