Apotemnophobia: The Fear of Amputation (Or Amputees)
If the thought of losing your own limbs—or the sight of someone who has lot theirs—causes you a great deal of distress, you could be suffering from apotemnophobia (pronounced [ape-oh-tem-know-fo-bee-uh]). A diagnosis of apotemnophobia depends on the degree of the fear. It can be upsetting to see someone who has lost an appendage or to think about losing a limb yourself, and this can cause feelings of mild discomfort. Individuals suffering from apotemnophobia, on the other hand, have more severe levels of unease, including severe anxiety, panic attacks, and/or the overwhelming need to escape environments where amputees are present.
There are a couple of related conditions:
- Apotemnophilia is the opposite of apotemnophobia, referring to someone wanting to be an amputee
- Acrotomophilia is an attraction toward amputees
What Causes an Extreme Fear of Amputation?
Like many phobias, apotemnophobia often has its roots in a traumatic situation; in this case, related to amputation or other serious injuries. Perhaps you had a near-miss where amputation could have been necessary. Maybe you know someone who has undergone an amputation and you have seen its effects. The emphasis from parents or friends on avoiding serious injury may be a contributing factor as well. Finally, amputation covered in news reports, movies or other forms of media can reinforce extreme amputation fears. Individuals prone to fear and anxiety are often at a higher risk to develop such phobias.
Amputations Depicted in the Media
There is no shortage of news and other media presentations of amputation. The event is a staple in horror movies such as the Saw series and in other movies such as Forrest Gump, in which Lt. Dan’s legs were amputated. Television also regularly features amputations; one that always comes to my mind is from ER, where a surprise hospital scene reveals Dr. Barnett to have had both legs amputated after being hit by a truck. As mentioned in the section above, real or fictional depictions could contribute to or worsen apotemnophobia.
Symptoms of apotemnophobia include:
- An intense anxiety or fear when experiencing amputees or the thought of undergoing an amputation
- An overwhelming sensation of needing to escape a situation in which you are exposed to amputation
- An obsession with avoiding amputation
- The inability to function normally due to the condition
We recommend starting with seeking help from a qualified professional. See below for our recommendations. Depending on your individual assessment, your therapist may recommend one of the following treatment methods:
- Behavioral therapy: A therapist will work with you to reduce your anxiety through gradual exposure to stimuli, in this case, amputation-related
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: A professional meets with you to discuss your situation and work through a treatment protocol based on exploring, addressing and overcoming thought patterns causing or contributing to phobias
- Pharmaceutical: Your general doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe medicine to help the symptoms of fear and anxiety
Fearapy Recommendations for Apotemnophobia Treatment
We recommend two options for apotemnophobia treatment:
- A local professional counselor—You should be able to find a qualified professional with an online search. When making the appointment, make sure to be connected with a therapist specializing in phobias.
- BetterHelp online therapy: BetterHelp is the largest therapy e-platform, with qualified professionals trained to treat phobias of all kind. This is an option for people wishing to see a therapist without leaving their home. See our online therapy page for more information.
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