I have various phobias, but I have one that affects me quite a lot: Phonophobia. For those that aren’t sure what it may be, it is a fear of sudden, unexpected loud sounds. Loud and unexpected noises to anybody are startling, but for someone like me, the affects of a loud noise impact me so much more deeply than just making you ‘jump’ and wonder what the noise was – when I hear a sudden noise I instantly fear danger, my life is at risk and I need to flee.
It has a massive impact on my daily life, things even as common as a siren going past triggers my phobia, which then activates my anxiety and panic attacks. What makes it worse is that I live in the area with a hospital, fire service training center and a police station in close proximity.
I have always struggled when I was growing up with sirens and alarms, but I wasn’t sure of the reason as to what was causing this. I was always told when I was younger that everything was fine and I wouldn’t come to any harm, however this never seemed to ease my mind or thoughts, to be honest, my phobia never really got acknowledged. As I grew older and was working in my first job, they carried out fire alarm testing every Friday- even knowing this beforehand I was always fearing the worst. I knew from this, that there was something not right and it was worth finding out what was causing me to be on edge so much and giving me the desire to flee so badly. I thought to myself that this was not a normal day to day thing anyone else would be worried about, so I spoke with my GP and they suggested for me to have some CBT sessions- from this I was diagnosed with Phonophobia.
Instances such as Bonfire night and New Year are an especially bad time of the year for me because of the constant loud banging. I know in my mind to be expecting these loud bangs and that they are only fireworks- it’s the not knowing of when the fireworks will actually go off.
My phobia also affects me at other times, such as when I go for a bath. My partner will have to sit at the other side of the door so that he can be my ears and let me know what sounds occurred so I can feel at ease, if he is not there when I want to go for a bath, I simply cannot have one. Even staying home alone is an issue because when the house is quiet, the general house noises (usually pipes or the heating – when I’m thinking rationally) can leave me quite distressed. This makes me feel trapped even being at home as I just can’t seem to feel comfortable, and am in a state of constant worry.
Going out can be deemed a challenge, for example when I am in a shop, and a security or fire alarm goes off, I just want to flee as far as possible to a place where I would feel safe.
I am now starting to learn how to cope with my phobia, with help from my therapist, at the moment what I tend to do if I hear a loud noise or siren is simply put my fingers in my ears and count to 60, whilst taking deep breaths. I also try my best to think calming thoughts. It is helping but I still don’t have total control over my phobia yet- I will get there!
I want people who are suffering from Phonophobia to know you are not alone, speaking to someone about it really does take a weight off mentally, just knowing you have some support. I was living with this for almost 24 years before I actually got some help, and I already feel a huge weight has been lifted. I really have found counting to 60 seconds with music playing, or having my fingers in my ears to block out the noise, are useful methods to help me to control my fear, and I try my best to think rational thoughts.
If you suffer from Phonophobia, or know somebody that does, you can find out more by downloading our fact-sheet here. As Natalie mentions, you are certainly not alone with this phobia, and there is help available. If you become a member of Anxiety UK, you can receive reduced cost therapy, such as CBT, either face-to-face, over the phone, or via webcam.