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Megalophobia is a specific phobia that can be a major life disruptor. This phobia may present itself in various ways, from fear and avoidance behaviors to panic attacks when a person is facing tall buildings, bridges, or large vehicles.

Megalophobia can occur during childhood or adolescence and will continue to be problematic in adulthood without treatment, causing social and occupational impairments.

Effective treatment can greatly help manage and overcome the fear of large statues or other objects in people, which would bring about improved quality of life and emotional well-being.

Megalophobia or the fear of large things such as large objects, gigantic structures, or animals, is one of the specific phobias in the family of anxiety disorders [1]. Specific phobias refer to any kind of mental health disorder in which the individual has an irrational fear of something or a situation. In such a case, certain large objects cause fear.

How Common Are Specific Phobias

Estimates show that about 7-10% of the population suffers from this phobia.

Being one of the most common mental health problems in the United States, as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports, approximately 12.5% of adults in the U.S. will struggle with a specific phobia at some point. About 21.9% of adults who had a specific phobia during the past year of their lifetime had experienced serious impairment due to the phobia, while 30% and 48.1% of them had moderate and mild impairment respectively [2].

However, only about 10 to 25 % of individuals with a specific phobia seek treatment for their condition as they can avoid the object or situation that they are afraid of.

Who Is Affected By Megalophobia

Megalophobia can be found in individuals of all age groups and social classes. Many people with this phobia will develop symptoms in their childhood or adolescence but may also develop the phobia in adulthood. The magnitude of the phobia differs from individual to individual, where some people experience mild anxiety and others are subjected to extreme panic attacks.

Examples Of Large Objects Causing Megalophobia

Skyscrapers: Some people may experience extreme fear when looking at the tall heights of skyscrapers.

Bridges: Large bridges spanning vast expanses of water often cause a rush of apprehension and panic.

Airplanes: Airplanes, despite being a widespread means of transportation, might seem huge and frightening for some people with fear of flying.

Status: Large-sized monuments or statues, especially those which represent humans, could cause a scare for megalopolis individuals.

Big Animals: Besides objects, there are also such objects as elephants or whales that can trigger fear in people who have a fear of big things.

Like other specific phobias, the root causes of Megalophobia can be traced back to numerous factors. Understanding the roots of this fear enables mental health professionals and the individuals who are afflicted by it to better understand and combat it.

Genetic Predisposition

Family History: It is believed that genetics is one of the factors that contribute to the development of specific phobias, including the fear of large objects. A family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias may predispose individuals to develop megalophobia.

Inherited Traits: Often genetic dispositions or personality traits of parents or other family members may serve as factors in the development of megalophobia. Likewise, people who are normally more sensitive or anxious might have a higher risk of getting mental health conditions like megalophobia [1].

Traumatic Experiences

Direct Trauma: Traumatic occurrence of being placed in a confined place or seeing a building collapse can make a person fearful of big objects. Such encounters strengthen the link between large objects and one’s fear or danger in the person’s mind.

Indirect Trauma: The traumatic exposure can also be indirect, for example, if your friend or relative experienced a truly horrific event with a large animal. Such exposure can lead to the development of a phobia. Seeing or hearing the distress of other individuals may help the perception of large objects as destructive and dangerous [3].

Learned Behavior

Observational Learning: People could acquire a fear of big things by witnessing and mimicking the fearful behavior of other people. To illustrate, a kid could develop a fear of heights after seeing a parent having a panic attack when looking at the heights or the crowded spaces.

Cultural Influence: Cultural beliefs and practices are also responsible for the development of the fear of large objects and as a result, megalophobia. For instance, those cultures that accentuate the power of large buildings or excessive power may, by default, frighten or scare vulnerable people.

Other Mental Health Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Those who suffer from generalized anxiety will have a higher possibility of specific phobia like megalophobia as it is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety about many things in real life. The inherent anxiety of GAD can amplify the fear response towards big objects [2].

Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder which is accompanied by repeated attacks of physical symptoms such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath might develop megalophobia by connecting panic attacks to large bodies or spaces.

Personality Factors

Sensitivity to Stimuli: Some people are more sensitive to sensory stimuli, including large and big objects, which might be the source of the development of megalophobia. Such people could quickly develop feelings of panic or fear when they have to cope with large buildings or large spaces.

