Cynophobia (Fear of Dogs)
Who is at risk of cynophobia?
This disorder commonly affects children, but people of all ages can develop cynophobia. Cynophobia is widespread among people with autism and sensory or intellectual differences. You’re more likely to have cynophobia if you have:
Other phobias or a history of phobias in your family.
People who have had a scary encounter with a dog are also more likely to develop this phobia. Even if the dog didn’t actually bite you, being chased or threatened can cause cynophobia. The terrifying memories can return whenever you think about or see a dog.
This phobia can develop as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What causes cynophobia?
Providers think that phobias result from a mix of genetics, personal history, and environmental factors. People who have anxiety disorders or mental illnesses are more likely to develop a phobia. They may be more vulnerable to developing cynophobia if they have a scary experience with a dog or another animal.
What are the triggers of cynophobia?
People with this disorder don’t necessarily need to come into contact with a dog to have severe anxiety.
Triggers of cynophobia include:
Seeing a dog, even if the dog is on a leash or in an enclosure.Hearing a dog bark or growl.
Seeing a picture or watching a movie containing a dog.
Thinking about a dog or thinking about going someplace where a dog might be.
What are the symptoms of cynophobia?
People with this phobia experience extreme anxiety, fear, and panic attacks when they think about or see a dog. They feel as if they’re in danger.
Signs of cynophobia include:
Crying, screaming, panic, and other intense emotions.
Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
Feelings of dread and/or catastrophic thoughts (feeling like something terrible will happen).
Diarrhea.Shortness of breath (dyspnea) or fast breathing.
How does it all work?
A therapist will conduct an initial assessment to understand the severity and impact of the cynophobia. A client's treatment plan will typically include psychoeducation to better understand the fear and misconceptions associated with it. The use of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help with identifying and challenging any negative or irrational thoughts and beliefs related to dogs.
Specific strategies include:
Exposure therapy is a key component of phobia treatment. A therapist will gradually expose a client to dogs in a controlled and safe manner.
Relaxation techniques assist with helping the client manage anxiety and stress during exposure exercises or when encountering dogs in real-life situations.
Support and coping strategies are used to help the person manage their fear between sessions.
*It's important to note that results will vary depending on a client's individual and specific needs. Clients' treatment plans are tailored to the unique challenges and goals.
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