Hodophobia or Fear of Travel: What Is It?

Sigmund Freud confessed in his letters that he had a fear of travel. He called this type of anxiety "reiseangst", although today it's known by another term. It's defined as a condition associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Hodophobia or Fear of Travel: What Is It?

Last update: 07 December, 2020

Anxiety at having to be far from home, from your city, and from all you know. Fear of the idea that something might happen to you while you’re away from home. Nausea, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat when you get on a train or a plane… Does this all seem unrealistic to you? Hodophobia, or fear of travel, is actually a disorder that affects the sufferer’s whole life.

Of course, it’s true that most people associate traveling with enriching experiences and try to get away as often as possible. Escaping from your routine and getting to know new places can be an excellent way to de-stress.

However, some people don’t see it like that. Some feel real panic at the thought of leaving behind everything that gives them a sense of security. But sometimes traveling is necessary, for either work or family reasons, for instance.

The anxiety that an affected person feels in that situation can be extremely debilitating. At the end of the day, phobias are something odd to those who don’t suffer from them (and can’t understand them). However, they can be devastating to those who live them in their daily life. Let’s take a closer look.

People boarding a plane at sunset.

Hodophobia or fear of travel: definition, symptoms, causes, and treatment strategies

Hodophobia, or fear of travel, has been around and a part of life for a long time. Not everyone feels secure leaving their comfort zone. Getting on certain means of transport and arriving at new, unknown places that are out of their control can make sufferers feel alarmed, anxious, and fearful.

Now you might be interested to note that this is a specific type of phobia that’s classified in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). It’s an irrational and paralyzing fear that can limit the social, personal, and work aspects of the person’s life.

However, hodophobia affects sufferers in different ways. Some might feel scared about using certain types of transport. Others may feel anxious at just the thought of going far away from home and some fear unknown environments. Obviously, many sufferers have to deal with all of these different aspects.

Although it might seem to be a contradiction that some people don’t enjoy traveling, don’t forget this point. Phobias affect one in every 23 people. They’re the most common mental disorder, and you likely know someone who suffers from a debilitating phobia.

What are the symptoms?

As with all phobias, you can identify a fear of travel by the varied emotional, cognitive, and even physical symptoms. Let’s take a look at the most common symptoms.

Emotional signs

  • Fear of having to use some or any kind of transport that takes you far from home.
  • The feeling that something bad will happen during the trip.
  • Anxiety at the idea of leaving everything that’s safe behind.
  • Feeling ashamed of telling others how you feel.

Cognitive symptoms

  • Difficulty organizing everything travel-related. Your thoughts may overwhelm you when you arrive at the airport or when you go to catch a train.
  • You imagine a thousand different negative situations. For instance, accidents, getting lost on the way, getting robbed, not finding the hotel, etc.
  • Trouble thinking about other things in the days or weeks before traveling.
  • Confusion or mental blocks.

Physical symptoms

  • Nausea.
  • Stomach pain or an upset stomach.
  • Vomiting.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Panic attacks.

What are the causes of hodophobia or fear of travel?

Getting to know the exact cause of a phobia can be very complex. Studies such as the one conducted by the Timone Neuroscience Institute in France show that these disorders tend to be based on one of the following two sources:

  • Phobias may originate from a trauma. For instance, hodophobia or fear of travel may be due to a bad experience, such as being the victim or witness of a terrorist attack on a previous trip.
  • On the other hand, sometimes, a phobia can start without a specific or obvious cause. Genetic, familial, environmental, or developmental factors play an important role in the development of phobias.
A woman wheeling a suitcase.

How can you treat this kind of phobia?

Hodophobia tends to be associated with other phobias, such as a fear of flying. In extreme cases, it can even be related to agoraphobia. However, it’s more commonly associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

People who suffer from GAD often find themselves in complex situations that they find hard to deal with. With that in mind, it’s very important to get an accurate diagnosis. Regarding treatment, it’s good to use various approaches at the same time. For instance, anxiety-reducing medication can be helpful, along with other treatment options.

Psychological therapy is also beneficial. Psychologists may use the following strategies:

  • Progressive exposure to whatever triggers the phobia. Exposure therapy consists of bringing the person in contact with the situations that cause anxiety in order to help the patient manage their emotions and thoughts. This technique is more successful when it’s part of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Cognitive restructuring. It’s aimed at fighting a person’s debilitating thoughts and ideas.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques.

To conclude, it’s important not to underestimate someone’s fear, especially when it begins to negatively affect their life. All phobias are the result of anxiety disorders that must be treated. If not, the person’s ability to function normally will be affected.

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  • Singh, Hemendra & Awayz, Hannah & Murali, Thyloth. (2017). An Unusual Case of Phobia: Hodophobia. The International Journal of Indian Psychology.