Macrophobia: The Fear of Waiting

Did you know that there are people who fear long waits? Why does this happen? How can the condition be treated? Find out here.
Macrophobia: The Fear of Waiting
José Padilla

Written and verified by the psychologist José Padilla.

Last update: 12 November, 2022

A specific phobia is an intense and irrational fear of a particular object or situation. These fears are excessive and overwhelming. In fact, they result in extreme distress or avoidance. Some phobias focus on a certain object, while others are complex and linked to different situations or circumstances.

It’s estimated that this type of fear occurs in between three and 15 percent of the population. Moreover, some individuals experience multiple specific phobias simultaneously. According to the APA (American Psychiatric Association), approximately 75 percent of people with a specific phobia fear more than one object or situation. In this article, we’ll focus on a little-known type of phobia: macrophobia.

The phobia of waiting

Macrophobia is an irrational fear. It’s characterized by the feeling of excessive and persistent anxiety if an individual has to wait for a more or less prolonged time. Like any specific phobia, macrophobia is associated with subjective discomfort or functional impairment that’s accompanied by an anxiety response and avoidance of the feared situation. Its main characteristics are:

  • A disproportionate fear. In other words, in reality, it’s not a dangerous or threatening situation.
  • It can’t be explained by the individual.
  • It’s beyond their voluntary control.
  • It leads to avoidance of the situation.
  • It persists over time.
  • It’s maladaptive.
  • It isn’t specific to a certain stage of development or age.

Symptoms of macrophobia

A true phobia of long waits can be observed in a person when they:

  • Experience excessive fear at the thought of having to wait for a long time.
  • Avoid situations or encounters where they have to wait for too long.
  • Feel anxious during long waits.
  • Feel desperate to escape from the place where they’re waiting.

For the individual suffering from this phobia, the simple thought of having to wait may provoke physical symptoms such as:

  • Heart palpitations.
  • Sweating.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Lethargy.
  • Shivering and chills.
  • Nausea.
  • Redness
  • Tremors.

At the cognitive level, the individual may experience:

  • Negative images about waiting.
  • Negative beliefs about situations where they have to wait.
  • Beliefs of their inability to wait.
  • Negative interpretations about their physiological reactions.
  • Intrusive thoughts.
  • Concerns.
  • A state of alarm.

A classic symptom of macrophobia is avoidance. This behavioral response allows the individual to reduce the affective impact that the phobia has on their life. However, it doesn’t help them solve the underlying problem.

Causes of macrophobia

There’s no defined cause of macrophobia. Nevertheless, its roots can be explained from a cognitive behavioral perspective. For example, it may be a consequence of the association between long waits and an aversive stimulus, such as pain, illness, unpleasant sensations, etc.

It’s also been suggested that it could be the product of learning about certain experiences faced by other people (vicarious learning). For instance, as a child, the sufferer may have lived with a family member who had these types of fears. Consequently, by observation, they’ve learned to fear them too.

Other explanations that have been formulated concern thinking styles. These are irrational or distorted and are the product of negative internal dialogues. The sufferer may have built stories or dialogues around certain experiences that have given way to the emergence of the phobia.

Interventions for macrophobia

There’s no intervention designed specifically for macrophobia. That said, it can be treated like any other specific phobia.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring focuses on reducing the sufferer’s false beliefs about waiting. At the same time, it feeds more functional ideas. Indeed, in the company of a therapist, the sufferer learns to identify and question their maladaptive thoughts. In this intervention, their thoughts are considered to be mere hypotheses about reality. Both the therapist and the patient collect data to evaluate the validity of the interpretations they make.

Systematic desensitization

The standardized systematic desensitization procedure follows a four-step structure:

  • Jacobson’s progressive relaxation training.
  • Construction of a hierarchy of anxiety-generating stimuli.
  • Assessment and practice in imagination.
  • Desensitization process. Combined application of anxiety responses versus relaxation.

The procedure consists of imagining the first stimulus on the list, which is the least anxiogenic, and performing the Jacobson relaxation technique. Then, the same is done with each stimulus until reaching the ones that provoke the most anxiety.

Systematic desensitization makes the patient get used to the phobic stimulus and can reduce the manifestation of the pysiological symptoms..

Exposure technique

In vivo exposure consists of making direct contact with the anxiogenic or unpleasant stimulus. Patients stay in contact with the feared stimulus until their anxiety is reduced.

Finally, the sufferer of macrophobia may well be aware that their fear is irrational. However, this doesn’t prevent it from being extremely intense. Therefore, it’s important to remember that there are effective interventions that can help manage it. These treatments will minimize the limitations that the condition generates on the sufferer’s life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.