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:
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.
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:
We recommend seeking help from a qualified professional. You can find a local counselor or go with online therapy. Depending on your individual assessment, your therapist may recommend one of the following treatment methods:
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