What Is Macrophobia

  • Soumya IyerInternational Baccalaureate, Natural Sciences, Global Schools Foundation
  • Maariya Rachid DaudDoctor of Philosophy - PhD, Bioprocessing and Chemical Engineering, The University of Manchester

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Introduction

Phobias are defined as a crippling fear of objects, situations, places or people. There are over 400 phobias in the world all referring to a different fear including macrophobia. Macrophobia can be characterised by the fear of long waiting times. It is however not considered a psychological disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

What is macrophobia?

Key characteristics

Macrophobia, the fear of large waiting times can have varied emotional and physical reactions depending on every individual. It can extend from intrusive anxious thoughts to intense panic attacks that may require hospitalisation. Since prolonged waiting times are not a common occurrence in daily life, it is difficult to understand the extent to which one will react when faced with such a situation.

Prevalence and occurrence

Demographics

There are no exact demographics for this phobia. However, people from families with a history of mental illnesses are more prone to developing such a phobia. Due to the high genetic risk of developing mental illnesses, the possibility of a traumatic experience triggering the development of macrophobia is very likely.

Common triggers

Any situation where the individual is made to wait for a long time can lead to increased frustration. As a result, the individual may start displaying the various symptoms associated with macrophobia. Usually, it is triggered by a negative experience causing an aversion to prolonged waiting times and is continued within their lifetime. Individuals with social anxiety may develop this phobia considering that waiting in public spaces is uncomfortable for them. 

Causes/triggers of macrophobia

Since macrophobia is not a highly documented phobia, it is hard to pinpoint factors that specifically trigger it. 

Psychological factors

Psychological factors are one of the main causes of macrophobia. Most people afflicted with macrophobia have experienced trauma with prolonged waiting in the past resulting in the triggering of their flight and fight response. One’s upbringing can play a big role considering that a parent’s behaviour with increased waiting times can instill this fear with a child.

Biological factors

There are no specific biological factors that give rise to this phobia but its prevalence is increased in cases where there is a history of mental illnesses.

Symptoms and signs

Emotional symptoms

Considering that most phobias are a form of anxiety disorder, it is likely that a trigger can lead to an anxiety attack. The height of this depends on how big the trigger relative to the phobia it causes. The intrusive nature of anxiety attacks can lead to panic attacks as the individual is overwhelmed by irrational thoughts that induce more anxiety.

When faced with long waiting times, if patients are unable to control their symptoms, they may feel inadequate which enhances their anxiety and could be a leeway to becoming depressed.

Physical symptoms

Psychological symptoms of macrophobia may end up with the manifestation of physical ones such as trembling and shaking. Subsequently, the overwhelm of intrusive thoughts can cause accelerated heart rates due to the body’s natural fear response. This coupled with difficulty breathing in such situations leads to the feeling of constriction.

The individual feels like they are trapped and often have the fear of losing control and detachment. Additionally, the body starts to heat up due to the triggering of the body’s flight/fight. As a result, the person also starts sweating and the culmination of all these symptoms gives rise to nausea.

Behavioural symptoms

Apart from the emotional and physical symptoms, Macrophobia also has behavioural symptoms. Due to the intensity of the phobia, sometimes individuals avoid social situations as the possibility of long wait times are more prominent in such settings. This behaviour in turn has an effect on them psychologically as they are isolated from social events amplifying their sense of estrangement.

Diagnosis and assessment

Professional evaluation

Mental health professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists mainly diagnose phobia, by using a set of questions related to the suspected phobia, looking for any anxious reaction. Considering that macrophobia is not included in the DSM, it does not have a hard set of questions which aids in diagnosis.

Differential diagnosis

In order to confirm a certain phobia, professionals have to ensure they are able to rule out other mental illnesses which could cause similar symptoms to provide a substantial diagnosis.

Self-assessment tools

As this condition is not entirely recognised by the DSM, online tools can also be used for self-assessment. Another way of self-assessing macrophobia, it could be done by experiencing a situation where large waiting times are normal to check for any anxious reactions.

Treatment and management

Therapeutic approaches

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a common technique used for patients with mental disorders. A therapist can help the individual replace irrational thoughts with rational ones by analysing and justifying their fear. A common technique used in this kind of therapy is ABCD which aids in replacing all intrusive thoughts.

Exposure therapy

As the name suggests, this is the use of situations with long waiting times to help individuals alter their responses. By exposing them to this trigger, they use certain calming techniques like journaling or breathing in order to overcome their panic response.

Lifestyle changes

By adopting relaxing breathing techniques, one can learn to adapt to living with macrophobia. Through gradual exposure to prolonged waiting times, they can better understand the method which helps them cope.

Complications and Impact

Impact on daily life

Considering that macrophobia is a condition related to long waiting times, patients may isolate themselves from social settings where this is a possibility. As a result, they might miss out on family and work gatherings leading to the development of social anxiety due to the lack of social interactions. The combination of macrophobia and social anxiety could cause depression as a person misses out on integral moments in life due to their fear.

Summary

Macrophobia is a psychological disorder which is triggered through a fear of large waiting times. Although this phobia is not officially recognised by DSM, it can also be described as a form of anxiety which may also lead to social anxiety and panic attacks. Nevertheless, this condition can be diagnosed by healthcare professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists. Although certain behaviour therapies and coping mechanisms may be suggested, there is no specific cure. 

References

  1. Macrophobia (fear of Long Waits) [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Sept 7]. Available from: https://psychtimes.com/macrophobia-fear-of-long-waits/ 
  2. Department of Health & Human Services. Panic attack [Internet]. Department of Health & Human Services; 2002 [cited 2023 Sept 7]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/panic-attack 
  3. Overview - Phobias [Internet]. NHS; 2022 [cited 2023 Sept 7]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/overview/ 
  4. Macrophobia: The fear of waiting [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Sept 7]. Available from: https://exploringyourmind.com/macrophobia-the-fear-of-waiting/ 
  5. What is macrophobia? (an overview) [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Sept 7]. Available from: https://optimistminds.com/macrophobia/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Soumya Iyer

International Baccalaureate, Natural Sciences, Global Schools Foundation

Soumya is currently an undergraduate student pursuing BSc Biological and Biomedical Sciences (joint degree with National University of Singapore) at the University of Dundee, Scotland. As someone very passionate about scientific communication, she’s undertaken this internship following her previous experience in writing scientific reports.

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