Ligyrophobia, a very fancy word that means “extreme fear of loud noises” – in my case extreme fear of sudden loud noises – and I’ve had it as long as I can remember.
We are born with a fear of sudden loud noises as a survival instinct, but it is mostly present in young children and it usually fades as we get older. I wouldn’t say that mine has faded at all but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to take repercussions and try, if possible, to avoid such situations. In addition I am a sensitive person, or perhaps it is the other way around: I developed ligyrophobia because I am sensitive.
Symptoms, of course, varies from person to person, here’s mine:
➸ Rapid heart rate
➸ Trembling and/or sweating
➸ Struggling for a long time to calm down
Naturally, listing a bunch of symptoms can be a bit difficult to relate to, so I will give you a scenario to explain – the worst possible one: New Year’s Eve
Even though it’s not the biggest intrusion in my life it can make me the most out of balance if I don’t take repercussions or there are special circumstances (such as illegal firework).
Fireworks explode, and I get startled and immediately turn my head to locate the sound. Then, my brain screams “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!” and adrenalin gets pumped into my veins, my heart rate increases while my palms immediately get sweaty. It’s the perfect example of acute stress response better known as the fight-or-flight response, and it takes a lot of focus and energy trying to repress my instincts to run away. Then, silence, but my brain and body is still on high alert: when is it going to happen again? The longer the silence the more I feel the panic rising inside me. Another explosion of fireworks, and the same happens again only this time it builds on top of the existing fear and panic, and I start to feel the hysteria building while sweating out of every pore in my body. Eventually, it will build up to a point where I sit and cry hysterically, out of my mind with fear – shaking all over – but unable to get myself out of the situation.
After a night like this is it can take hours for me to calm down, and I will be even more sensitive to any sudden sound in the following days, even if I am not usually bothered by it.
My triggers are:
➸ Nearby thunder
➸ Car/motorcycle backfire
I can experience mild forms of the reaction above where I feel discomfort and get nervous, but don’t panic, such as watching Captain America: Civil War in the cinema where the sound not only was unusually loud but there also was a big difference between the talking scenes and actions scenes. Or when my mom pours hot water into the sink and it expands and go KLONK!. It can also happen with (Christmas) Crackers* or when someone opens a bottle of bubbly wine (e.g. champagne).
The only one I really can’t do anything about is cars and motorcycles that backfire. Luckily it doesn’t happen often and I usually bike with music in my ears anyway.
With the big baddies like firework and loud thunder I use earplugs (36 dB) and stay inside. I haven’t been outside on New Year’s Eve since I was a little girl, and I probably never will. The irony is that I don’t even have it worse at midnight. Occasional fireworks is the worst, and continuous the best. At midnight I at least have a chance to get used to the sound level and can enjoy the beautiful display like everyone else, because it is stunning!
The two things that affects my everyday life the most are balloons and dogs, especially the latter. My main instinct will always be to put my fingers in my ears, which, I think, is a natural response. Usually my family don’t go crazy with balloons at birthdays or other celebrations for which I am beyond grateful! The problem with balloons and dogs are not only the fact that they can make loud sudden noises, but that I get nervous and unfocused when I am in a room with them because of the potential sudden loud noise.
With balloons it’s especially bad if people start playing with them or, even worse, if it’s small children who will sit and bite in them. Sometimes I leave the room and hope that when I return the ‘danger’ will have passed.
With dogs it’s mainly two things: 1) I’m not an animal lover, and 2) they are unpredictable and they can smell fear (which is a fact that has always scared the bejesus out of me). I have tried being in the same room with dogs before where it turned out to be fine because they never barked. But before that I will have spend days fearing what will happen if they do bark. It doesn’t help that most dog owners I’ve encountered have been pricks and refused to remove their dog. The worst I ever tried was years ago when my mom and I visited my aunt, her sister. They had a big black dog that barked really loudly. When I came out of the bathroom it came towards me and I backed into a corner, petrified. My aunt did not remove it, but stood there saying “it won’t hurt you” in a patronising tone, as if that helped? Now, I rarely enter a house if I know there’s a dog on the loose. I will probably end up locking myself in the bathroom refusing to come out anyway so I might as well stay away completely. Anyway, being in a room with either one of these triggers will make me focus solely on them and I won’t be able to participate in any type of conversation. I know it pisses people off but I can’t help it.
When I was younger I was embarrassed but I must admit that I’ve accepted my problem. Despite what some people may think I don’t want this fear in my life and I don’t enjoy being difficult. Many people I’ve met have been annoyed with me, some even angry, and some with mockery. Through my entire childhood have I been met with sentences such as “get a grip” and “just stop focusing on it,” which, again, has proven really helpful (sarcasm may occur). When we are afraid, don’t we all just love being met with a condescending or reprimanding tone instead of understanding?
So many times have I been astounded by the fact that even people with fears of their own (height, claustrophobia etc.) have proven unable to understand mine. Even though I love heights, and I’m not claustrophobic, I have no problem understanding why some would be afraid of just that. Perhaps it’s a question of empathy, I don’t know.
What I am happy about, though, is that I can enjoy music and go to loud concerts without having issues. Being continuously loud I adapt to the sound level and am therefore not startled or afraid, and since music is my soul that is very fortunate indeed.
*Brits use them for Christmas, in Denmark we have them for New Year’s and call them nytårsknallerter
Do you have any phobias, or do you know someone who does?
How does it affect your, or their, life?
Be sure to comment down below.