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Strange Irrational Fears

by Anonymous

I have a nearly overpowering fear of abandoned/deserted structures and landmarks, i.e., malls, amusement parks, drive-in movie screens, etc. The only thing I can attribute this to is a dream I had when I was a child where a giant movie-sized gorilla appeared out of this blank drive-in screen and tried to snatch me out of my grandmother's house (about age 6). Several years ago I visited a mall I had shopped at frequently in Nashville TN, years before only to find it completely deserted except for a Chik-Fil-A and a Macy's. My husband was with me or I probably would've had to be committed. I could not get out of there fast enough, it looked like a good place for a mass murder (if anybody except for us had been there).

I can't explain the feeling I had, my whole body went numb, I had the most awful anxiety I have ever had and terrible feelings of dread came over my body in waves. I was attached at the hip to my husband for several hours. I cannot even pass an old drive-in screen (or a functional one in the daylight for that matter) without shutting my eyes or if I'm driving turning my head the other way for several miles until I am sure I'm past it. The same feelings of dread overwhelm me during this.

Today, I came across (by accident) a website about abandoned amusement parks, complete with pictures and I nearly became unglued with the same feelings I described, numbness to my whole body, smothering anxiety and complete terror. I actually considered leaving work to be with my husband. The odd thing is if I see a website like this, it's almost like seeing a dead body - you look, then you look away in horror, but you want to look again. Why do I have this paralyzing fear? What is wrong with me? I am very normal by societal standards in every other way. Here's hoping you can shed some light on this. Thank you very much.

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You're Not Alone in Your Experience
by: Deborah Clarke

I want to begin by acknowledging the distress and discomfort that your fear of abandoned structures and landmarks, as well as the specific experiences you've described, have caused you. It's important to recognize that fears and anxieties, even when they seem unusual or irrational, are valid and real experiences for the individuals who face them.

The fear you've described appears to be a specific phobia, which is an intense and irrational fear of a particular situation, object, or place. In your case, your fear seems to be related to abandoned or deserted structures and landmarks, which trigger significant anxiety and distress. Phobias can develop due to a combination of factors, including genetics, personal experiences, and learned responses. Here are a few points to consider:

Early Childhood Experience: You mentioned a dream you had as a child involving a giant gorilla and a drive-in screen. Early childhood experiences, even dream-related ones, can have a lasting impact on our emotions and perceptions. Traumatic or distressing events, even if they occurred during a dream, can sometimes contribute to the development of phobias.

Learned Responses: Over time, your mind may have associated feelings of anxiety, dread, and discomfort with abandoned or deserted places due to that childhood experience. Additionally, the intense anxiety you felt during the visit to the deserted mall might have reinforced these associations.

Fear Generalization: Once a fear or phobia develops, it can sometimes generalize to other similar situations or stimuli. This might explain why you experience anxiety not only around deserted structures you encountered in person but also when viewing images of abandoned places online.

Protective Instinct: The intense anxiety you experience may be connected to a primal protective instinct. Your mind might be associating these settings with potential danger or harm, leading to heightened physiological and emotional responses.

Empowerment through Understanding: It's important to remember that your fear doesn't define your overall well-being or normalcy. Phobias are relatively common and can be addressed with the right strategies and support. Seeking professional help from a therapist who specializes in anxiety and phobias can provide you with effective tools and techniques to manage and overcome your fear.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat phobias. It can help you understand the thought patterns and behaviors contributing to your fear and work towards changing them. Exposure therapy, a specific type of CBT, gradually exposes you to the feared situations in a controlled and safe manner, helping you reduce anxiety over time.

Remember, you're not alone in your experience, and seeking help is a proactive step towards addressing and managing your fear. Your ability to reach out and seek understanding is a testament to your strength. It's okay to ask for support, and with the right guidance, you can work towards finding relief from this paralyzing fear.

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