A Fear of Heat

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

August 8, 2007

Many people may not enjoy the hot weather, but the heat can be terrifying for some people.

Thermophobia is the fear of heat.

Dr. Kim Penberthy, Uva Psychiatry, says this is the time of year when you are going to see people realizing they may have a heat phobia.

Dr. Penberthy has treated a patient with a heat phobia. "The folks who have this recognize that it's not normal, that this is out of the range of what they need to feel, but they can't help themselves," she says.

Often people with a fear of outdoor heat will not leave an air-conditioned place. It can interfere with their social functioning, job, or relationships.

"When you plan on going out into the heat you may get heart palpitations, you may get shaky, queasy, you may get upset, your heart may race," Dr. Penberthy says.

She adds typically, thermophobia develops in someone who has had an experience with heat where they become scared.

"However, you could have young people now, or even adults now who in the heat that we're having could have a very negative experience, get over heated, get heat stroke and develop thermophobia," she says.

If left untreated, thermophobia, like any phobia, can spread and become more pervasive.

Dr. Penberthy says, "If people do recognize excessive anxiety around the heat they need to seek treatment now because it's much easier to treat early than to wait and let it spread to other anxieties."

Medication is a possible treatment for anxiety disorders. Another option is cognitive behavioral therapy. A trained professional can help you change the way you perceive heat, so you can accept it in a normal way without anxiety.

Thermophobia is fear of heat, so that can include a fear of outdoor heat or of hot things like hot stoves or hot food.

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