Relaxophobia-It’s Real & You May Have it!

February 11, 2014


Even the Romans had a name for it. It’s the same word in Latin as it is in English.

I had not heard of this very real disorder until I met 3 women who suffered from it at Rancho La Puerta in October.

That’s right. 3 hard-charging, career oriented early 30s women were so agitated by relaxation that they left after 3 days.  After traveling all the way from Washington, DC they each hit the relaxation wall. Just the thought of letting their hair down would lead to personal calamity & pave the road to ruin they said. If they didn’t stay tightly wound, they believed that their hard-earned success would vanish. No amount of coaxing could persuade them otherwise.

Science is helpless in the face of a phobia. I tried pointing out the many health benefits of relaxation, the gains to be made by letting one’s brain rest. 

Relaxophobia is real for at least 15% of the population!

Never fear. The stress of anti-stress can be conquered.

Relaxing is indeed stressful for some people. Whether they’re super-sensitive to body changes like lower heart rate, slower breathing and soothed muscles; whether they have relaxation-performance anxiety; or whether they’re afraid of feeling lazy and letting themselves go, relaxophobics tense up at the kinds of activities that make most of us mellow out.

Scientists have studdied the disorder. Christina Luberto, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Cincinnati, developed a 21-question Relaxation Sensitivity Index to measure the response. She reported on a survey of 300 undergraduates at the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies last year.

“Relaxation-induced anxiety, or the paradoxical increase in anxiety as a result of relaxation, is a relatively common occurrence,” Luberto told ScienceDaily. “This suggests that for some people, any deviation from normal functioning…is stressful. We wanted to develop a test to examine why certain individuals fear relaxation events or sensations associated with taking a time-out just to relax.”

Identifying such people can improve treatment for anxiety disorders and other conditions that typically call for relaxation activities such as meditation. The fear of relaxation, like other fears such as spiders or public spaces, can be overcome, often with baby-step exposures.

In other words, if the idea of a full soak in a hot tub gives you a cold sweat, consider starting with just a toe in the water. Easy meditation techniques are especially helpful. Try our Hot Tub Meditation and you might find yourself conquering your phobia and learning to love relaxation.

SANUM PER AQUA. As the Romans said it, Health through Water.


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