Automatonophobia is a fear of human-like figures, such as mannequins, wax figures, statues, dummies, animatronics, or robots.
It’s a specific phobia, or a fear of something that causes significant and excessive stress and anxiety and can negatively affect a person’s quality of life.
Let’s look at some of the symptoms and causes of phobias, as well as how this specific phobia is diagnosed and treated.
Automatonophobia causes an automatic, uncontrollable fear response to human-like figures. The sight or thought of these human-like figures can trigger anxiety for some people. Pediophobia is a fear of dolls and is a related phobia.
Some of the psychological symptoms of automatonophobia include:
- constant worrying
- decreased concentration
- trouble sleeping
- anxiety attacks
Some of the physical symptoms of automatonophobia include:
- increased heart rate
- difficulty breathing and chest pain
- sweating and shaking
- dizziness and disorientation
Many of the physical symptoms above are signs of a panic or anxiety attack, which can happen after exposure to a phobia.
When automatonophobia develops because of a traumatic event related to human-like figures, it’s known as an experiential phobia. This traumatic event could be a scary movie with human-like figures or an in-person event involving human-like figures.
When automatonophobia develops without a traumatic event, it’s known as a non-experiential phobia. These phobias can develop for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Genetics. Having a relative with automatonophobia can increase the risk that you may develop the same phobia.
- Environment. The mention of a traumatic event related to human-like figures may cause automatonophobia in some individuals.
- Development. Early development of the brain may make someone more susceptible to developing this type of phobia.
In order to diagnose a phobia, your doctor will first want to make sure that there are no underlying conditions causing your anxiety. Some physical conditions, such as brain tumors or nutrient imbalances, can cause persistent anxiety.
Once your doctor has determined that there’s no underlying cause, they’ll use diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose a phobia.
Under the DSM-5 criteria, you may have a specific phobia like automatonophobia if:
- you experience a persistent, excessive, or unreasonable fear of human-like figures
- exposure to human-like figures leads to immediate anxiety symptoms or panic attacks
- your fear is disproportionate to the threat that these human-like figures pose to you
- you actively avoid any situation in which you will have to see or be around human-like figures; or if you’re put in a situation where you’re exposed to them, you experience intense anxiety
- your quality of life and daily functioning is severely affected by this fear
- you have had this fear for at least 6 months, and it’s constant
- there are no other underlying mental disorders that are primarily causing this fear
If a phobia is diagnosed, you can begin treatment immediately. Treatment for automatonophobia may involve both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, a subset of CBT. In some cases, medication may be necessary.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT is a popular form of psychotherapy that teaches you how to challenge your negative thought patterns so that you can change your behavior patterns.
It’s been used to successfully treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar, and more.
For people with anxiety symptoms caused by automatonophobia, CBT may be an effective first line of treatment.
Exposure therapy is a subset of CBT that focuses on exposure to the fear or a form of the feared thing or situation in a safe environment. This safe exposure is designed to reduce avoidance and other anxiety-related phobia behaviors.
For people with automatonophobia, this therapy can greatly help improve quality of life, especially if the person has been avoiding activities due to their fear.
Frequent safe exposure can also help to reduce the immediate fear response and anxiety symptoms that happen when a person is exposed to human-like figures.
Virtual reality therapy is a more recent approach to phobia therapy that involves immersion into a virtual reality to allow someone to interact with or be exposed to their fear.
For people with automatonophobia, this exposure may involve immersion into a virtual world that contains human-like figures. Like exposure therapy,
When CBT and exposure therapy aren’t enough, medication may also be used as part of treatment.
While antidepressants may be used to treat the symptoms of automatonophobia in the long term, benzodiazepines may be used for short-term symptoms.
However, a mental health professional may not prescribe medications like benzodiazepines due to the increased risk for dependence.
help for anxiety and phobias
If you’re looking for automatonophobia treatment options, there are resources that can help. The Department of Health & Human Services’ website has a tool that can help you locate treatment options near you.
In addition, below is a list of organizations that specialize in mental health treatment. You can visit the websites listed for more information on treatment options in your area:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This a free 24/7 helpline available for people in a crisis who may be considering taking their lives.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This is a resource that has both a phone crisis line as well as a text crisis line for anyone who needs immediate assistance.
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIH). This is a resource that can help you find both long-term help options and immediate help.
Automatonophobia is an excessive, persistent fear of human-like figures. The fear of these figures can develop from a traumatic personal experience, or due to a variety of genetic or environmental factors.
Your mental health professional will use the DSM-5 criteria to diagnose this phobia so that you can begin treatment. Treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and in some cases, medication.