Perception of Control: People who have a sense of not being in control of their lives can develop megalophobia as a result of their inability to manage feelings of vulnerability or helplessness. The massive objects depict unstoppable powers that terrify such individuals.

Megalophobia may occur due to reactions to any type of stimuli or situations that may bring out fear or anxiety related to large buildings. An awareness of these trigger factors can assist people to look ahead and cope in a more relaxed manner.

Height and Size

Tall Buildings: High-rise buildings and skyscrapers that have imposing heights can trigger megalophobia, resulting in feelings of being a victim and insignificant to the people suffering from this phobia.

Large Structures: Huge constructions like bridges, towers, and dams may also be the reason for mankind’s fear because of their gigantic size and scale [3].

Open Spaces

Vast Landscapes: The big spaces, like vast fields, desert sand, and the ocean, can induce anxiety in individuals who are afraid of the big things. Spaciousness in these areas can cause vulnerability and overwhelming feelings.

Empty Rooms: An unoccupied room with a high ceiling and large dimensions can lead to megalophobia, which is the fear of large spaces, vacant rooms, or open spaces usually if they are unoccupied or there is nothing familiar or containment objects [3].

Crowded Spaces

Crowded Places: A mass crowd or a large building can be a trigger for someone with megalophobia. The claustrophobia may worsen, or the crowdedness can be overwhelming for the individual.

Congested Traffic: The situation of traffic jams or congested roads, especially when you are in urban areas, will cause someone with megalophobia to have strong anxiety because there is a sense of losing control and that one is trapped.

Enclosed Spaces

Elevators: Being locked up in elevators or lifts, particularly those in high buildings, is one of the most common specific triggers of megalophobia among people who are afraid of being trapped or confined.

Tunnels: The lack of exit routes and low visibility in underground tunnels or passages with long stretches or low light can be the cause of anxiety in people suffering from megalophobia.

Media and Imagery

Movies and Television: Scenes of gigantic objects or constructions in films, TV series, or documentaries can make me feel terrified especially when they are accompanied by exciting or threatening stories [3].

Photographs and Artwork: Individuals with megalophobia may experience feelings of anxiety or discomfort from depictions of large objects such as oversized sculptings or landscapes towering over them even when these images are viewed from a distance.

Megalophobia can come along in the form of different physical and psychological symptoms which often can be very debilitating and affect the person on a day-to-day basis.

Physical Symptoms

Rapid Heartbeat: In the presence of giant objects, individuals with megalophobia often experience an increased heart rate or palpitations resulting from increased anxiety and panic.

Sweating: Prodigious sweat, often on the palms or forehead, may be experienced as a physiological response to the phobia elicited by the feared object.

Trembling or Shaking: Trembling or shaking of the body may become involuntary, proving to be the apparent stress and anxiety of megalophobia.

Shortness of Breath: Other individuals can have an issue with breathing or even feeling short of breath without having large objects in front of them, as anxiety tightens the airways and affects respiratory function [1].

Psychological Symptoms

Intense Fear or Panic: The main feature of these phobias is an urge to escape from large objects which might lead to intense anxiety.

Avoidance Behavior: Individuals with megalophobia can choose various ways to avoid objects of large sizes, for example, they would stay away from tall buildings or crowded places.

Feelings of Dread or Doom: The exposition of huge items may be linked to threatening feelings and they may lead to a constant sense of discomfort or fear even when everything around is calm in people with megalophobia.

Hypervigilance: People with megalophobia can display hypervigilance behavior and become extremely suspicious, they will scrutinize their surroundings for any signs of a large object, and they will even feel uncomfortable in places that are normally considered safe.

Cognitive Symptoms

Distorted Thinking: Megalophobia can distort the way of looking at the world of the individual, causing irrational thoughts and ideas about the dangers posed by objects.

Difficulty Concentrating: The anxiety and the fear related to megalophobia can hinder concentration as well as cognitive function. Therefore, it becomes very hard to focus on the tasks and activities [1].

Catastrophic Thinking: People suffering from these types of phobias tend to engage in catastrophic thinking as they imagine the worst scenarios or catastrophes that may occur in situations where they are around large objects.

Social and Emotional Impact

Social Isolation: Worrying about being confronted with big things can cause social withdrawal and isolation for individuals with megalophobia, who try avoiding large objects or places where they might feel exposed or vulnerable.

