What is Phobophobia?

Phobophobia is the fear of phobia(s) and, more specifically, of the internal sensations associated with that phobia and anxiety. This binds it closely to other anxiety disorders, especially with generalized anxiety disorders (free floating fears) and panic attacks. It is a condition in which anxiety disorders are maintained in an extended way, which combined with the psychological fear generated by Phobophobia of encountering the feared phobia, would ultimately lead to the intensification of the effects of the feared phobia and making them susceptible to having an extreme fear of panicking.

Phobophobia comes in between the stress the patient might be experiencing and the phobia that the patient has developed, as well as the effects on his/her life. In other words, it is a bridge between the anxiety/panic the patient might be experiencing and the type of phobia he/she fears, creating an intense and extreme predisposition to the feared phobia. Nevertheless, Phobophobia is not necessarily developed as part of other phobias, but can be an important factor for maintaining them.

This phobia is experienced before actually experiencing the fear of the other phobias. Its somatic sensations precede it, which are preceded by generalized anxiety disorders that can generate panic attacks. Like all the phobias, the patients avoid the feared phobia in order to avoid the anxiety coupled with it.

The root word 'phobos' is Greek meaning 'fear' and the word 'phobia' comes from the same origin. Phobophobia translates literally to 'fear of fear'.

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Symptoms of Phobophobia

  • 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

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Causes of Phobophobia

Phobophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated 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.

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

Phobophobia might develop from other phobias, in which the intense anxiety and panic caused by the phobia might lead to fearing the phobia itself. This triggers Phobophobia before actually experiencing the other phobia. The extreme fear towards the other phobias might lead to patients believing their condition can develop into something worse, intensifying the effects of the other phobia by fearing it.

Moreover, Phobophobia can be developed when anxiety disorders are not treated, creating an extreme predisposition to other phobias. The development of this phobia can also be attributed to characteristics of the patient him/herself, such as phylogenetic influence, the prepotency of certain stimuli, individual genetic inheritance, age incidence, sex incidence, personality background, cultural influence inside and outside the family, physiological variables, and biochemical factors.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Phobophobia

  • 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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