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Ailurophobia: why are some people afraid of cats?

We are often familiar with famous phobias, such as the fear of lifts, the fear of crowds, the fear of spiders, etc. But do you know about ailurophobia, or the fear of cats? And why do some people suffer from it, often severely?

Ailurophobia: what is it?

First of all, what is ailurophobia? It is an irrational fear of cats, which occurs in a person who has experienced a trauma, often in childhood. This pathological defence mechanism then sets in, fleeing the feline race in an unreasonable manner.
Also called felinophobia, gatophobia or elurophobia, this particular phobia has attracted medical and popular attention, since the beginning of the 20th century, neurologists have been studying the causes of this pathology, which belongs to the anxiety disorders.

The American neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell, for example, wrote an article in the New York Times in 1905, attempting to explain the causes of this fear.

In practice, ailurophobia results in anxiety attacks (repeated, prolonged and excessive anxiety) when the patient is confronted with a cat, either directly or indirectly.

The patient's daily life is often affected, as our cat friends are present almost everywhere on the planet, in our flats or in our streets and countryside. Sometimes this fear is so strong that the subject can sense the presence of a cat within hundreds of metres in advance! And in extreme cases, the sight of a feline is enough to cause a panic attack.

What are the symptoms of ailurophobia?

When people suffering from ailurophobia are confronted with the object of their fear, several symptoms arise, which make it possible to evaluate the severity of their pathology, according to their intensity.

These symptoms are:

  • Excessive production of sweat;
  • Acceleration of the heart rate;
  • Feeling of an irrepressible urge to flee;
  • Dizziness (in some cases);
  • Loss of consciousness and tremors may also occur;
  • Difficulty in breathing may also occur.

Where does garlicurophobia come from?

Like any anxiety disorder, ailurophobia can have various origins, depending on the individual. It may stem primarily from a childhood trauma, such as a cat bite or scratch. The individual suffering from phobia may also have inherited a family fear linked to a toxoplasmosis contracted by a pregnant family member.

Finally, let's not forget the superstitious aspect linked to cats, associating misfortune with the vision of a black cat. Beyond these leads, medicine is not currently able to clearly identify the origins of this phobia, ruling out in any case the "rational" origins, such as asthma or an allergy contracted in the presence of cats. In the end, it would appear to be a defence mechanism that an individual puts in place to avoid facing an anxiety.

What are the treatments for ailurophobia?

When daily life becomes too much affected by this phobia, psychotherapeutic treatments can be considered.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is available to help with this. With a therapist, one tries to confront the object of one's fear by carrying out practical exercises based on the patient's behaviour and reactions. Ericksonian hypnosis can also be tried: a brief therapy, it can be used to treat anxiety disorders that cannot be treated by psychotherapy.

Neuro-linguistic programming and EMDR

Also NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and EMDR (Eyes Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) offer different approaches to treatment.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) will look at the way humans function in a given environment, based on their behavioural patterns. By using certain methods and tools, NLP will help the individual to change their perception of the world around them. This will change their initial behaviours and conditioning, by operating in the structure of their world view. In the case of a phobia, this method is particularly suitable.

As for EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, it uses sensory stimulation through eye movements, but also through auditory or tactile stimuli.

This method allows the stimulation of a complex neuropsychological mechanism present in each of us. This stimulation allows us to reprocess moments experienced as traumatic and not digested by our brain, which can be at the origin of very disabling symptoms, such as phobias.

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