Apeirophobia: The Fear of Infinity

December 21, 2018

Apeirophobia, or the fear of infinity, is a very peculiar phobia that very few people know about. However, before explaining what it is, we’ll briefly discuss what a phobia is.

A phobia is an intense and irrational fear of certain situations, objects, people, or activities. The DSM-5 classifies it as an anxiety disorder. One of the main characteristics of a phobia is the desire to avoid or escape from what one fears to reduce the anxiety and discomfort it causes.

In this sense, it’s important to differentiate between phobias and fears. To understand the difference, we must take a look at the intensity of the fear and the consequences that result from it. With this in mind, we must observe if a fear begins to significantly interfere with the person’s life. Additionally, it’s a phobia it if intensifies and provokes evasive behaviors.

Although there’s no specific cause of a manifestation of a phobia, there are some genetic, social, or learned factors that could be related. Traumatic childhood experiences can also have an influence. For example, if a child sees a documentary about how black holes absorb stars in the universe, a deep fear of being absorbed by a black hole may overcome them.

What is apeirophobia?

Apeirophobia is the excessive and irrational fear of understanding the concept of infinity and eternity. This fear causes a great physical discomfort and can manifest itself at any time of day or night. An intrusive thought about infinity can cause a serious anxiety attack.

Thus, the idea of being in contact with infinity produces a great sensation of vertigo. People with this phobia avoid situations or factors that may stimulate the sense of infinity. For example, the sky, the ocean, or unending numerical sequences. Additionally, they also avoid introspection activities and never imagine eternity.

People who suffer from apeirophobia often try to live their life as predictably as possible. They do this to keep their obsessive thoughts about infinity or the universe at bay.

Apeirophobia can have many negative consequences for the person suffering from it.

Causes

Like all phobias, apeirophobia does not have a unique cause. Some experts have linked genetic, environmental, social, and natural factors to it. For example, Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was interested in phobias. Namely, he said that they had two phases:

  • First phase: An event occurs that generates great anguish. At the same time, the person who is developing the phobia takes an object from the outer world (like spiders, horses, cars, or infinity, among others) and sees it as dangerous or a threat.
  • Second phase: The person starts to defend themselves in any way possible to prevent any contact with this danger or threat.

“Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil.”

-Aristotle-

From a biological point of view, another possible explanation of phobias combines factors like genetics and brain chemistry. If these factors merge with life experiences, the person could develop a specific phobia such as apeirophobia.

How to identify a phobic reaction

A phobic reaction begins when a person is exposed to the object or situation that they have associated with danger. In fact, this reaction can lead to a panic attack. The most relevant characteristics of a phobic reaction are:

  • At a physiological level: Abnormally rapid heart rate, sweating, redness, paleness, upset stomach, dry mouth, and difficulty breathing, among others.
  • At a motor level: Trembling voice, facial grimaces, strange movement of extremities, rigidness, and immediate evasive behavior, among others.
  • At a cognitive level: Negative interpretation of the situation, doubts about one’s own ability to cope with the situation, and fear of dying, among others.

Characteristics of apeirophobia

The main characteristics of apeirophobia are:

  • An irrational and disproportionate fear of understanding the concept of infinity and eternity.
  • A realization that the concepts of infinity, the universe, and eternity are beyond their comprehension and understanding. This produces some anxiety that makes it difficult to concentrate and carry out their daily activities.
  • A great need to keep everything under control and in perfect order. This arises as an attempt to avoid confronting the concepts of eternity, infinity, and the immensity of the universe.
  • The people who suffer from it recognize it as an irrational fear but can’t control it.
  • There’s a strong urge to lead their life as predictably as possible.
  • They tend to have frequent nightmares about infinitely falling.
  • Intrusive and negative thoughts about infinity appear during moments of introspection, relaxation, or imagination. Therefore, they avoid these situations.
People with apeirophobia avoid thinking about the universe.

How to know if you suffer from apeirophobia

  • You can’t explain or rationalize your fear of infinity.
  • It’s beyond your voluntary control.
  • Your reaction to this fear is to avoid any situation that could be related to infinity.
  • This fear of infinity lasts for a long time.
  • Your fear of the concept of infinity keeps you from adapting to your environment.

Apeirophobia treatment

Like all phobic disorders, a specialist, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist, must diagnose and treat apeirophobia. There’s the only ones qualified to decide the necessary treatment for each case.

Phobias are usually treated with psychotherapy. Only in the most extreme cases, when patients can’t function properly, will psychologists also treat them with medication along with psychotherapy. A psychiatrist must evaluate the patient before being able to prescribe medication.

Apeirophobia can cause great discomfort. For this reason, it’s important to go to a specialist if it starts to keep you from living a happy life. Evasive and obsessive behaviors consume a lot of energy and can become exhausting and barely manageable.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

-Sigmund Freud-