Are you afraid of balloons? For some people, this is a silly question. For people with globophobia, this is their awful reality.
Curious to learn more about the fear of balloons, where it comes from, and how you can overcome it? You’re in the right place! It is possible to work with mental health professionals, even when it comes to seemingly irrational or uncommon fears.
What Is Globophobia?
Globophobia is the fear of balloons. This fear is often caused by a traumatic event surrounding balloons. Although this might seem silly, it is a very real fear for some people. Treatment and a proper diagnosis can help people overcome this specific phobia.
What about balloons is so scary? For many, the actual shape of the balloon or its appearance isn’t what triggers their fear. The anticipation of the balloon popping is scarier than the balloon itself. But since balloons aren’t always popping left and right, a person with globophobia may appear to become anxious just at the sight of the balloon.
Where Does the Word “Globophobia” Come From?
The root of the word “globophobia” comes from the Latin word globus, which means “sphere.” Phobia comes from the Greek word phóbos, which translates to “fear.” Globophobia is not the fear of any sphere-shaped objects, but just balloons.
Symptoms of Globophobia
Phobias are more than just feelings of discomfort or nervousness. A person with a balloon phobia may have intense physical and emotional reactions at the sight or thought of a balloon:
- Nausea or dizziness
- Hot flashes or sweating
- Shallow breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Feelings of panic
- Shaking or trembling
If these symptoms happen once while in the presence of a balloon, you may not have globophobia. Often, these symptoms take place every time someone is faced with the sight of a balloon.
Examples of Globophobia
If your friend just doesn’t like to be around balloons are parties, they probably do not need to see a therapist for globophobia. But if they avoid all social gatherings and events where balloons might be present, they might need to seek help.
A person who is uncomfortable when watching the movie It likely doesn’t have globophobia. If that person finds themselves having a panic attack every time they attend graduations, commencements, or events with balloons, they might have globophobia.
Yes, this might sound very silly to someone who does not experience a fear of balloons. But remember that fears are often created in the mind. A person may experience intense physical symptoms and disturbing thoughts even though they can rationalize that balloons are not scary!
Can You Be Diagnosed With A Fear of Balloons?
If the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5) had specific criteria for every single phobia that people experienced, it would be a very, very long manual. Globophobia is not specifically listed in the DSM-5. Instead, a mental health professional may diagnose a patient with a “specific phobia.”
What Is a “Specific Phobia”?
This is an umbrella term that describes any phobia of a specific object or situation. The fear of ghosts, for example, is a specific phobia. The fear of failure is considered a specific phobia. Although these two things are very different than balloons, a person may experience similar symptoms when faced with the specific thing that triggers their fear.
The requirements for a specific phobia, as listed in the DSM-5, are as follows:
- Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation
- The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the socio-cultural context.
- The phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
- The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder, including fear, anxiety, and avoidance of situations associated with panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating symptoms (as in agoraphobia); objects or situations related to obsessions (as in obsessive-compulsive disorder); reminders of traumatic events (as in posttraumatic stress disorder); separation from home or attachment figures (as in separation anxiety disorder); or social situations (as in social anxiety disorder).
Phonophobia and Other Conditions
If a mental health professional determines that a person’s fear of balloons is actually a fear of loud noises, they may tell the patient that they have phonophobia. Phonophobia is the fear of loud noises. This, like globophobia, is diagnosed as a specific phobia.
In this case, the professional may refer the patient to another professional to assess whether the patient’s sensory inputs are causing the problem. People on the autism spectrum disorder, for example, may have phonophobia or globophobia because they are more hypersensitive to sound. Hyperacusis is a disorder in which people hear things more loudly than others. By knowing how a person collects and processes different senses, a mental health professional can administer a better, more effective treatment plan.
How Many People Have Globophobia?
Unless you happen to have many friends that run out of the room at the sight of balloons, you probably know that globophobia is not that common. Although 19 million Americans have been diagnosed with specific phobias, this covers a vast range of fears. There is no scientific data on how many children or adults suffer from globophobia, and those numbers may be different. It is not uncommon for a child to grow out of globophobia as they reach adulthood.
What Causes Globophobia?
Although some mental health conditions or phobias may be passed down through genetics or observational learning, it is unlikely that a child will develop globophobia because their parents have a fear of balloons.
Globophobia is often linked to a traumatic event that a person went through as a child. Most people with globophobia can actually pinpoint the exact event or events in which their fear first developed.
Likely, during that first traumatic event, the body responded as it would to any threat: fight-or-flight. The body kicks into fight-or-flight mode, suspending certain bodily systems, releasing hormones, and elevating the heart rate.
In people with globophobia, the brain likely sees the balloon, associates it with the previous traumatic event, and sends the body into fight-or-flight mode all over again. This is why a person might sweat, feel panic, or run away at the sight of the balloon. It may take some time for the brain to tell the body that the person is actually safe.
If left uncontrolled, this fight-or-flight might be triggered every time a person faces their fear. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this reaction and let the brain and body know that balloons are not as threatening as other things that trigger the fight-or-flight response.
Treatments for Globophobia
If you have a specific phobia, reach out to a mental health professional. They can work with you to develop a treatment plan for facing your fears and living a normal life. You do not have to avoid birthday parties, work conferences, or graduations just because balloons are present.
Before you reach out to a therapist, familiarize yourself with different approaches that therapists may use to help you overcome your fear. In your consultation, a therapist should let you know which approach they prefer and what they think is best for your situation.
Some therapists approach phobias by using different forms of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a process in which a patient is exposed, slowly or all at once, to the thing that they fear. Some people prefer this method, and all types of exposure therapy have helped people overcome their phobias. Whether or not you want to pursue exposure therapy depends on you and whether your therapist thinks it's appropriate to do so.
Do not want to jump into a pile of balloons to overcome globophobia? That is okay. Talk therapy can also help people overcome their specific phobias. CBT, DBT, or NLP are all forms of talk therapy that assess your thought patterns and attempt to change them. A therapist treating a person with globophobia may ask what is going through their mind at the sight of a balloon or the thought of a birthday party. By changing these thought patterns, the person may be able to approach a balloon with more ease, avoiding the fight-or-flight response that was previously set off.
In rare cases, a therapist may prescribe medication to treat specific phobias. Not all mental health professionals are licensed to administer medication, so check with your specific caregiver before undergoing treatment.
Similar Phobias and Fears
Globophobia is often confused with glossophobia, but the two fears are very different. Globophobia is the fear of balloons; glossophobia is the fear of social situations. If you have glossophobia and globophobia, a birthday party is probably your least favorite place!
Other similar phobias include:
- Coulrophobia: fear of clowns
- Anthropophobia: fear of people
- Megalophobia: fear of large objects
- Phonophobia: fear of loud sounds (fireworks)