What is the fear of extreme cold and how to overcome it

  • May 31, 2022
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What is the fear of extreme cold and how to overcome it

Winter is coming and it is very cold. You close the windows, turn on the heating, wrap up warm, go out to play in the snow, go skiing, wrap up warmer and spend more time at home than outside because you don't want to be cold. Suddenly, one day you realize that it's not that you don't want to spend more time at home because it's cold outside and it's warm at home, but that you're really afraid to go outside. The simple fact of thinking that no matter how warm you are, something can happen to you scares you.

When this happens, you stop doing things you like and start to feel more anxious when you think about the cold. Does it ring a bell? These sensations and cognitions could refer to cryophobia or fear of extreme cold. If you want to know more about it, in this Psychology-Online article, we explain what is the fear of extreme cold and how to overcome it.

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  1. What is fear of extreme cold
  2. Symptoms of fear of extreme cold
  3. Causes of fear of extreme cold
  4. How to overcome the fear of extreme cold

What is the fear of extreme cold.

The fear of extreme cold, or cryophobia, is classified within the specific phobias according to the DSM-V[1], since it is an irrational fear of a specific stimulus, in this case extreme cold. Therefore, we could say that cryophobia is the marked fear or anxiety related to extreme cold immediately.

In these cases, avoidance behaviors may also occur in situations of extreme cold, not due to the physical discomfort generated by the cold in the body, but to the anxiety that is experienced in the.

Symptoms of fear of extreme cold.

Some of the symptoms that people suffering from cryophobia may manifest are the following:

  • Acceleration of heart rate.
  • Sense of danger: interpretation that extreme cold can pose a danger.
  • Sensation of fear.
  • Lost of control on behavior in extreme cold.
  • Reduced ability to carry out the behavior that was being performed, despite being sufficiently warm.
  • cold avoidance or situations in which the person may feel extremely cold.
What is fear of extreme cold and how to overcome it - Symptoms of fear of extreme cold

Causes of fear of extreme cold.

There is no single cause of cryophobia or fear of extreme cold, but it is a interaction between genetics and environment in which there are certain factors that predispose people to suffer from it, as well as protective factors against the appearance of this phobia. Next, we explain what are the genetic and environmental causes of fear of extreme cold.

genetic causes

The genetic part involved in the manifestation of cryophobia is that which is related to the neuroanatomical circuit of the fear and the neurohormonal circuit of stress, which give rise to that excessive response of anxiety to the cold extreme.

  • Neuroanatomical circuit of fear: has been shown to activate the brain amygdala in the phases of acquisition of conditioned fear and when fear is experienced, giving rise to an increase in electrodermal conductance. In addition, it has also been observed that the activity of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex increases, specifically the dorsal part of the anterior cingulate cortex and the cortex of the insula during the "learning from fear". In addition, the part of the hippocampus associated with context processing.
  • stress neurohormonal circuitry: the libico-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (LHHS) circuit is involved in the appearance of phobias and in the manifestation of stress and anxiety. This circuit is related to the experience that the individual has and the situation in which he finds himself. Taking this into account, it can be explained how the early exposure of a person to acute stress modifies the formation of the fear circuitry, altering the sensitivity and reactivity of corticotropin-releasing hormone and immune systems. adrenergic. This alteration favors the development of anxiety disorders caused by cryophobia.

Thus, genetic heritability is one of the causes of fear of extreme cold, since it creates the genetic vulnerability necessary to be able to develop the disorder if the circumstances are right timely environmental

environmental causes

The interaction with the environment also intervenes in the appearance of cryophobia. Find out how below:

  • behavioral inhibition towards certain situations has been associated with the subsequent development of fear of extreme cold.
  • Anxious parents or caregivers or overprotective parenting style: sensitivity to anxiety and negative affect and neuroticism are factors that predispose the individual to suffer from cryophobia.
  • Educational and environmental contingencies: interact with environmental heredity and genetic vulnerability to anxiety. They play an important role in the development of cryophobia.
  • Stressful life events and social learning: added to vulnerability to anxiety, they are the perfect cocktail for phobic disorders to appear, such as fear of extreme cold.

How to overcome the fear of extreme cold.

The best way to overcome it when fear is deeply rooted is the cognitive behavioral therapy, since it is the one that has been shown to be the most effective in treating cases of specific phobias. For this, there are several therapies that can be applied jointly and in a complementary or individual way. We see them below:

  • Exposure therapies: they consist of gradually and repeatedly confronting the patient with the feared situation, in concrete with extreme cold, until anxiety is reduced by a process of habituation/extinction from fear. Faced with this specific phobia, it is important that the person is well dressed so as not to provoke a reinforcement of the irrational fear.
  • Physiological control techniques: they teach the patient skills to control their own physiological activation and cope with situations that cause stress or anxiety.
  • Cognitive and motivational therapies: they are techniques focused on the patient's cognitions that try to modify them and control the associated emotions and behaviors such as psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, positive reinforcement and problem solving techniques.
What is the fear of extreme cold and how to overcome it - How to overcome the fear of extreme cold

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is the fear of extreme cold and how to overcome it, we recommend that you enter our category of Clinical psychology.


  1. American psychiatric association, (2014). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM – 5. Madrid Spain. Pan American Medical Publishing.


  • Ezpeleta, L. and Bull, J. (eds.) (2016). developmental psychopathology. Madrid: Ed. Pyramid.
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