What Is Phobophobia?

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Phobophobia is the term for fear of phobia(s). It is more specific to your internal sensations associated with that phobia and anxiety, which usually cause generalised anxiety disorders and panic attacks. People who face phobophobia often have one or more existing phobias and are therefore afraid to develop another one.

Phobias are irrational fears that are intense and arise due to certain stimuli. Phobophobia is the term for fear of phobia(s).

Imagine visiting a scenic hill station… everything seems beautiful and heavenly until you look down the narrow road and into the deep valley! Or perhaps you have the urge to go diving, but the thought of water choking down your throat makes you feel anxious. Similar to these, there are various other phobias that a person may have, whether it is a fear of heights, insects, water, or even the idea of being alone. Certain things send a chill running down your spine!

However, have you ever heard of having a fear of having fears??

Phobias are irrational fears that are intense and arise due to particular stimuli. It comes from a Greek word called “Phobos”, which means “fear” or “flight”.

Phobophobia is the term for fear of phobia(s). It is more specific to your internal sensations associated with that phobia and anxiety, which usually cause generalised anxiety disorders and panic attacks. People who face phobophobia often have one or more existing phobias and are therefore afraid to develop another one.

Phobophobia word cloud. - Illustration(Sharaf Maksumov)s
(Photo Credit: Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock)

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How Is Phobophobia Caused?

Phobophobia occurs when you are terrified or afraid of fear itself, and more specifically, you’re scared of gaining more phobias. When you think about your existing list of phobias and other things you’re afraid of, you often feel anxious, which can lead to changes in your sleeping and eating schedule. This hysterical and unreasonable fear may lead to panic disorder.

Phobophobia occurs when a person continually thinks about an event or particular object that scares them, or they become triggered by imagery related to their phobias (television, magazines, the Internet, movies, etc.).

Chemical imbalances in the brain caused by a variety of medical conditions and injuries can also cause us to have irrational fears.

Medical conditions, along with the characteristics of the patient like personality, age incidence, physiological variables, sex incidence, cultural influence inside and outside the family, and biochemical factors also might be responsible for a person having such intense fears.

An adverse incident can cause a person to develop a phobia. For example, if you get stuck in a dark elevator alone for a long time, yosu might become claustrophobic and grow scared of travelling alone in lifts from that point forward, and instead choose to take the stairs.

Usually, nothing from the external environment triggers your phobia; your internal thought process is what stimulates these phobias. There are initial sensitising events that are the root cause of most phobias, but following that, they mainly exist in your head.

Also Read: Is There An Evolutionary Advantage To Phobias?

Can Phobias Affect Your Daily Life?

President Roosevelt stated, “The only thing we need to fear is fear itself”, and many people do just that!

Phobophobia can have an impact on every area of your life. Activities that you once used to enjoy will feel boring, you might want to stay indoors to protect yourself from other things you fear, and you might start suffering from extreme anxiety. Symptoms of this phobia include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Rapid breathing
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Overthinking and obsessive thoughts about your fears
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Confusion
  • Lack of Focus
  • Feeling of fear
  • Losing control over your life
  • Irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Crying
  • Screaming
  • Dizziness

A person affected by this condition might also experience visions of terror or death. To avoid such intense anxiety, they become more anxious, and the loop continues. It is often tough to identify what triggers these reactions, so your symptoms can occur at any time of the day.

Since phobias cause extreme anxiety, one might become self-destructive, get involved in substance abuse (drugs), or even develop suicidal tendencies.  If left untreated, phobophobia can leave you in grave danger, so it is essential that you speak with a professional and attempt to handle this problem.

The silhouette of a man runs away from his huge shadow which symbolizes fear - Vector(SuslO)s
Do you fear your fears? (Photo Credit: SuslO/Shutterstock)

Also Read: Fear Of Heights: What Makes People Nervous On Tall Structures?

How Is Fear Different From A Phobia?

Imagine seeing a cockroach crawl up your leg. Just reading that, do you already feel the panic rising and the urge to brush off your leg, just in case? It may seem like an exercise, but such a reaction means that you fear cockroaches but don’t necessarily have a phobia of cockroaches (Katsaridaphobia).

However, if a person spends a lot of time thinking about cockroaches around them, and this obsession consumes a large part of their daily life and makes them feel extremely anxious, it is called a phobia.

This might not feel great to admit, but fear and anxiety are “normal” emotional responses to either a perceived or real threat, not necessarily a sign of a clear phobia.

Can Phobias Be Cured?

Quite certainly! Phobias need to be treated as soon as possible by a professional. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and hypnosis can help some people get rid of their phobias. Cognition refers to mental processes of acquiring knowledge and understanding through experiences, thoughts and senses. CBT is psychotherapy in which negative pattern of thoughts about the self and world are challenged which need to be cured by changing unhelpful cognitive behaviours, improving emotional regulation, and developing personal coping strategies which provide strategies to solve the problem.

Many self-help techniques can help you reduce your phobias. Firstly, you can start by talking to someone you trust, as this will make you feel less anxious. Relaxation techniques, along with yoga and meditation, can also help you relax. Joining a support group can be highly beneficial, as this will help you distract yourself and authentically express your feelings or emotions in a non-judgmental environment.

FEAR has two meanings: “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise”. The choice is yours!

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References (click to expand)
  1. NCBI. The National Center for Biotechnology Information
  2. Online Programs & Tools for Your Mental Health | THIS WAY UP. thiswayup.org.au
  3. Phobia List – The Ultimate List of Phobias and Fears. fearof.net
  4. Hogan B. (2017). An Introduction to Coping with Phobias, 2nd Edition (An Introduction to Coping series). Robinson (April 6, 2017)
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