What is Psychophobia?

Psychophobia is the irrational fear of the mind or of mental illness, as well as a fear of others with mental illness. Often used interchangeably with Dementophobia, Psychophobia usually refers to a fear for one’s own sanity, and can result in overcompensation behaviors such as fastidious concern with structured living or a social desire to fit in and “seem normal”.

Additionally, however, Psychophobia can refer to a fear of “the depths of the mind”, or a fear of some aspect of one’s own mind or personality. The fear of “insanity” in this sense may refer instead to the fear of loss of control or a fear of schizophrenic behaviors, in which a fragmented sense of personality develops. In this case, perhaps one aspect of the personality acts prim and proper but another aspect of personality acts differently. (An example might be that the “normal” personality acts normally at work, etc., but the “other” personality gets drunk, parties too much, and loses control easily, in which case the “normal”, “rational” personality during the work day fears the possible loss of self-control.)

The root word 'psycho' is Greek meaning 'mind' 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 Psychophobia

  • 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 Psychophobia

Psychophobia 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.

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

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Psychophobia

  • 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 ›

Book Shelf