Paralyzing Fear of Paralysis
Friday December 05th 2008, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Who Knows?

I have had an overwhelming fear of paralysis for several years. I’m not sure what the actual name of this phobia is, since anytime I try to look it up (as on the (fun?) Phobias Page), I am caught up in information about how phobias themselves can paralyze people. I’m familiar with that, too, I suppose, but I’m also quite specifically terrified of being physically paralyzed. I’d appreciate it if anyone could tell me what this is called.

Before I left for college, I saw a special on TV about sleep paralysis, a condition I felt I had experienced in high school but had not previously had a name for. For a couple of years before and into college, I was convinced that I was having frequent episodes in which my sleep cycle was ending, and in which my mind was waking up but my body was not.

I don’t know if this was actually happening often, or if it was simply a terrible reoccurring nightmare (or, perhaps, both), but after 9/11 and the Williams Street Dormitory fire my freshman year of college, these episodes got progressively worse. I would imagine that my mind had been awoken during a fire or other emergency and that I could not move out of the way. I could hear ambient sound in my room. I could hear and feel myself breathing, but could not take control. In fact, if I tried to change my breathing patterns, I would feel an inescapable chain tightening around my chest–I would start to hyperventilate.

It took me a couple of years, but these episodes left me alone for awhile. Even with everything else, I don’t think it happened at all in the hospital (this is very different than the psychosis I experienced there in April), but I’ve noticed that since being home in May, this situation has been coming up again. Especially in the past few weeks. There are times when I’m clearly dreaming–nightmares like lying on a subway bench, unable to move while people are passing me by, and I can’t ask for help. It’s also been happening when I can’t tell if I’m asleep, though, and this is scarier. No matter how many times it happens, I am always overwhelmed by a feeling that this time it will not go away. I can hear my parents checking in on me, and I just want to say “wake me up!” but I keep breathing slow, unable to move, let alone speak.

It’s awful. As scouring the Internet seems to have turned up less info than I’d hoped, I think I’ll try talking to my doctors about it soon…

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I used to have many dreams very similar to that. I hated it. I would be caught in just darkness, knowing I was sleeping, and that I couldn’t open my eyes or wake up, but I became so familiar with the same dream, that in it I would always be going over in my head, like “no, not this dream again”, and I would try to force myself to wake up, and felt trapped, and was so worried I wouldn’t be able to wake myself up…. Also used to have ones where I was like frozen in ice, and couldn’t answer people or barely move… Hated it so much. But I very rarely have them anymore these days. I doubt they are actually anything serious, but damn did I hate the time when I just kept having the same one all the time.
Also, I like pizza.

Comment by Matt Gallo 12.06.08 @ 3:46 pm

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