Metathesiophobia: Fear of Change

If change causes you anguish, uncertainty paralyzes you, and you're unable to react, it's likely that you're experiencing a quite widespread fear. In fact, it often gives rise to a specific phobia.
Metathesiophobia: Fear of Change
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 02 June, 2023

Any variation in a routine generates stress, as do unexpected alterations that jeopardize the foundations of our security and threaten our comfort zones. Most of us have experienced these distressing situations. However, sometimes, this fear of change develops into a specific phobia known as metathesiophobia.

This disorder consists of experiences accompanied by irrational thoughts and lifestyle changes. In fact, suffering from any specific phobia is a debilitating experience that affects all psychosocial areas. Fortunately, there are effective treatments that can help the phobia sufferer regain control of their existence. Read on to find out more.

Metathesiophobia is the irrational fear of change. It’s an experience that usually appears after suffering an adverse event.

Metathesiophobia or fear of change

Metathesiophobia is a type of specific phobia that involves the irrational fear of changing personal circumstances. It involves a deep and distressing fear of the uncertain and of not knowing what might happen when fate or chance intervenes. This clinical disorder is also frequently accompanied by other phobias.

Currently, there are about 470 specific phobias. They’re an increasingly common phenomenon in mental health. An article in the journal, Psychological Medicine states that specific phobias have an incidence of 5.5 percent, with women being the most affected.

Although it’s true that many of us suffer from fear of change and this frequently awakens the demon of anxiety, there are certain characteristics that define the presence of a phobia. See below how metathesiophobia manifests itself.

Man suffering from metathesiophobia
The fear of the unknown is often accompanied by other phobias, such as the fear of moving (tropophobia).

Useful information

Most people who suffer from this irrational fear of change have previously had an adverse experience. These are usually situations in which they had no control. For example, losing a loved one or being laid off from work.

This experience lodges in their brain, conditioning it completely and shaping the psychological structure of a specific phobia. It usually manifests as follows:

  • The sufferer can’t escape their routine.
  • They may experience panic attacks.
  • Any setback distresses them.
  • Their social life is poor.
  • They don’t accept invitations to outings or celebrations.
  • They fear the near future and always anticipate the worst.
  • They experience many irrational and distressing thoughts.
  • They stay in harmful relationships because it means they don’t have to change their daily routine.
  • Even if they feel unhappy in a situation, they do nothing to change it.
  • They won’t change their lifestyle for any reason, even if it’s urgently required.
  • They often suffer from more phobias in addition to the fear of change. For example, tropophobia or the fear of moving.
  • A study conducted by the University of Basel (Switzerland) argues that specific phobias are accompanied by changes in health. This makes it common for the individual to suffer from migraines, digestive upsets, and tachycardia, for example.

Phobias are associated with destructive and maladaptive fears. Sufferers’ lives deteriorate significantly.

How to differentiate metathesiophobia from a normal fear of change

To differentiate the anguish we all might feel from that experienced in specific phobias, we must consider the following aspects:

  • Phobias lead to social isolation.
  • The maladaptive fear of metathesiophobia leads the sufferer to avoidant behaviors. Suddenly, any situation ends up being seen as a threat.
  • Metathesiophobia, like any specific phobia, consists of a maladaptive and limiting fear. It means that the sufferer’s lifestyle is completely restricted and impaired.
  • Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). These are clinical experiences that are accompanied by panic attacks. Moreover, if left untreated, they can lead to depression.

You might be interested in reading Anuptophobia: The Irrational Fear of Being Single

The causes of metathesiophobia

Phobias frequently result from environmental triggers and learned behaviors. As such, metathesiophobia can be triggered by a traumatic experience. As we mentioned previously, experiencing an adverse event that changes an individual’s life conditions this irrational fear.

Suddenly, the sufferer starts to process any possible variation in their routine in a threatening and disturbing way. In fact, research published in the journal, Learning & Memory states that the neurological mechanisms in specific phobias are particularly striking. As a rule, phobic patients present greater activation in the cerebral amygdala.

This leads the sufferer to experience a constant state of alertness and to process any stimulus as a danger. Phobias are extremely debilitating clinical conditions that deserve specialized psychological attention.

It’s of paramount importance to obtain help as soon as possible for any phobia. Otherwise, the sufferer runs the risk of suffering from depression and seeing their life deteriorate to an enormous extent.

Man in psychological therapy to treat metathesiophobia
Brief strategic therapy is really useful for treating phobias.

Treatments for metathesiophobia

Metathesiophobia can be treated. Indeed, there are several effective psychological approaches. However, the most important thing is for the sufferer to first receive an adequate diagnosis. As we mentioned earlier, it’s common for these conditions to be accompanied by other clinical disorders, such as depression.

It’s also common for pharmacological therapy to be prescribed. This might be in the form of benzodiazepines for anxiety or antidepressants if the professional deems it appropriate. Here are the most frequent psychological therapies for treating specific phobias.

Brief strategic therapy

Giorgio Nardone’s brief strategic therapy is extremely effective in treating phobias. Its objectives are to:

  • Analyze what strategies the sufferer is employing and what intensifies the situation.
  • Understand how the problem works and how the fear mechanism is reinforced.
  • Provide solutions/tools to the sufferer to deactivate the phobic pattern.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common psychological treatment for many mental disorders. It’s also suitable for treating phobias. It works as follows:

  • Detects irrational thoughts and rationalizes them.
  • Shapes a more positive and functional mental approach.
  • Transforms negative attitudes and fears into healthier approaches.
  • Generates behavioral changes that allow the sufferer to regain control of their life.

Exposure therapy

Phobias are also addressed by exposure therapy. This is a resource that places the sufferer in the exact scenarios that generate their irrational anguish and consequent avoidance behaviors. The therapy employs the following:

  • Relaxation.
  • Guided viewing.
  • Gradual exposure to phobic stimuli.
  • Cognitive therapy techniques to rationalize thoughts and emotions.

Metathesiophobia always requires specialized care

To conclude, we must emphasize that metathesiophobia, like all specific phobias, is treatable and the sufferer can fully recover their quality of life.

If this phobia appears, it mustn’t be ignored and the sufferer must ask for help as soon as the irrational fear of change appears. Otherwise, their mental and social health will greatly deteriorate.

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.

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