Emotional Distress: Individuals with megalophobia can experience considerable emotional strain that encompasses the emotions of guilt, shame, or rage over the loss of control or the inability to overcome fear.

Impaired Quality of Life: The symptoms of megalophobia may greatly reduce the quality of life of an individual, affecting relationships, workplace, and functioning at the day-to-day level [2].

Managing megalophobia, like other phobias, can be very hard, but there are several coping strategies and techniques that people can use to deal with their fear and learn a way to overcome it.

Educate Yourself

The more we learn about megalophobia- the underlying cause and triggers, the more it becomes demystified giving a sense of control. Discovering the irrational visions and assumptions concerning big things can also help us diagnose megalophobia.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing while trying to relax your body and reduce the feelings of anxiety that could arise from situations that may trigger megalophobia.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Understand and practice the progressive muscle relaxation technique whereby the muscles are systematically relaxed and the symptoms of anxiety are relieved [4].

Gradual Exposure Therapy

Start Small: Gradually expose yourself to the situations or objects that cause your fear of large objects begin with the scenarios that are less intimidating and proceed gradually with bigger ones.

Use Visualization: Imagine yourself dealing with the fear of large objects the way you want, for you can see yourself succeeding and winning over this fear, at your own pace and style [4].

Distract Yourself: When confronted with certain situations that cause megalophobia, divert your attention with engaging activities or tasks that will help you to shift your focus from the stimuli of fear.

Seek Support

Talk to Loved Ones: Talk to people that you trust like friends or family members about your megalophobia, ask them to be sympathetic, and help you in the process.

Join a Support Group: Attending a support group for phobias might be helpful where you can get to know other people who face similar issues and who share coping techniques with you.

Therapy: Take a step in getting a consultation with a mental health professional about treating the specific phobia. Techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help by giving you a structured environment to take back control of your life.

Megalophobia, just like any other specific phobia, can have a tremendous negative impact on someone’s life and well-being, thus it is very important to seek professional treatment that would enable a person to cope and overcome the persistent fear of the feared object.

The Importance Of Treating Megalophobia

Improved Quality of Life: Successful treatment of megalophobia can enhance the quality of life by diminishing the extent to which fear and anxiety affect daily activities, relationships, and general well-being.

Increased Functioning: Overcoming megalophobia is a key factor that allows people to function properly in all environments, including work, school, or making new friends, without the disturbance of irrational fear.

Prevention of Complications: If left untreated, megalophobia may result in social isolation, avoidance behaviors, and raised stress levels, which in turn may worsen existing mental health issues and/or lead to the formation of additional problems.

Treatment Options For Megalophobia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Exposure Therapy: CBT usually includes therapy with exposure technique, whereby people are gradually exposed to very large buildings or objects in a safe and supportive environment. They will learn to deal with their fear over time through repeated exposure, and they will acquire coping skills.

Cognitive Restructuring: CBT further includes cognitive restructuring that enables people to replace their irrational thoughts and beliefs with more balanced and realistic ones by alleviating their fear of large animals [1].

Medication

Anti-Anxiety Medications: In some cases, doctors may give patients anti-anxiety medications which include benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to eliminate the symptoms of anxiety that result from megalophobia. These medications are just for short-term relief, but mostly they are used together with therapy.

Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers can be prescribed to help focus on the treatment of the physical manifestations of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and tremors, during exposure sessions and other anxiety-inducing situations [4].

Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Mindfulness Meditation: It is through mindfulness-based interventions, like mindfulness meditation, that people with megalophobia can learn to be in the present and observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help in reducing the intensity of their fear responses.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR programs integrate mindfulness practices within a structured program dedicated to lowering stress and improving overall health. Such programs might involve techniques such as meditation, yoga, and mindful movement.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET)

VRET employs virtual reality technology to imitate real surroundings consisting of big things, which is the very reason why an individual can expose himself or herself to fear safely. This experiential approach can be a boon for therapy with exposure technique and megalophobia.

1. Cleveland Clinic. Megalophobia. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21742-megalophobia

2. Med Central. DSM-5 Phobia Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment. https://www.medcentral.com/behavioral-mental/anxiety/assessment-diagnosis-adherence-phobia

3. Very Well Mind. Understanding Megalophobia or the Fear of Large Objects. https://www.verywellmind.com/megalophobia-2671869

4. Healthline. How to Cope with Megalophobia or a Fear of Large Objects. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/megalophobia

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