Anxiety in feet

What is Podophobia? Definition, Treatment & More

Podophobia is a condition that causes people to experience extreme anxiety anytime they’re exposed to feet. The anxiety is so severe that you may go to great lengths to avoid touching or even seeing feet.

Researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes podophobia. But there are ways to gradually decrease the intensity of the fear so it has less effect on your quality of life.

Prevalence of phobias

The National Institutes of Mental Health estimate that 12 percent of all adults experience a specific phobia at least once in their lifetime.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) doesn’t list podophobia specifically — but that doesn’t mean this fear of feet isn’t real.

As with other specific phobias, podophobia causes a degree of fear that is intense and out of proportion to any danger posed by the object itself.

For some people with podophobia, the fear is so severe that just thinking about the possibility of exposure to feet — whether bare or with socks or shoes on — can interfere with the ability to function at home, at school, at work, or in social situations.

Plus, avoiding the feared object can take a lot of time and energy. Attempting to avoid exposure to feet may keep you from accomplishing daily tasks.

Podophobia can cause a strong emotional and physiological reaction, including symptoms like:

  • a feeling of fear or panic
  • a feeling of disgust or horror
  • sweating
  • a fast heartbeat
  • shaking
  • nausea
  • chest tightness
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • fainting

People experiencing panic from a phobia may also freeze up, lash out, or cling to another person.

Sometimes, these symptoms can be fleeting or only occur once. In these cases, you may not have developed a phobia.

On the other hand, you may have developed a phobia if:

  • You have experienced symptoms like these for 6 months or longer, due to repeated exposure to fleet.
  • These symptoms disrupt your life when they do occur.

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes podophobia. One theory is that you may have formed an association between the feared object — in this case, feet — and an experience you found upsetting or terrifying.

The connection between the frightening event and the object might be easy to see, such as being afraid of feet if you experienced a painful or traumatic episode of abuse that involved someone else’s feet.

But the connection may not be so clear. The cognitive and biological mechanisms of phobias in relation to trauma aren’t fully understood and can vary for each individual.

Another theory is that you may have heard someone else describing a particular danger so often that you internalize the other person’s fears.

Genetic component of phobias

A 2014 study suggests a genetic component to phobias, but there aren’t any studies that explore this in relation to podophobia specifically.

Some older research from 2003 does show that family history may play an important role in the development of phobias. In other words, you may inherit the tendency to have a phobia.

If you experience intense fear or anxiety when exposed to feet and these symptoms interfere with your ability to perform daily tasks or enjoy your life, talk with a healthcare or mental health professional, such as a primary care physician or a therapist.

To make a diagnosis, they will likely ask you questions about:

  • what triggers your symptoms (if you’re able to recall general or specific scenarios when your phobia symptoms occur)
  • how long your symptoms have persisted
  • what areas of your life your symptoms disrupt

Diagnosis of a specific phobia often involves identifying several of the following:

  • an immediate, intense anxiety response
  • a fear that greatly exceeds the amount of danger you’re in
  • symptoms that last longer than 6 months
  • symptoms that keep you from functioning in a healthy way in some area of your life
  • symptoms that aren’t explained by another condition or diagnosis

Medications may be used to treat some anxiety symptoms, such as alprazolam (Xanax).

But for many people, the most effective treatment for a specific phobia is behavioral therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on identifying unhealthy or unrealistic thoughts. It helps revise your thought responses to stimuli, such as a foot, so that they’re more attuned to the reality of a situation and more in proportion to the actual level of danger.

It can also help you notice when you’re having symptoms, so you can address them in the moment and use behavioral strategies to lessen them.

CBT can help you define and understand the possibly disproportionate beliefs and ideas you may have associated with the object or situation you fear. This may allow you to react with more thoughtful responses appropriate for the situation.

Exposure therapy

Another effective treatment for phobias is exposure therapy, or systematic desensitization. With this treatment type, you and your therapist will work on building your ability to calm yourself in stressful situations.

Over a long period, you will practice using relaxation skills as you gradually face things you fear — starting with the least frightening version of your stimuli and progressing to the most frightening version.

At each stage, you practice relaxation techniques until you no longer experience a disproportionately extreme response before moving to the next stage of exposure.

Exposure therapy and CBT

Exposure therapy and CBT combined are very effective in treating specific phobias, according to a 2020 review. Some therapists may also incorporate virtual reality or augmented reality devices into your treatment.


A doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner may prescribe medication if your anxiety continues to be severe during treatment and your anxiety symptoms don’t improve with therapeutic methods.

Benzodiazepenes and beta-blocking medications may help lower your stress levels. These drugs are usually prescribed only for short-term use.

Extra help

Some people have reported positive results using the following methods to treat anxiety associated with phobias, despite a lack of research to confirm or explain their effectiveness:

  • hypnotherapy
  • mindfulness training
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • breathing exercises

Podophobia is an extreme and unrealistic fear of feet.

Researchers don’t know exactly how podophobia develops, but you can take steps to reduce the anxiety this phobia causes. These methods may help change the way you think about and respond to this fear.

