What is Phthisiophobia?

Phthisiophobia is the fear of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (also called TB) is a disease caused by bacteria, known as mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread through the air, which is why it ends up in the lungs, however it can travel throughout the body in the blood system and attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. This disease can be fatal.

Phthisiophobia is also known as Tuberculophobia.

The root word 'phthisis' is Greek meaning 'a wasting disease of the lungs' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

If you have this phobia, you most likely have one of these phobias too ›

Symptoms of Phthisiophobia

  • 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 Phthisiophobia

Phthisiophobia 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.

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

A fear of germs is often the start of the fear. There is an overriding fear that the germs from another person can invade and take over one's health and well-being. Many will avoid people who appear visibly sick and they will worry if they have been around someone who later is identified as having a significant disease—especially if the disease is contagious.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Phthisiophobia

  • 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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