Known as Basiphobia, the fear of falling can result in patients feeling unable to walk, stand or run and may be more prevalent when individuals are in a public place.
Basiphobia is a fear of falling but the condition is closely connected to other types of phobias. People who fear falling, may also have a fear or walking and standing as these actions could result in them actually falling. Similarly, people with Ambulophobia (fear of walking) or Stasibasiphobia (fear of standing) may also experience Basiphobia (fear of falling).
Often, the fear of falling is also connected to the fear of slopes, stairs and the loss of gravity. In patients with Basiphobia, these additional fears are rooted in their fear of falling, as opposed to a general fear of stimuli, such as stairs or slopes.
Like most phobias, the exact cause of Basiphobia is still unknown. It is believed that there are a number of factors which can result in Basiphobia and these can include:
Basiphobia can have varying effects but it often limits the patient’s activity quite considerably. Although the patient may be physically well, their phobia may prevent them from carrying out specific activities and, in many cases, the cause of their Basiphobia will determine what type of effect the condition has on them.
If a person has suffered a previous accident or injury, it’s natural for them to feel wary when performing the same action which caused them to get hurt. If someone fell over while walking and suffering broken bones, for example, it may take them some time to regain their confidence when walking. However, if their fear becomes intense, they may find it difficult to walk at all, even if they are physically able to do so. The fear of falling and becoming injured again effectively prevents them from carrying out their usual activities and becomes insurmountable.
Alternatively, witnessing a serious accident or injury may be enough to trigger the onset of Basiphobia. The patient may fear being hurt in the same way as the accident victim and may, therefore, avoid performing similar actions to those which were taking place at the time of the incident. If the patient witnessed someone fall whilst running, for example, they may avoid running due to the fear of suffering a similar fall.
For patients who already have an existing physical condition, their fear of falling may be tied to the fear of exacerbating their pain. Individuals with arthritis may have significant pain and restricted movement, for example. Whilst it’s normal to feel concerned about falling in this situation, a patient with Basiphobia may be preoccupied with falling and may refuse to carry out tasks they are physically able to perform due to their fear.
When mobility aids are advertised, manufacturers are intending to promote and sell their goods. In some cases, however, individuals may be triggered by these items and develop a fear of falling. If patients see wearable alarms which enable someone to call for help in the event of a fall, for example, they may develop a fear of falling themselves and be unable to rationalize it.
Similarly, as the age of the patient increases, they may have rational concerns about falling and suffering an injury or being able to get up without assistance. Although valid worries, a patient with Basiphobia may isolate themselves and limit their activities due to their concerns about falling.
In addition to this, a patient with an existing phobia may also develop Basiphobia as a result of their current fears. If a patient has a phobia of walking, for example, they may feel calm when standing still but feel intense fear when they attempt to walk. As they being to question their feelings, they may realize that their fear of walking is, in fact, a fear of falling or being injured.
In some cases, patients may only experience Basiphobia when in a public setting. This may be because they fear falling over in front of people, rather than fearing the fall itself. Often, this is associated with some form of social anxiety and may be triggered if the patient felt embarrassed or ridiculed if they suffered a previous fall in a public place.
Basiphobia can be treated in a number of ways and patients are often able to make a full recovery, even if the phobia has been particularly severe. When treating patients with Basiphobia, various types of treatments may be used, such as:
When patients undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), they explore other thought processes and learn to ‘rewire their brain’ in order to reduce their fears. This can help them to rationalize their fears and reduce the extreme nature of Basiphobia. Similarly, psychotherapy enables a patient to talk about their fear and may help to identify the exact cause of their condition. This can be particularly helpful if a patient has developed the phobia in response to a traumatic event or injury.
Physical therapy, or physiotherapy, can also be extremely helpful in treating. If patients have suffered from Basiphobia for some time, they may have restricted their movement to the point that their muscles have begun to waste. Due to this, they may be physically weak and their confidence may have decreased even further.
With assistance from a trained professional, patients can practice moving and gradually increase their physical stamina. Whilst this can be scary and threatening to a patient at first, their self-confidence can increase over time and they may begin to feel more comfortable with movements which previously frightened them.
If patients are struggling to cope with Basiphobia or feel unable to enter into any other form of treatment due to their fears, anti-anxiety medication can also be used. Whilst this will not directly target Basiphobia, it will reduce the patient’s general level of anxiety and can be used alongside other forms of treatment.
Basiphobia is a complicated psychological condition and it may not be possible to prevent it in every case. If individuals have numerous risk factors for Basiphobia, such as previous falls or on-going pain, it may be possible to intervene early and reduce their risk of developing the phobia.
Experiencing or witnessing a serious fall could be traumatic, for example, and if this is not addressed, it could increase the risk of Basiphobia occurring. By dealing with negative experiences straight away, individuals can prevent the trauma from fuelling a phobia, such as Basiphobia.
Alternatively, if an individual has a similar phobia or social anxiety, effective treatment may prevent them from also developing Basiphobia. Using treatments, such as psychotherapy and medication, to reduce these conditions is often effective in preventing further psychological conditions from taking hold.
Whilst it may not be possible to prevent Basiphobia in all cases, being aware of the risk factors can successfully prevent people from succumbing to the condition and its symptoms.