Phobias can result in severe anxiety. Talk with a healthcare professional if you find that you’re going out of your way to avoid a phobia or if the symptoms are disrupting your life.

Foot Discomfort an Anxiety Symptom?

Physical Symptoms

Fact Checked

by Calm Clinic Editorial Team and Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

Anxiety is felt literally from head to toe. People don't really think of the feet as a place that they are affected by anxiety, but the reality is that foot discomfort is actually a very common anxiety symptom, and one that can even cause significant distress.

Foot discomfort really is something that can affect anyone with anxiety.

Issues with your feet can be disconcerting, and certainly it's hard to imagine what this foot discomfort can be if you haven't experienced it before. But here are examples of what you may experience in your feet:

  • Foot Tingling, Burning, and Numbness The most common problem is a numbness or tingling that is similar to when your foot falls asleep. This can be the result of hyperventilation or adrenaline, which moves blood from your feet in such a way that they can lose feeling. Foot tingling is especially common before and after anxiety attacks.
  • Foot Pain From Walking There is a lot of evidence that those with anxiety tend to have problems keeping automatic abilities automatic. For example, those with anxiety tend to think about their breathing, and when you think about your breathing you start to breathe manually. Many people find that the same is true from walking, where they start to walk funny because their movements don't feel natural. Those issues can create foot pain, because your foot is designed to walk a very specific way,
  • Foot Coldness Foot coldness is also a common problem. This can be caused by two issues. First, as mentioned above, the blood may move out of your foot when you have anxiety and that can cause your feet to be cold. But another simpler reason is that anxiety causes sweating, and sweating is designed to cause coldness.
  • Oversensitivity Another reason you may have foot discomfort is simply because of oversensitivity. Those with anxiety tend to notice every normal discomfort they have. You may always have had very minor discomforts that you ignored, but when you developed anxiety, you start to notice them more. When your mind notices anything, it tends to amplify it and make it worse, and that may be what's occurring with your foot discomfort.

Anxiety is also known to cause weird spasms, aches and pains, and more. But these tend to affect people on a case by case basis and, unfortunately, it can be very difficult to figure out the cause. Just remember that stress wreaks havoc on your body, and anything that causes that much physical distress is going to lead to strange and unusual sensations.

The good news is that when your foot discomfort is caused by anxiety, the only thing you need to do is combat your anxiety. The bad news is that anxiety isn't something that you can cure overnight. You need to find yourself an effective, long term strategy that will stop your anxiety and keep it from coming back.

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Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.


Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

– Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice. Ask Doctor a Question

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) - Together

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by movement of the legs during sleep or rest. Patients experience an overwhelming need to move their legs due to discomfort or discomfort in the legs. Symptoms occur during periods of low activity, usually in the evening or at night. This syndrome is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.

RLS may interfere with or disturb sleep. Treatment involves lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms and improve sleep quality. Some patients may also need medication.

Restless legs syndrome symptoms

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) symptoms are as follows:

  • Irresistible urge to move the legs at rest
  • Unpleasant sensations in the legs (itching, crawling, aching or sharp pain)
    • Symptoms worse at night, relieve or disappear with movement or pressure, usually bilateral, but may be unilateral or migrate from one side to the other, may vary in intensity and frequency , and can also appear and disappear

Sometimes it is difficult for a patient, especially a child, to describe the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. As a rule, sensations are localized inside the leg, and not on the surface of the skin. The child may describe sensations as follows:

  • Need to move legs, kick or stretch
  • Feeling of crawling or bugs inside or on the surface of the legs
  • "Tingling", "twitching", "crawling" or "restless" sensation in the legs

Causes of restless legs syndrome

Several factors increase the risk of RLS. These include:

  • Low ferritin (iron storage)
  • Medicines, including certain antidepressants and antiemetics
  • Family history of RLS
  • ADHD
  • Alarm
  • Depression
  • Diseases of the kidneys
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy

Diagnosis of Restless Leg Syndrome

Diagnosis of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) includes:

  • Medical history and physical examination
  • Talking to the patient and family or completing a symptom checklist
  • Examining prescribed medications to see if sleep disturbance is a side effect of any of them
  • Laboratory tests to determine the level of iron in the blood

When diagnosing RLS, doctors look for 5 criteria:

  1. An overwhelming urge to move the legs, usually caused by discomfort or discomfort.
  2. Symptoms appear or worsen during reduced activity or rest.
  3. Symptoms are relieved by movement.
  4. Symptoms are most pronounced in the evening or at night.
  5. Symptoms are not caused by another condition.

Treatment of restless leg syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) treatment depends on the cause, severity of the condition, and age of the patient. There is no universal method of treatment for all patients, and over time, a change in treatment tactics may be required.

Changes in lifestyle or behavior - Mild to moderate symptoms of RLS can be relieved initially by adjusting daily habits. Follow these guidelines:

  • Sleep hygiene
  • Moderate exercise or stretching
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine
  • Massage, hot baths, heating pads, or ice packs to relax leg muscles (consult physician first, especially if patient is undergoing treatment)
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation

High Iron Dietary Supplements - Your doctor may recommend iron supplements if you have low blood ferritin levels (low serum ferritin). Dietary supplements are available without a prescription, but the patient's family should consult a doctor or pharmacist regarding the dose and type of high iron supplement. Side effects such as indigestion and constipation may occur. Taking excessive doses of iron can be dangerous, especially for young children.

