We live in a society whose relationships are regulated by rights and duties. As human beings, we are provided with legal guarantees that safeguard our physical, psychological, social and economic integrity in situations of injustice.
Most states have judicial mechanisms aimed at restoring the balance between two parties when either of them has committed a fault or a crime against the other, including penalties in the civil and criminal fields.
All people can resort to this system when we perceive ourselves as victims of harm, and we also have the obligation to respond to it when we have incurred an infraction among those contemplated in the rule of law.
Lithicaphobia is an irrational fear of situations of this type (contentious) , and that is much more frequent than it might seem. We proceed, then, to address its fundamental aspects.
- Related article: ” Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders“
What is lithicaphobia?
Lithicaphobia (known as lithophobia) is a term in which two words of classical origin converge, but of disparate origins. The first one comes from the Latin “litigium”, which in turn part of the root “lis” (dispute or lawsuit), and the second (phobos) is a Hellenic inheritance (fear or aversion). Thus, lithicaphobia describes a situational type phobia, which is limited to the moment in which one is part of the defense or the accusation in a trial.
The truth is that legal problems are very stressful situations for most people, although they do not suffer from any anxiety disorder. The knowledge of having been indicted in an investigation or judicial case always triggers found reactions, both for the victim and for the offender. Thus, the first may fear not feeling recognized as being harmed, and the second being subject to an excessively severe judicial ruling.
For this reason it is difficult to draw a line that clearly distinguishes the point at which anxiety, which arises reasonably in a context like this, becomes a psychopathological phenomenon. In any case , dimensions related to interference with daily life (damage in relevant areas) and intensity or scope (disproportionate expectation regarding the consequences expected as a result of the process) must be considered.
In the following lines we will delve into this concrete phobia, with special emphasis on the way in which it is expressed and its possible causes. In the end, a succinct review of the therapeutic application strategies will be made.
- You may be interested: ” Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics“
Fear of litigation can be expressed in various ways . Below are some of its most common symptoms. People who suffer from this anxiety disorder tend to experience more than one of them. His anguish is precipitated by situations that relate to ordinary, civil and criminal disputes (since hearings prior to the last appeal); in which it is persuaded as part of any of the agents involved.
1. Anticipatory anxiety before a trial
One of the common symptoms is anticipatory anxiety. These are concerns that extend from the same notification of the judicial requirement (or the forced imposition of a lawsuit) until the moment in which the cause ends. Throughout this period the person imagines what the evolution of events will be like, adding dramatic dyes to their situation (content of the ruling, severity of the application of the law, etc.) and exacerbating the fear of the imminent future.
Symptoms usually accentuate as time goes by and the day scheduled to appear in court approaches . In this period, negative thoughts of an automatic type may arise (“they will destroy my life” for example), hyperactivation of the autonomic nervous system (acceleration of heart rate and breathing, sweating, muscle tension, diffuse pains, etc.) and behaviors avoidance (unsuccessful efforts to stop thinking or to do activities that separate the problem from the mind, for example).
2. Fear of being accused
Another common symptom is the irresistible fear of being accused by another person of a crime or a fault, which translates into an attitude of condescension even when there is an obvious violation of rights. It implies an attitude that denies any potential offense to a third party , which inhibits the expression of opinions or acts that could evolve towards tensions that merit judicial mediation. Thus, courtesy would become excessive and clearly transcend the lower limits of assertiveness (passivity).
3. Fear of participating as a witness in a civil or criminal proceeding
People with a diagnosis of lithicaphobia are intensely afraid to participate in a judicial process as witnesses, even though they do not position themselves in favor of either party (neither as accusation nor as defense). For this reason they tend to withdraw from the scene in which an illegal situation of which they have witnessed occurs, so that they are not claimed to testify in court. This attitude means that the victim may lose valuable legal recourse in claiming their own rights.
This fear may be motivated both by the investigation of the magistrates and by the fear that the accused party decides to avenge in some way all the people who contributed to the indictment process. In other cases, it may be that a mere participation ends up degenerating into a situation of personal involvement, even though there is no evidence that could support this idea.
