What to Know About Hodophobia

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 27, 2024
3 min read

Hodophobia is the medical term for an extreme fear of traveling. Some people call it “trip-a-phobia.” It’s often a heightened fear of a particular mode of transportation, such as airplanes. It’s also a phobia that can happen after highly publicized events and disasters that strike fear into the public. Hodophobia creates anxiety, but there are ways you can manage and overcome it. 

There are two main causes that can create a heightened fear of traveling. 

  1. ‌The fear of travel usually results from a past negative experience while you were traveling. The memory of the event creates a heightened physical and emotional stress response from you. For instance, you will experience panic attacks and anxiety at the thought of traveling in the same mode of transportation that the traumatizing event occurred in.
  2. The fear of travel can also occur after a significant world event gains national or international attention. Pandemic outbreaks are an example of such events that create travel fears in people.

These are the most common reasons for hodophobia, but there are many different possibilities for why your fear of traveling may develop. It can be helpful to identify the root cause of your phobia, such as a negative experience, so you can better target your treatment and therapy. 

Anxiety is a main symptom of hodo. It can show up as a fear that creates physical and mental reactions from you, and it can even become a panic attack. In 2020, it was estimated that 25% of the American population had significant levels of anxiety about traveling.‌

Some physical symptoms of trip a phobia include:

  • Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Crying
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Confusion with completing basic tasks

Trip a phobia, and the anxiety that accompanies it, is greatly amplified during world events, such as: 

  • pandemics, such as SARS and COVID-19 
  • wars
  • social movements like the 2020 social justice protests
  • transportation used as a method of terrorism, such as airplane hijacks‌

Other contributing factors for hodophobia include:

  1. Anxiety over the destination you are traveling to.
  2. Worry about the challenges you may encounter with language barriers.
  3. Thoughts that you can’t travel away from your home because you feel you’re the only one who can handle a crisis there.
  4. Fear of being judged by loved ones for traveling during certain world catastrophes.
  5. Feelings of guilt about the financial instability people are facing, which doesn’t allow them to travel as much as you. 

There are things you can do to help you minimize the effects of your phobia. They include:

  • Learning everything you can about the places you want to travel to, including their security and legal procedures 
  • Visualizing yourself successfully making your trip safely and smoothly
  • Practicing breathing techniques 
  • Traveling with a friend or a group
  • Staying away from self-medicating with drugs and alcohol

It can take a lot of time and practice to master these coping techniques. Give each method some time to become effective. ‌If you have tried multiple approaches and still feel like your anxiety symptoms about traveling are dominating your quality of life, see your see your doctor and a mental health professional.

Treating your traveling phobia first requires that you see a professional mental health therapist. Your therapist will assess your:

  • Medical history
  • Psychiatric history
  • Social history

Once assessed, your therapist can diagnose you with hodophobia. There are two types of therapeutic treatments available:

  1. Exposure therapy. This therapy’s goal is to expose you to your phobia gradually and consistently as a form of desensitization.
  2. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT combines various techniques that give you mental coping strategies in order to reprogram your perceptions about your fears. This technique helps you master your fears so that they no longer control you.

You may also ease anxiety and panic symptoms with the help of short-term medications. The most common temporary medications used are:

Beta blockers, which stop the physical effects of adrenaline surges that cause anxiety symptoms such as: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shaking voice and limbs

Sedative medications, which lessen overwhelming feelings of anxiety and help you to relax. Sedatives are used with heightened caution due to their addictive nature. 

The fear of traveling impacts millions of people. If you have the signs and symptoms of “trip-a- phobia” check with your doctor.