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Unable to find more information on certain experiences of intense irrational fear

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Ekkaveille

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Joined
Jan 17, 2020
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United States
Hi, this is my first post to the forum, and I made this account largely to ask about this particular set of experiences.
I'm not particularly active in other online communities either so I sincerely apologize if I have violated some piece of conventional or unspoken forum etiquette here, feel free to correct me if I do so. Thanks!

With that out of the way, I was talking about these experiences with a close friend of mine, who has been the only person so far who I know who has said that they share them. I was looking for more information on them, but none of the search terms I could come up with yielded any results, and was wondering if anyone more familiar with these experiences could possibly shed some light on possible causes or directions to start looking. In case it is of any relevance, I have been formally diagnosed with ASD (although I show a lot fewer obvious symptoms than I did as a child, and it tends to be noticeable mostly in stressful situations for me), and recently diagnosed with depression (which I have had a lot of issues with throughout my life). I also had an adverse reaction to a pain medication I was prescribed for a surgical procedure I had as a kid (something narcotic, can't remember what) that gave me intensely terrifying hallucinations and has caused me milder hallucinations that have persisted ever since. The feeling I had with these hallucinations is probably the closest to what I am describing below, although I have experienced the below before the procedure and the feelings are not entirely the same, just comparable.

Anyway, the experience itself:
There are incredibly specific things, mostly visual but sometimes auditory as well, that seem to trigger this sort of intense, paralyzing, indescribable fear in me. All of these things have been largely mundane things, and only one ever seems to be active at a time. They are also incredibly specific. Only incredibly specific things have caused this reaction, and in many cases anything similar that isn't the exact fear has little to no adverse effect on me. Upon getting past one of these fears, another one seems to be created to replace it.
Specifically, throughout my life, these fears have been, in chronological order:
  1. Dead Leaves from a specific tree in the backyard
  2. A specific 2-3 second bit from a particular song
  3. Raw Sweet Potatoes (regular potatoes or cooked sweet potatoes were completely fine)
  4. Potato vines (this happened separately from the sweet potatoes one)
  5. Poison Ivy (shouldn't cause this much of a response and I'm largely immune to the rash anyway)
I know it might seem like I'm joking, but these specific things would absolutely TERRIFY me, although even other things adjacent to them in appearance were absolutely no problem. Being near or seeing/hearing them would cause me some of the most intense fear I've ever experienced, and one characteristically different from other fears. I do have a phobia of dogs (especially excited dogs), but that fear feels just like an intense fight-or-flight response and feels "beatable". If a dog runs towards me and scares me I feel like I would be "ready" to fight it off if it attacked me, or at the very least the act of fighting or running away both seem like comprehensible options.

With these specific fears, it's entirely unlike that. It's like it takes over everything and is paralyzing. I will literally sometimes stand there, not moving, not thinking about anything else. Usually my mind races when I am scared but this is entirely different, it just goes completely blank except for this enveloping sense of dread. I get paranoid and feel like something evil or malicious is surrounding me, hiding around me, or inside of me. That evil "thing" is so hard to describe for me, it's not really a noun even exactly, and it feels unrelated to what triggers the fear. After the incident with the medication it would cause my hallucinations to flare up sometimes, making me believe there were people in the shadows stalking me or watching me.

I really have absolutely no idea what this is. It doesn't feel like a typical phobia since I'm usually not anxious about anything related in particular (except, I guess, being scared by it again, but not the thing itself), and it doesn't line up with my own experience of cynophobia or any other descriptions of phobias I have heard of. It's also not a chronic anxiety thing, but rather just this raw, untempered, and irrational fear that I can't nail down.

If anyone has any ideas where to start in looking for info on this I would greatly appreciate it!
Thanks!
 
Lunar Lady

Lunar Lady

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Mar 19, 2019
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Location
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Hi Ekkaveille,

This sounds as if it would best be described as 'Specific Phobia.' You should find plenty of information on the internet if you google Specific Phobia as your search title:

The following are two therapies normally used in treating specific phobia:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a short term, skills-focused therapy that aims to help people diffuse unhelpful emotional responses by helping people consider them differently or change their behavior, is effective in treating specific phobias.[6] Exposure therapy is a particularly effective form of CBT for specific phobias.[6] Medications to aid CBT have not been as encouraging with the exception of adjunctive D-clycoserine.[7][8]

In general anxiolytic medication is not seen as helpful in specific phobia but benzodiazepines are sometimes used to help resolve acute episodes; as 2007 data were sparse for efficacy of any drug.

Wishing you all the best x
 
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