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Megalophobia

Fear of Large Objects

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Updated August 28, 2008

Megalophobia can be loosely defined as the fear of large things. The object in question may vary from ships to airplanes to blimps. At Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 2008, as at many Halloween venues, this phobia is combined with another, in this case herpetophobia or fear of reptiles, to create a more effective scare.

In Universal’s scenario, which takes place in 1958, a male high school student with a love of comic books develops a phobia of the giant squid. In “therapy,” the psychologist treats him through hypnosis, convincing him to face his belief that the squid is wrapping around him and slowly strangling him. As part of treatment, ropes are wrapped around the boy during the hypnosis to add to the realism. Of course, while the phobia is real, that sort of treatment is not. Here is a look at the reality behind the illusion.

The Phobia

Fear of gigantic animals, particularly the giant squid, has been a part of mythology and lore since the earliest days of sailing ships. Legends abound of sailors who were lost to the monsters of the deep. Of course, it is likely that in the days before modern navigational systems, many of those ships were simply run aground or dashed against the rocks. Still, the rumors persisted, though many believed that the giant squid was just a myth. The first photos of a live giant squid were finally obtained in 2004.

In the 1950s, comic books and science fiction were huge trends, particularly among teenage boys. It is easy to imagine how an obsession with the giant squid could develop into a full-blown phobia. Even today, phobias of giant “killer” animals persist and are exploited in such films as Jaws and Anaconda.

The Treatment

Universal’s scenario takes place in 1958, a time of change for the field of psychology. While Freudian psychoanalysis and behaviorism were still strong, humanism was beginning to take hold. Experimental treatments were not as heavily regulated as they are today, and many psychologists believed that experimentation was necessary in order to further the body of research and knowledge.

Still, even in the 1950s, the extreme torturous treatments of the Halloween Horror Nights’ “doctor” would not have been permitted by the ethics board. Today, of course, treatment is highly regulated and tends to fall into one of a few recognized categories. The most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which the client is encouraged to replace phobic thoughts with more rational ones. Flooding and systematic desensitization, in which the client is exposed to the feared object, are often used but at no time is the client placed in any danger.

If you have a phobia of large objects or animals, it is important to seek treatment right away. With proper treatment, most phobias can be cured or managed, but over time untreated phobias tend to worsen. See your doctor or mental health professional to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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