If your avoidance of large objects — like buildings, ships, or statues — disrupts your daily life, you may have megalophobia.
To some extent, it’s natural to feel unnerved around large objects. Perhaps you aren’t a fan of big cities, or you prefer smaller boats to large cruise ships. Maybe you’d rather live in a one-story house, or you feel better in an economy car than a pickup truck.
Yet, when you find yourself actively going out of your way to avoid big things and it disrupts your daily life, you may have megalophobia — otherwise known as the “fear of big objects.”
While the idea of having a phobia could feel distressing, it’s likely more common than you think. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 8.7% of the U.S. population is affected by specific phobias— that’s 19 million adults who may know how you’re feeling.
Of course, living with any type of phobia, including megalophobia, could feel exhausting and get in the way of living the life you deserve. The good news is that phobias, and the symptoms that come with them, are treatable, and you have options.
“Megalophobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person has a strong aversion to huge items,” explains psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo.
Lombardo goes on to say, “When a person with megalophobia thinks of or is in the presence of enormous items — such as buildings, statues, animals, or automobiles — they [experience] tremendous fear and anxiety.”
It’s important to note that fear itself is a natural part of life. In some circumstances, fear can even be a good thing! A phobia, however, is quite different.
The key way to differentiate fear from a specific phobia is that a phobia tends to stop you from going to certain places or doing certain things, and in the process, disrupts your life.
For example, you could feel anxious riding in an elevator in a tall building. Whereas, with a phobia, you may be so scared of tall buildings that you avoid applying to jobs in tall buildings or can’t even live within 50 miles of a town with skyscrapers.
A phobia can also result in an extreme physical reaction. Some symptoms related to the fear of big objects may include:
- panic attacks
- fast heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- upset stomach
Megalophobia isn’t technically recognized as a separate disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), but its symptoms fall underneath the diagnostic criteria for specific phobia.
For a mental health professional to diagnose a specific phobia under the DSM-5, symptoms must have been present for 6 months or more.
According to Dr. Debanjan Banerjee, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), megalophobia can be triggered by any large objects, natural or artificial, such as:
- giant statues
“When it comes to megalophobia, large is subjective, and there’s no specific size requirement needed to draw a reaction,” says Banerjee. “Those with severe cases of megalophobia may even opt not to leave their homes for fear of encountering large objects outside.”
Some large objects that could initiate this trigger include:
- tall buildings or statues
- large animals, such as giraffes or elephants
- big vehicles, such as school buses or garbage trucks
- large flying objects, such as planes or helicopters — not to be confused with aerophobia, the fear of flying
- large boats, such as cruise ships or cargo ships
For some, large bodies of water can be a trigger. However, there is also a specific phobia of deep bodies of water, which is known as thalassophobia.
While big things themselves trigger a fear of large objects, what causes the fear itself?
Even though megalophobia could be linked to other anxiety disorders, researchers agree that more studies still need to be done into what causes a fear of large objects.
The first line treatment for megalophobia, or any specific phobia, is exposure therapy, often a part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Other supportive approaches, such as support groups and self-managing coping mechanisms, can also help.
Exposure therapy, also known as “desensitization,” includes using visuals, such as photographs, or real-life exposure in a controlled way to big objects known to cause anxiety. This may help you overcome your phobia.
One of the benefits of trying exposure therapy is that by exposing yourself to what scares you the most, little by little, your anxiety and symptoms may start to lessen and improve. It can help to do this with the support of a trained mental health professional.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT may help someone with megalophobia replace their worrying thoughts with more rational ones. In this form of psychotherapy, a person can learn strategies to help influence how their brain reacts to triggers (in this case, big objects).
“In cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist will work with the patient to understand why they fear large objects and can help them in forming a more rational perception of those,” says Banerjee.
One coping mechanism could be getting support from other people who are also living with a phobia. (After all, there are millions of people living with a phobia right this minute).
Although these coping strategies won’t directly help you overcome the phobia, they could help manage your overall stress and anxiety level, which could help with managing your phobia.
Some coping methods include:
- deep breathing
- taking a walk outside
- listening to calming music
- taking a long shower or bath
- practicing yoga or another form of exercise
Coping methods will work differently for everyone, which is why one trick is to find the one that works best for you.
Once you’ve uncovered a coping tool that feels good, consider adding it to your daily routine — that’s the second trick.
Adding your coping tool(s) into your life, even in small ways, can help you maintain a more calm and relaxed state, making it easier for you to manage anxiety related to big objects.
Being afraid of large objects, whether artificial or not, can become challenging — if it’s not already. Avoiding all big objects for the rest of your life may not always be possible, and it could keep you from doing things you’d otherwise enjoy or living the life you want to live.
There is another way.
If you think you may have megalophobia, consider contacting a mental health professional who has a specialty in treating phobias. A mental health professional with the right background and experience could very well help you get more control over your phobia — and your life.
Today, your phobia may feel overwhelming and difficult to manage. But soon, you could be well on your way toward recovery.