Ataxophobia: The Fear of Disorder or Untidiness

Have you ever come across someone who has an exaggerated sense of orderliness? Do they keep all their belongings in an order that is fascinating and yet disturbing? Well, they are most likely to be suffering from a condition called Ataxophobia. Ataxophobia is an irrational and abnormal fear of disorder and dysfunction. Literally, this word with Greek roots means ‘fear of untidiness’.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of cluttered mind, if what, then is an empty desk a sign?”
– Albert Einstein

This condition is not restricted to being a cleanliness freak alone but can instigate a horrifying panic attack in people when they encounter instances such as food fights or muddy games or messy closets. They find it unbearable to be in these situations and suffer immediate anxiety pangs. People who have this phobia are usually not pleased with the work of anybody else but themselves and end up re-doing it themselves. They tend to keep cleaning or scrubbing and organising until they attain an internal sense of satisfaction.

This sort of behaviour is often mistaken as a habit when in fact this is a kind of serious ailment which has many negative consequences on the person’s life and those living around them. It can cause the person to disrupt their daily routine, limit work efficiency, reduce self-esteem and place a strain on their relationships. People associated with the ones suffering from ataxophobia recall their experiences to be like that of living in a military camp due to the strictness and overemphasised importance to cleanliness.

While the causes of ataxophobia are not distinctly known, it can be attributed to a combination of various cognitions such as traumatic life experiences at an early age, heredity (genetics) or brain chemistry. It is discerned that these phobic traits are mostly attained during childhood and during adolescence. Seldom, this behaviour arises unexpectedly during early adulthood.

Ataxophobia Symptoms

Some of the most recurrent symptoms of this condition include panic, anxiety, nausea, irregular breathing and heartbeat, excessive sweating, trembling and so on. These patients suffer panic assaults on confronting disorder or untidiness.

Ex-England footballer David Beckham has confessed that he suffers from Ataxophobia. He requires that everything in his house needs to be cleaned and arranged in order of size, colour, and numbers. His wife Victoria Beckham claims that they have three refrigerators at home; one for food, another for salad and the third for drinks. She even says that if there are three cans of beer, he throws the third because he fancies everything to be in even numbers.

There are a quite a lot of medicines available for the treatment of ataxophobia. However, these medicines can only suppress the ailment and provide a temporary solution. The well-known remedies for this condition are counselling, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming. Of these, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is found to be most effective as it regulates emotions, thoughts, and beliefs of the patient. Even though this technique was originally intended to treat depression, it is now being used to treat most types of mental disorders such as phobias.

Ataxophobia is more common than one would otherwise think. In most of the cases, the person is not aware that they have this problem at all and in some, they don’t accept it as a disorder. However, through professional guidance, it is possible to find a permanent solution to ataxophobia.

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