Other drugs - Several types of drugs have been shown to work for more severe symptoms of RLS in adults. However, most of these drugs are not yet approved for the treatment of RLS in children. Many drugs used to treat RLS also have other indications.

  1. Seizure drugs may be used in RLS. Gabapentin (taken at bedtime) is a popular first-line treatment for RLS in children and adults.

  2. Benzodiazepines are often used to reduce anxiety, control seizures, and relieve nausea. They can be used as a sleep aid and to relieve muscle spasms. Low-dose benzodiazepines at bedtime may be given to relieve symptoms of RLS.

  3. RLS may be treated with drugs that increase levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Many of these drugs are traditionally used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. These drugs are less commonly used to treat RLS in children.

It is important to follow dosage instructions carefully. In the treatment of sleep disorders or the relief of symptoms of RLS, the dose and regimen of the drug may differ from those in the appointment for other reasons. These drugs may not be safe if taken more often or at higher doses than prescribed. Members of the patient's family should ensure that medicinal products are safely stored out of the reach of children.

Supplementary Resources for Restless Legs Syndrome

  • Restless Leg Syndrome - American National Sleep Foundation
  • Restless Leg Syndrome - American Academy of Sleep Medicine
  • Understanding RLS - Restless Leg Syndrome Association
  • Restless Leg Syndrome Fact Sheet - NINRI (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

Modified June 2019

what is it and how to deal with it


Restless legs syndrome was first discussed in 1685. It was then that Dr. Thomas Willis recorded the first case of RLS (Restless Legs Syndrom). However, the diagnosis received its name only at the end of the Second World War during the research of Karl-Axel Ekbom (it is also often called Ekbom's syndrome).

To date, scientists have made a lot of progress in the study of the syndrome, but the exact causes of the disease have not yet been established and are always considered individually. How to recognize RLS and what steps should be taken if this diagnosis has become your medical case? Together with Vladimir Anatolyevich Parfenov, Head of the Department of Nervous Diseases and Neurosurgery of the First Moscow State Medical University named after I.M. Sechenov figured out all the details of the issue.

What is restless leg syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome is a disease that can actually be caused by a variety of reasons. For example, primary restless leg syndrome often appears at a young age and persists throughout life. Secondary restless leg syndrome can be the result of various conditions and diseases, in particular: iron deficiency, pregnancy (due to iron deficiency, folic acid and other causes), kidney failure, peripheral nerve damage, systemic connective tissue diseases, complications from taking certain drugs.

RLS most often manifests itself in the need to move the legs due to constant discomfort. It is characteristic that they occur or intensify at night, leading to sleep disturbance. Quite often, people suffering from restless legs syndrome turn to specialists with just such a complaint, and during the examination it turns out that the real cause of insomnia is RLS. At the same time, situations are quite common when a person is forced to get up at night due to discomfort in the legs and walk around the room. This eases the discomfort and often helps to fall asleep after only a few attempts.

In Western Europe and North America, the prevalence of the disease averages 5-10%, and in Asian countries it is much lower. At the same time, the prevalence of the syndrome increases from the age of 20, reaching a peak at 70-79 years. Women are twice as likely to suffer from RLS than men.

How to calculate the syndrome?

According to specialists and symptomatic patients, RLS sensations can sometimes be quite strange and defy precise description, or they can be quite specific: aching, itching, pulling or throbbing sensations, as well as a feeling as if you are being lightly shocked by an electric current in your legs. Other symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:0143

A strong desire to move your legs, especially if you have been sitting or lying down for a long time;
Temporary relief with the onset of movement;
Increased symptoms in the late afternoon or at night (or afternoon and evening).
You can find these symptoms at any age, but RLS is becoming more common in older people. If you observe them for yourself and you are under 40 years old, it is quite possible that the factor of heredity played a role here. With restless leg syndrome, you may also experience discomfort at different intervals, such as several times a night, a week, or even less frequently. But, as already mentioned, with age, the frequency of symptoms increases.

How to treat the disease?

Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome can be treated effectively by treating the conditions and diseases that cause the syndrome, such as normalizing iron levels in case of iron deficiency (see also: 7 Foods Rich in Iron) or stopping the drug.

However, in any case, self-medication with RLS is unacceptable, since a large number of diseases with similar symptoms are known to medicine. If you suspect that you have restless legs syndrome, then the first thing to do is to consult a specialist who will identify the cause of the syndrome and prescribe therapy based on the examination.

Treatment for secondary cases of restless leg syndrome is largely based on addressing the underlying cause. Until they are clarified, sleep hygiene, refraining from drinking alcohol, smoking, and foot baths are recommended. Among the drugs often used are the same drugs as in Parkinson's disease. Their dose is determined by the doctor.

Source: MC.RU

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