‘Watching Dancing on Ice makes me physically sick’: Mum so terrified of ice she can’t even see it on TV
Just the opening credits are enough to make her heart race and terrified Wendy spends Sunday nights locked in her bedroom
As Sunday evening draws nearer Wendy Wiffin starts to feel the panic rising inside her.
Dancing on Ice may have once been her favourite programme but now, because of a rare phobia, the mum of three is too scared to watch the hit ITV show.
Wendy, 47, suffers with extreme pagophobia – a fear of ice and frost.
Just the opening credits are enough to make her heart race and terrified Wendy spends Sunday nights locked in her bedroom.
“I’ve been a nervous wreck during this new series. I’ve even had to run out of newsagents when I see Dancing on Ice in the papers.
“My hands start to shake, then my heart races and before I know it I’m having a full-blown panic attack. It feels like I’m going to die and is absolutely terrifying.”
Wendy was a huge fan of the show until her phobia suddenly worsened, leaving her too afraid to watch.
“I’ve tried watching it with the sound off and even covering up the bottom half of the screen so I can’t see the ice, but nothing has worked.
“I’m gutted because my whole family love the show. But there’s no way I can watch it,” says Wendy.
“The next few weeks are going to be hell. Everyone is talking about it and even that is enough to set me off.
“A part of me wants to know what happened, but I’m scared even talking about it will trigger an attack.”
Desperate Wendy sought help from her GP to cure her and he urged her to confront her fears with hypnotherapy or counselling.
“I would love to be cured but just the thought of talking about it makes me cry.
“I’m a strong woman, I’ve beaten bowel cancer, but this has brought me to my knees and I need help.”
Wendy’s phobia appears to stem from a fear of snow that started when she was 19 and seven months pregnant with the eldest of her three children, now aged 27, 24 and 20.
She slipped walking to the shops and was left fearing that her unborn baby had been harmed.
Thankfully, he was fine, but Wendy began to avoid stepping out in the snow. Soon she developed a full-blown phobia of snow and ice.
“During the recent heavy snow I stocked up on food and stopped leaving the house,” says Wendy from Rainham, Essex.
“I couldn’t build a snowman with my grandchildren. I had to shut all the curtains and avoid the TV.”
She even nearly missed her wedding with husband Peter three years ago when forecasters predicted snow on the morning of the big day.
“I broke down and told Peter I wouldn’t be there if it snowed. I was fully prepared to miss the wedding because I knew there was no way I could leave the house.
“I even asked if we could do the ceremony over the phone.”
She made it to the register office but it wasn’t long before her phobia had extended to anything that made ice-like cracking sounds, including boiled sweets, egg shells and crisps.
“I had to ban them from the house. I felt awful for my children and my grandchildren but everyone knows how serious my phobia is and they understand.
“If I’m in a pub and someone starts munching crisps or ice from their drink I run out in tears. I even started sucking my food rather than crunching it in my mouth.”
Last year, Peter had to carry her screaming from a party after it started snowing outside.
“When I looked out of the window and realised I fell to the floor, shaking with fear. I was struggling to breathe.
“He knew he had to get me home so he just carried me out to the car screaming and put me in the back.”
Despite her phobia, Wendy had always managed to continue watching Dancing on Ice.
“But as the years went by it was getting harder with each series. I loved it so much I was determined not to let my phobia ruin something else,” says Wendy. “In the end, though, it was too frightening and I had to walk away.
“I didn’t want to stop my family watching it, so I would go into another room and ask them what had happened on the show afterwards.”
In a bid to make her face her fears, two years ago Peter booked tickets for the Dancing on Ice live tour at the 02 Arena in London.
“He got tickets right at the back, furthest away from the rink so I wouldn’t be able to hear the blades on the ice.
“I was fighting back tears when we went into the arena but I forced myself not to run because Peter had gone to so much trouble.”
Wendy managed to get through the performance after she was assured the rink was made of wax, but was still sick when she got outside.
“I knew then I had also developed a full-blown phobia of the show.
“I will have to live like a hermit until the Dancing on Ice final is over but I’m desperate to get help so I can enjoy watching it again.”
The facts on pagophobia
Pagophobia is an intense and irrational fear of ice and frost, which can be triggered by a traumatic event, including slipping on the snow.
In extreme cases, individuals refuse to leave home in such weather conditions and avoid anything frozen.
The word derives from the Greek phrase ‘paggos’ meaning ice and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms can vary from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks and nausea causing major disruption to every day life.
If left untreated, the anxiety can become completely debilitating.
Treatment follows the usual recommendations for dealing with a phobia, which include:
? Counselling via a referral from your GP
? Exposure therapy
? Cognitive behavioural therapy
? In severe cases, prescribed medication for anxiety