It is the holiday season and that means traveling to visit family. It is time to load the family into the car, train or plane and head off to spend some time with family members you don’t see very often. You know it is supposed to be a time of fun and enjoyment - except you are dreading it and no matter how you try, you know you aren’t going to go.
Hodophobia is the irrational and intense fear of travel. It is a personalized phobia - some people may fear going a certain distance away from their house, others may fear certain types of transportation - planes, trains, boats, ships, road travel (although fear of flying is separate than hodophobia). Other people may fear any type of trip.
Symptoms of Hodophobia
As with other phobias, people with hodophobia experience an intense fear at the thought of traveling. Physical symptoms often include sweating, shaking, stomach aches, diarrhea, headaches or shortness of breath. You may have mild symptoms or you may experience panic attacks.
The fear you experience may make you confused or scared when confronted with lines at the airport, figuring out which train to take, checking in luggage or waiting in line. You may have a difficult time checking into the hotel or reading a map. You may worry that you will get lost or lose control while traveling.Like many phobias, hodophobia can look different in different people. What incites your fear may not be the same as what causes someone else to be fearful.
Causes of Hodophobia
Many people with hodophobia have had a previous traumatic event occur while traveling. This experience becomes entwined with your idea of travel and causes a panic reaction, for example, you could have been in an accident while traveling or when you were young you were separated from your parents and the feeling of being lost never left you. You may have never travelled and now fear the unknown. Or you may have physical symptoms you associate with travelling, such as motion sickness or vertigo.
Although the causes and symptoms are often different, hodophobia causes a feeling of panic and can be debilitating - causing you to miss family gatherings or narrow your ability to take a job if travelling is involved. You may have problems if your partner wants to travel and you cannot because of your fear.
As with all phobias, talking with a therapist or seeing a medical professional is the best way to manage the phobia. There are also some ways you minimize your fears:
Plan your trip. No matter what mode of transportation you are using, plan out your trip. Use a map to draw the route you will be taking. Be sure to make reservations in advance and call a few days before your trip to confirm any travel reservations.
Be prepared. If traveling by plane, try to reserve your seat in advance. Ask for a layout of the train, plane or ship so you can become familiar with the layout of both the travel vehicle and the airport or train station. Knowing in advance where restrooms, restaurants and other amenities are helps you feel more relaxed.
Give yourself time. When travelling, it is always good to expect delays and give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, train station or your destination.
Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep increases anxiety levels. Be sure you get a good night’s sleep on the night before you are to travel.
Stay hydrated. Bring along a bottle of water to keep with you (you probably can’t take it on the plane). Dehydration can increase anxiety levels.
Eat right and bring along some snacks. As with sleeping and staying hydrated, making sure you are not hungry can help decrease your anxiety.
Skip the alcohol and drugs. It is tempting to have a few drinks or take a sleeping pill to keep anxiety at bay but often these methods backfire and leave you feeling more anxious. If you need something to lower anxiety, talk with your doctor about anti-anxiety medications and how you should use them. Don’t try to take more than directed.
Travel with someone you trust. Ask a friend or relative to come along with you. Let your companion know about your fears and what warning signs to be aware of - such as shaking or confusion. This way your friend can step in and help out.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.