Athazagoraphobia (Fear Of Being Forgotten)

One of the rarer phobias, Athazagoraphobia is classified as an acute and overpowering fear, or phobia, of being forgotten or ignored. This phobia is unique in that it may occur at both ends of an individual’s lifespan, for differing reasons.

What is Athazagoraphobia?

Athazagoraphobes have an intense, constant and overwhelming fear of being forgotten, whether this is directly related to specific people in their life or the public in general. This term also applies to the intense fear of forgetting oneself. As such, there any many situations or scenarios which may cause this phobia to occur at many times in an individual’s life. Many of the feelings stemming from this phobia are related to being unsubstantial or unseen. Unlike many phobias in which the majority of cases evolve during childhood, Athazagoraphobia is also common in older individuals, especially those diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Due to the dual nature of Athazagoraphobia, there are more cases of this condition appearing in a wide range of situations and environments. It could be an individual is slowly losing their memory due to illnesses related to old age – such as dementia – in which case an intense fear of losing ‘who they are’ by forgetting is common. Also, this condition can apply to a variety of memory-related mental health conditions such as amnesia. Because this condition is related to the feeling of losing oneself – sometimes to the point of feeling unreal – Athazagoraphobia can have a significant impact on those who rely on the opinions and perceptions of peers, family or others. Someone who also has a narcissistic personality disorder, for example, could have a lot of problems with this condition.

As the fear of losing oneself, by either forgetting or being forgotten, is a common fear in and of itself, Athazagoraphobia is classified by this fear becoming overwhelming, all-consuming or actively affecting day to day life. This may take the form of needing to be well-known and remembered by those around them down to minute detail, and this can also spread to the fear of strangers, both on the internet or in public, not knowing or remembering them. The actual level of anxiety, and who the individual doesn’t want to forget them or what they do not want to forget, varies on a per person basis.

What are the symptoms of Athazagoraphobia?

  • The below symptoms may apply as a result of Athazagoraphobia:
  • Uncontrollable physical shaking and/or trembling across the body or localized to the hands
  • Dizziness, a feeling of ‘spacing out’ or general lightheadedness
  • A suddenly increased heart rate that may feel uncomfortable or highly noticeable, as well as palpitations
  • Distress in the stomach and gastrointestinal area as well as pain and nausea as a response to anxiety and fear
  • A throat that feels like it is tight and closing up
  • Hands, feet and other body parts feeling either numb or tingling
  • Intense, sudden and extreme sweating which may lead to feelings of being too cold
  • A chest that feels tight and painful

Alongside potential physical symptoms that result from the stress and fear response that Athazagoraphobia causes, there are several different emotional or mental responses that may be symptomatic of this condition. The following symptoms could occur due to Athazagoraphobia:

  • An acute, unbearable feeling of sudden terror or strong panic
  • Feeling as though ‘dropping off,’ or fainting, may occur
  • Becoming unfocused in the real world, and remaining within a more comfortable ‘unreal environment.’
  • A marked increase in anxiety and stress when memory loss occurs or the individual is not remembered by someone in their life, even by strangers.

Causes of Athazagoraphobia

Because of the two-pronged nature of Athazagoraphobia, there is a variety of different age ranges and causes related to this condition that may produce similar responses. As with many anxiety-causing circumstances, this phobia can be the direct mental response to a specific incident or experience, especially if the event is perceived as traumatic or panic-inducing to the individual.

For those with Athazagoraphobia who have developed the condition without apparent prompting due to a degradation in the health of their memory, a variety of different situations may result in this condition. This could include absenteeism of parents or guardians, leaving the individual feeling forgotten – or even the individual as a child quite literally being forgotten, perhaps in a public place. Athazagoraphobia is linked to the fear of abandonment in many cases. Birthdays and important anniversaries being forgotten may also contribute towards the development of this condition. The level of fear or anxiety depends entirely on the individual.

Athazagoraphobia can also commonly occur in elderly individuals who may be suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In this case, the fear and anticipation of forgetting themselves are persistent, and often the predilection to rely on other remembering what they were like ‘before’ is a form of comfort. However, when this fear or anxiety over losing oneself becomes overwhelming and all-encompassing is when it is likely the individual is developing Athazagoraphobia.

Treatment for Athazagoraphobia

A variety of different treatments are available for the management and coping with a wide variety of phobias. Athazagoraphobia has various techniques available to match each individual, across a wide range of different disciplines and professions.

Many people with Athazagoraphobia may choose to work alongside a trained professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist to develop specific coping mechanisms and improve the way they handle their phobia. These forms of treatment allow individuals to access the root of their Athazagoraphobia to improve their quality of life and stress response in situations that may trigger their Athazagoraphobia.

These treatments include, but are not limited to:

  • Counseling
  • Person-centered therapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • Hypnotherapy

CBT, in particular, is known as an effective treatment for the management of phobic behaviors.

Medical treatment and care is also available for those who want to treat the symptoms of Athazagoraphobia as a result of the fear response. Though this does not resolve the underlying concerns that cause these symptoms, it may help to relieve the actual physical reactions that occur in a triggering situation, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and breathing.

In the case of younger individuals or children who have Athazagoraphobia, combining medical care such as the solutions below alongside psychological help and support can provide an active framework to reduce their fear response. In the case of individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, medical treatment may be the best option to overcome their fear and stress response temporarily while their health is declining.

Medical solutions include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Anti-depressants

In addition to both psychology and medical treatment and care for Athazagoraphobia, there are also non-medical options available that can be used for the management and treatment of Athazagoraphobia, including:

  • Mindfulness
  • Soothing
  • Meditation
  • Muscle relaxation

As with medical care, these techniques will not affect the phobia by reaching the root of the problem, but rather provide functional ways in which to manage Athazagoraphobia in a less debilitating and more positive way.

Prevention of Athazagoraphobia

Athazagoraphobia may have a variety of different causes, and, as such, it may be difficult or impossible to predict what specific incidents will cause this condition, or the initial reaction, to occur. One way to prevent fears from developing into a complete phobia is to be vigilant for stressful responses out of proportion with an incident, allowing this condition to be evaluated and treated before it becomes debilitating. In environments where children feel neglected or forgotten, removing them from that situation into one where they feel ‘known’ and cared for may help to promote a more proportional understanding of their fear of being forgotten.

In the case of individuals who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, effective and available care and support is key to preventing unfounded fears and concerns, though some of this anxiety is a natural process in the development of these conditions. As it is almost always likely that their condition will continue to decline, in many cases providing medications that don’t prevent the phobia, but the symptoms, will likely be beneficial.

There are no known phobias caused solely by genetics, but the reactions and behavior or other family members of influential parties around a child may directly impact their perception and response to a situation. In this case, developing coping and management mechanisms of these fears, often alongside a psychiatrist or psychologist, may be beneficial.