Atazagoraphobia or fear of forgetting: symptoms, causes and treatment

Fear that they will stop taking us into account. Persistent fear of forgetting important things, that what is meaningful to us will fade from our mind. Concern about whether our partner leaves us, if friends leave us aside … All of this can reach pathological extremes, giving shape to what we know as atazagoraphobia.

This disorder may draw our attention to the unusual. However, this type of phobia comes to represent the oldest and most atavistic fear of the human being: being forgotten and forgetting. Because when we stop being relevant to someone, we feel the worst of sufferings. The same happens, for example, with diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Losing one's memory is like dying little by little, like leaving behind our identity and all that we have been, felt, loved. Thus, we are not mistaken if we point out that this psychological condition, As particular as it may seem, it has a high impact in itself.

Atazagoraphobia, the deep fear of forgetting

Phobias are part of anxiety disorders and are, without a doubt, the most common and diagnosed type of psychological disorder. All of us, in a certain way, suffer from some fear, some singular concern.

However, phobias have a peculiarity, and that is that prevent us from being able to function normally in our day to day. They affect us personally, professionally and socially.

Atazagoraphobia, understood as the persistent fear of forgetting things or others forgetting us, does not yet appear in diagnostic manuals. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) does not include it yet, as it does not yet include all existing phobias given their high number. Despite this, there is information about it.

Atazagoraphobia is a persistent fear of being forgotten or forgetting. Over time, your symptoms get worse and affect your quality of life.

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What symptoms does atazagoraphobia present?

Imagine for a moment, the relative of a patient with Alzheimer's. One of your biggest fears is perceiving how day by day, your loved one is forgetting a little more. Noticing how someone we love is relegating us to oblivion subjects us to a form of deep and devastating suffering.

The fact that this obsesses us and prevents us from leading a normal life, already shows a clear atazagoraphobia. Likewise, it can also occur in other very particular circumstances. Here are the symptoms.

Cognitive manifestations (thoughts)

  • Thinking that we are going to be abandoned by our partner, friends, family, etc.
  • Visualize catastrophic scenarios in our mind: the people we love leave us aside forever.
  • Imagine that, for whatever reasons (illness or trauma), we end up losing our memory.
  • We think about how our life can be having forgotten everything and, in turn, being alone because those who are part of our life have abandoned us.

Emotional symptoms

  • Fear, anguish and despair at the thought that we can develop a neurodegenerative disease that causes us to lose our memory.
  • Feelings of sadness and loneliness when we feel misunderstood.

Behavioral manifestations

  • Nervousness
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Insecurity when going outside or entering confined spaces. Many everyday situations are processed as threats.
  • Insomnia.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Tachycardias
  • Insomnia.
  • Dizziness
  • Panic attacks (in some cases).

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Which can be the causes?

At present, we know that atazagoraphobia basically starts from two sources. The first is the fear of developing Alzheimer's disease. Studies, such as those carried out at the University of Michigan, show us interesting aspects in this regard.

  • Those between 50 and 64 years old who have a family history of Alzheimer's can develop this phobia. That is, there are cases in which someone can become obsessed with developing this disease to the point of leading to a phobia.
  • People who have suffered trauma often show an agonizing fear of being abandoned or forgotten by loved ones.
  • It is an understandable and recurring fact. Untreated traumatic experiences are directly related to anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress. In these cases, the fear of abandonment is usually a constant.
  • There is also another aspect that we have already pointed out at the beginning. The fear of loneliness, of ceasing to be important to someone and, in turn, of developing a disease that makes us forget who we are, is something very recurrent.

However, we can only speak of atazagoraphobia at the time when that fear hinders our social and work performance.

Relatives of patients with Alzheimer's are another group that can suffer from this type of phobia.

Fear of forgetting or being forgotten: how is it treated?

When treating atazagoraphobia we must individualize each case carefully. It is true that we are facing a phobia, and like many of these psychological conditions, we start from an anxiety disorder. However, from here on, there can be great variability. Let's see then which guidelines are the most successful.

The need for a proper diagnosis: what is behind this fear?

Atazagoraphobia usually occurs with other realities that must be identified. Occasionally, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may exist. Other times, there may be a depression. It is crucial to know what causes this phobia, be it the fear of developing a neurodegenerative disease, the anxiety about having a relative with Alzheimer's, a trauma, etc.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for atazagoraphobia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most suitable for the treatment of anxiety disorders and phobias. It allows us to rationalize thoughts and put aside those that are irrational or obsessive.

Group therapy for relatives of Alzheimer's patients

In case of being before a patient who deals with the harshness of having someone close to him with Alzheimer's, it is always appropriate to go to group therapy. Sharing fears and anxieties with others who have the same experience is cathartic and healing.

EMDR therapy for trauma

The eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapeutic strategy It is one of the most suitable for the treatment of trauma. All the painful experiences that a person has gone through can be dealt with using this interesting psychological resource.

Seeking psychological attention is important

Atazagoraphobia is not a very common type of condition. Even so, it is usually present in a good percentage of people with a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. They are harsh realities that undoubtedly deserve more psychological support.

For the above, Seeking professional care is essential, especially when symptoms become increasingly apparent. Using the right resources is key so that the disorder does not take advantage.