Siderodromophobia (train phobia): symptoms, causes and treatment

In today’s article we are going to talk about a phobia, the siderodromophobia that could be seen as just the opposite of what this character feels. This consists of irrational fear of trains, similar vehicles and riding on them.It is a relatively frequent fear, especially related to the news about railway catastrophes and urban legends in which trains have a leading role. Let’s take a closer look at what characteristics define this specific phobia.

What is siderodromophobia?

The siderodromophobia (from the Greek “sidero”, “iron or iron”; “drome”, “races, circuit”; “phobos”, “fear, fear”) is the fear of trains, railways and the subway, in addition to Travel with these vehicles . Who suffers from this specific phobia feels unable to travel by train and, in the most serious cases, approach one, talk or see images about them.

Siderodromophobia is related to other phobias associated with traveling, either generally or in specific vehicles, such as motorphobia (fear of cars), amaxophobia (fear of driving at night), aerophobia (fear of airplanes and fly) or navifobia (fear of sailing).


As with other phobias, the siderophobic person feels very high levels of anxiety when he is facing the phobic stimulus, in this case the trains, or if he is immersed in a situation related to them, such as being mounted in one of these vehicles.

The physiological symptoms coincide with those of any other phobia, being mainly palpitations, tremors, excessive sweating, irregular heartbeat, dryness and pasture in the mouth, nausea and breathing difficulties. As far as the psychological ones are high anxiety, thought that the train will derail, fear of having to take one …

People with fear of trains conduct behavior with the intention of avoiding any situation that is related to them. This may involve avoiding riding one of them, watching movies or series in which they appear, not approaching the train station, among others. This can mean a very variable degree of interference with the life of the patient , since it is common for other means of transport to exist along the same route, it is possible to say that depending on where you live, the train is perhaps the only transport option or the fastest, so avoiding it means wasting a lot of time looking for alternative routes.

Possible causes

The causes behind the siderodromophobia can be very varied, being a combination of external events, such as having a bad experience with a train , along with personality traits that serve to settle a phobic disorder, especially if it is very neurotic. It has tried to give several explanations to understand why the fear of trains and related vehicles appears.

Since psychoanalysis, beginning with Sigmund Freud himself, the feelings of traveling by train have been related to sexuality. In 1906 Freud explained that the relationship between train travel and sexual desire is related to the pleasant sensation generated by the trip, especially with the movement of the car. The person who represses their sexuality could see train travel as inappropriate and, therefore, be afraid of them, seeing them as obscene. This explanation has no scientific basis.

However, it is important to mention that in Freud’s time it was not unusual for crimes to be committed on trains, in addition to the fact that this means of transport could suffer fatal accidents. All kinds of news about railway catastrophes appeared in the newspapers, so it is not surprising that at that time, being the fastest transport, it also looked like the most dangerous.

This also happens today. While trains and subways are transports that have improved their safety with respect to yesteryear, occasionally accidents occur, some fatal, which make society shiver with fear . This can become the cause for which a person begins to fear these vehicles, avoid taking them until they reach the point where it is impossible to get close to one.

Another interesting cause to mention is the way in which trains are seen in popular culture, especially when talking about scary stories and urban legends. There are many stories of people who have committed suicide by throwing themselves on the train tracks, or who have been accidentally run over when they crossed the road. While these misfortunes happen in real life, it is the way in which it becomes a scary story that would make these vehicles very scared.

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Depending on how much fear you have on trains, the person may or may not dare to ride one, although it is most likely not so. That is why it is necessary the help of a professional to treat this type of specific phobia , in addition to using a program organized in steps that, progressively, allow the person to ride on a train or subway.

This phobia has certain similarities to the phobia of airplanes, only it has a difference that makes it easier to treat the siderodromophobe: traveling by train (e.g., commuter rail) or subway is much cheaper and more affordable than taking a flight. It is for this reason that the therapist can work accompanying the patient to enter the station, enter the vehicle and remain by his side for the duration of the journey.

However, and despite the fact that train and subway are more common transports than airplanes, the patient will not always be willing to start being exposed to his phobia so directly , not even approaching the train station. That is why, and as has been done with the fear of airplanes, there are treatments that use virtual reality that allow siderodromophobia to work without abandoning the security offered by being in the psychologist’s office.

In addition to psychological treatment, there is the pharmacological option, although it should be noted that drugs do not help eliminate the phobia. Among the most used for phobias, and also common in the treatment of other anxiety disorders, are anxiolytics, which are used to prevent panic attacks, and antidepressants, which are not only useful in depression.


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