Frigophobia is a phobia pertaining to the fear of becoming too cold. Sufferers of this problem bundle up in heavy clothes and blankets, regardless of the ambient air temperature. This disorder has been linked to other psychological disorders such as hypochondriasis and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In a 1975 study among ethnic Chinese in Taiwan, it was noted that frigophobia may be culturally linked to koro. Where that disorder causes male sufferers to feel that their penis is retracting into the body due to an insufficiency of "male element" (or yang), male frigophobia sufferers correlate coldness with an over-abundance of "female element" (or yin).
Frigophobia is defined as a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of coldness despite conscious understanding by the phobic individual and reassurance by others that there is no danger. It is also known as cheimaphobia or cheimatophobia.
Those who suffer from frigophobia are not born with it. Rather, the fear was developed somehow from past unpleasant experiences back in childhood, at school, at work, or even from a social event. Some people might not even remember how it started. Frigophobia are usually (but not always) caused by an intense negative experience from the past. Human mind can create fear without basis. Those with are at risk of developing frigophobia are characterized by one or more of the following:
- Has a general tendency towards fear and anxiety
- Characterized as “high strung”
- Suffering from adrenal insufficiency
Frigophobia symptoms can be mental, emotional or physical. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Mental symptoms
- Obsessive thoughts
- Difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear
- Repetitive mental images of coldness
- Feelings of unreality or of being detached from oneself
- Fear of losing mental control
- Fear of fainting
- Emotional symptoms
- Anticipatory anxiety: Persistent worrying about upcoming events that involve coldness
- Terror: A persistent and overwhelming fear of coldness
- Desire to flee: An intense instinct to leave the situation
- Physical symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or smothering sensation
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling of choking
- Nausea or stomach distress
- Feeling unsteady, dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot or cold flashes
Because the list of symptoms varies between each person, it is advised that individuals should consult a doctor who can provide adequate diagnosis of any signs or symptoms and whether they are indeed Frigophobia symptoms.
It comes down to redirecting the unconscious mind. The patient must understand that there is nothing wrong with them, and take control of positive and negative emotional associations. The patient should seek professional medical advice about any treatment or change in treatment plans.
Treatments for frigophobia include:
- Behavior therapy
- Anti-anxiety medication
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Exposure therapy: Involving patients to face the fear more and more, that they should be more familiar to coldness- this process technically known as “desensitization”. This process is often unnecessarily unpleasant and are only sometimes successful. This therapy reinforces the negative association, thus sometimes making the problem worse.
- Relaxation techniques - controlled breathing, visualisation
- Medication: Medications to treat anxiety may be utilised for treatment of symptoms, but there are no studies that support the efficacy of medication in the treatment of specific phobias. Furthermore, no drug was ever developed specifically to treat frigophobia, and no drug on market can cure the root cause of the problem. It might help in short term due to suppressing the symptoms.
Society and culture
In China, frigophobia is known as Wei Han Zheng (畏寒症). From the standpoint of traditional Chinese beliefs, the disorder is highly influenced by an imbalance of yin (the female element) and yang (the male element). Chinese traditional beliefs also states that working women are particularly susceptible to frigophobia, triggered by a combination of stress, menopause, pregnancy and other disorders such as anemia. During winter, these women are likely to experience coldness in extremities and back pains caused by the disorder.
It is believed that the disorder can be treated using a combination of diet in order to re-balance the yin and yang. A common dietary treatment include:
- Chicken soup
- Turnip juice mixed with ginger juice and honey, three times a day
- Red tea with ginger juice and sugar, two times a day
- Foods containing yeast (e.g. bread)
- Spices (ginger, chili pepper)
- Vinegar diluted in water
It is also believed that the dietary treatment will be more effective if taken in conjunction with an acupuncture routine.
Singaporeans has similar cultural beliefs on frigophobia as the Chinese. The case study of a 45-year-old housewife with frigophobia was studied and the results concluded: frigophobia is closely related to, and strongly influenced by cultural beliefs. Generally speaking, in therapy, treatments would consist of using low dose of anxiolytics and antidepressants, and psychological interventions. But usually when Asian women are notified of the illness, they would adopt various measures to recover. These include withdrawal from workforce, avoid exposure to cold air and wind, and most importantly they will take dietary precautions. It would be rather important to consider the patient’s cultural beliefs about the “illness” in comparison to the therapist’s belief of the illness, and then find a negotiable approach for the treatment.
- Culture-bound syndrome
- Fan death
- Genital retraction syndrome
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Yin and yang
- Kleinman, A.; Lin, T.Y. (1981). Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Chinese Culture. Springer. p. 255. ISBN 9789027711045. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
- Ng, BY (1998). Wei han zheng (frigophobia): a culture-related psychiatric syndrome. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry [1998, 32(4):582-585]. DOI: 10.1046/j.1440-1614.1998.00440.x