Dog phobia (cynophobia): causes, symptoms and remedies
Jun 02, 2022
Dogs, along with cats, are one of the favorite pets for humans. They offer great company, endear themselves and, in some cases, even serve as therapy. And it is that those of us who have or have ever had a dog, know that these little animals end up being part of our family and can even become our best friends.
In fact, 74% of the Spanish population affirms that the presence of dogs in your home makes them happier. This is what a scientist from the Affinity Foundation concludes about the Link between People and Companion Animals. This study involved 6,000 volunteers.
However, despite the fact that these animals are very often adorable, some people suffer great panic and discomfort in their presence, and avoid being near them at all costs. This is known as cynophobia or dog phobia..
- Related article: “Types of Phobias: Exploring Fear Disorders”
Dog phobia, more common than we think
Almost 43% of Spanish families have pets in their home, and the dog is the favorite companion animal. According to the Affinity Foundation study, for 31% of their research subjects, their dog is almost more important than their friends. Oddly enough, 71% say they regularly communicate with their pet.
Therefore, for pet lovers, it is difficult to imagine that someone feels terror in the presence of a dog. Now, cynophobia is more common than many people think. According to the results of a study carried out by the psychologist José Gil Martínez, professor at the University of Valencia, 10% of individuals suffer from excessive and irrational fear of dogs. Not all of these people have this type of phobia, since for this this terror should be so intense that it damages their quality of life, but taking into account that proportion, it is estimated that the number of people with cynophobia is relatively high.
- You may be interested: "10 benefits of owning a dog (according to science)"
Symptoms of cynophobia
People with a phobia of dogs feel extreme anxiety when they are around the animal or when they think about meeting it.
The main symptoms they experience are panic and fear, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, and a strong need to flee or avoid the feared stimulus. Therefore, the symptomatology is not different from that of any specific phobia, but individuals with this type of phobia not only fear that a dog will harm them, but that they are also afraid of the panic response that accompanies an encounter with these animals.
Like other phobic disorders, cynophobia usually presents physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. They are the following:
- Disorientation and lack of concentration.
- Sensation of shortness of breath and hyperventilation.
- Excessive sweating.
- dry mouth
- Intense horror.
- Intestinal discomfort and headache.
- Tension in the muscles.
- Avoidance behaviors.
- Fast heartbeat and increased heart rate.
How phobias develop
most phobias have their onset in childhood or adolescence, and the most frequent cause is the presence of a traumatic event that the person associates with a dog. From there, it generalizes this fear to all the animals of the species through a process called classical conditioning.
There are several scenarios that can cause the development of the phobia. A direct experience can be a dog bite. However, sometimes a phobia may arise due to an irrational belief. For example, if a father repeats to a son that dogs are dangerous and that they attacked his grandfather in the past.
It may also happen that the person experiencing this phobia is not aware of its onset, for example, being caused by a slight incident when watching a horror movie with dogs or by a feature film of the Rage.
Some experts say that there is a certain genetic predisposition to develop phobias. However, others, the vast majority, think that it is a purely learned phenomenon in interaction with the environment, beyond the fact that certain people have a greater predisposition to anxiety.
Treatment of cynophobia
The phobia is an anxiety disorder, and like other phobic disorders, it responds well to cognitive behavioral therapy. One of the most used techniques to deal with this problem are expository techniques, more specifically the systematic desensitization method. This technique is designed to help gradually eliminate fear and foster more useful coping skills.
As therapeutic sessions progress, live dogs can be used, although in the initial phases They usually use photographs, audiovisual content, stuffed dogs and even the exhibition with the imagination. It should not be forgotten that the phobia of dogs is an irrational fear and, generally, patients tend to suffer from phobic symptoms even though the animal is not present.
Getting over it can be a slow process
As the person overcomes fear, positive behaviors such as approaching and petting a dog are encouraged. Overcoming a phobia can be a slow process (a matter of months) and achieving it requires patience, effort and the ability to overcome.
If the phobia is severe, the psychologist may work with a psychiatrist who prescribes drugs for the patient. Though Medications should never be the only therapeutic option, can help reduce anxiety symptoms significantly.
Cynophobia can create enormous discomfort, especially considering that dogs are animals that live with humans and with which it is frequent to cross. Fortunately, like any type of phobia, it can be overcome, although in most cases the anxiety it produces does not completely disappear.
Apps to help with anxiety
New technologies are also present in the treatment of phobias, and in recent years it has become possible to develop different apps that help overcome the pathology if you suffer from it.
Some expose you to the dreaded stimulus thanks to virtual reality or augmented reality, while others simply they provide information so that you better understand what is happening to you. If you want to know more about these applications, you can read this article: “8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone”.