Is there a difference between travel anxiety and hodophobia?

You may have been wondering if there’s a difference between travel anxiety and hodophobia. There is.

People often use the terms “hodophobia” and “travel anxiety” interchangeably. There’s nothing really wrong with that; however, hodophobia is the clinically significant fear of travel. Travel anxiety usually refers to a reaction that’s subclinical. It doesn’t meet one or more of the criteria for a specific phobia.

It’s normal to have some level of anxiety before and during a trip. This is especially true if you’re going someplace you’ve never been before, or if you anticipate being in a situation you’ve never previously encountered. Fear of the unknown is natural. Phobias are not.

Severity of travel anxiety

The main difference between hodophobia and normal travel anxiety is the severity of the fear. People with normal travel anxiety may seem nervous and say they are. However, it’s rare for them to have the kinds of panic reaction that someone with hodophobia might experience when faced with the same situation Panic reactions may include symptoms such as a racing heart, trembling, sweating profusely, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, or tingling in the extremities.

Avoidance of travel

People who have hodophobia or another anxiety disorder related to travel avoid the situation that scares them. Hodophobes don’t travel. Aviophobes don’t fly. Xenophobes don’t reach out to people who seem “foreign” to them in appearance, dress, beliefs, or nationality.

People with normal travel anxiety might feel fear about these same things, but they’re less likely to avoid as a result. Those who fear flying get aboard and white-knuckle their way to their destination. People who feel anxiety at a subclinical level arm themselves with “safety behaviors” and hit the road.  Hodophobes stay home. 

Duration of anxiety

Hodophobia is persistent. It must have lasted for at least 6 months before it can be diagnosed. It’s unlikely to abate without treatment.

Normal travel anxieties are more likely to come and go. Someone with normal travel anxiety may fear going to a country they’ve never visited before but be comfortable going somewhere more familiar. They may be comfortable going to a country they perceive to be safe, but unwilling to go to a country the State Department is warning tourists to avoid.

Impact

Someone with clinically significant fear of travel is impacted by the problem in a major area of life. They may have harmed relationships by refusing to travel to visit friends or family members. They may have lost a job by refusing to travel for business. And they miss out on all the benefits travel can bring, including the broadening of perspective that most easily comes from getting to know people and places that are outside their usual circles.

While normal travel anxiety and hodophobia are on the same spectrum, they differ in degree. Overcoming them so you can enjoy your trips is an effort well worth your time.  I’ll show you how.

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