4. Uncertainty about one’s ability as part of a jury
One of the most distressing situations for someone with lithicaphobia is being claimed to be part of a popular jury . If this (random) circumstance arises, they can try to invoke any legal loophole that allows them to evade the entrusted task, since they perceive that they do not have sufficient critical capacity to resolve regarding the innocence or guilt of a third party. They also fear that the accused / defendants may try to take revenge later.
It is necessary to take into account that the formation of a popular jury is carried out by public lottery in even years, and that it assigns this responsibility for a period of up to twenty-four months (which are experienced with an overwhelming anxiety).
5. Resistance to filing complaints
In lithicaphobia, there is usually an obvious refusal to process complaints before events in which the subject has felt damaged, due to the intense fear of participating in a process that would expose him to great emotional tension and which can last several years. This way of proceeding leaves you helpless in legal terms, as you will not get any compensation for the grievance received. The situation worsens in the case of an objective vital risk (malicious crimes of physical violence, for example).
It is a classic avoidance mechanism in specific phobias, which can be associated with beliefs regarding the futility of the legal system or the fear that the lawsuit imposes a situation of frank lack of protection (that police or other devices are not articulated to protect those who report). In any case, it has important consequences, since the person is deprived of the recourse available in any democratic system to resolve conflict situations for which agreements are not reached (through mediation or during the preview).
6. Distorted thoughts on procedural consequences
At the time when people with lithicaphobia have not been able to avoid their participation in a trial, fear shifts to its potential consequences. One of the concerns that most frequently arises is about the economic availability to hire a good lawyer , as well as to cover the costs of the process in the event that it concludes in an unfavorable way. These types of thoughts, which are articulated over many months of tension, become significantly separated from the reality of the judgment itself.
In this way, fears may arise that a civil case may evolve in some way to a criminal proceeding, or that the defense itself may raise suspicions in the judge and turn against oneself. In serious cases a fear of imprisonment emerges, despite the fact that the offense committed is very slight and corresponds to a sanction of equivalent magnitude.
7. Anguish over double victimization
When you have been the victim of a particularly burdensome crime, which has led to the emergence of considerable emotional damage, there may be a tenacious fear that the judicial process involves double victimization . This concept refers to the damage resulting from the fact that the system does not create or does not recognize the magnitude of the damage, that it detracts from them or that it even diverts responsibility for the event to those who have suffered the direct consequences thereof.
This fear is common in cases of harassment, abuse and rape; and it is not limited solely to the legal system, but also extends to the sanitary or any body responsible for ensuring the care of those who go through such a situation. In some cases it is a factor that prevents denouncing events that progressively erode self-image and self-esteem , interacting with the rest of those that have been previously reviewed.
The causes of lithicaphobia are varied, and result from the confluence of a set of environmental and personality factors . Among the former, the possibility that a situation of a very adverse legal nature has been experienced personally (or in the family), with very damaging consequences for those who suffer this specific phobia or for their relatives (extreme financial penalty, deprivation of liberty, etc.), especially during childhood.
In other cases it is possible that phobic fear is associated secondarily to the potential consequences that could arise from a lawsuit. Thus, fear would be the result of a sense of vulnerability to which it is considered that the system cannot respond adequately.
Finally, lithicaphobia is more common among people who have difficulties to tolerate uncertainty, since these are processes in which a certain margin of unpredictability must be recognized and which tend to last for a long time. It is therefore a very aversive experience for those who present these traits, so they tend to avoid it deliberately.
Lithicaphobia has an effective cognitive-behavioral treatment . Since the characteristics of the phobic stimulus hinder the development of an in vivo exhibition, it is advisable to design a program in imagination through which a series of scenes related to the feared are presented (having previously ordered them according to the level of anxiety that the patient attributes to them ), so that progressive habituation can occur (from the mildest to the most severe). This usually also teaches some relaxation technique.
The approach of irrational beliefs linked to judicial contexts is also often important, since the person can harbor thoughts that do not conform to the reality of the facts he faces. Aligning what is expected with what could actually happen is a necessary step to relieve feelings of unease. The combination of these two procedures is more effective than each of them separately.