What is Ecclesiophobia?

Ecclesiophobia is the irrational and abnormal fear of church or churches. From available information, there is no indication that this fear is necessarily tied to a fear of religion per se, but is instead limited to a fear specifically of the church environment. The fear of gods or religion is separate from, but related to, this fear and is called "Theophobia”.

While a church is meant to be a place of refuge and a place to connect with God, for some the church represents darker concerns and, in extreme cases, can become a place that mirrors personal failures, a symbol of a god that cannot be pleased, a place of being judged, or simply a place that is outside their own religious convictions. In the worst cases these issues can develop into an obsessive and irrational fear.

Ecclesiophobia is considered a specific phobia and it is also spelled “Ecclesiaphobia”. It is also related to Hierophobia (fear of holy people or sacred things) and Hagiophobia (fear of saints or holy things).

The root word 'ecclesia' is Greek meaning 'church' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Ecclesiophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Ecclesiophobia

Ecclesiophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Such phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Ecclesiophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

As is the case in phobias generally, Ecclisiophobia develops from underlying concerns that grow into obsession. In this case, as religion is a broad topic, causes may be quite diverse. Some fear the loss of control that comes with being accountable to a higher being, and worry that they are not worthy because of their wrongdoings.

Some may fear the large (possibly cavernous) architectural structure, an Agoraphobia-like response.

A possible social component may be a fear of the people who attend church, pursuant to a fear of embarrassment or judgment.

This fear can be especially profound in those who struggle with the concept of life after death and the effect of their life decisions.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Ecclesiophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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