What is Sophophobia?

Sophophobia is the morbid and irrational fear of knowledge or wisdom. People with this phobia may fear specific knowledge, learning in general, a specific kind of learning, or wisdom in general. (Sufferers may be afraid of learning anything new, may fear a single subject, etc., in a highly individualized way.) This fear is more prevalent in those with other, often related, psychological disorders.

Sophophobia is also known as “Epistemophobia”, from the Greek root word 'epistemo' meaning 'knowledge' or “Gnosiophobia”, from the Greek root word 'gnos' meaning 'known' or 'learn'.

The Greek root word 'sophia' means 'learning' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Sophophobia

  • 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 Sophophobia

Sophophobia 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.

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

A common explanation for Sophophobia is the presence of another psychological disorder such as schizophrenia, a disorder marked by delusions and hallucinations. A person with schizophrenia might, for instance, fear knowledge as part of the fear that someone could read their thoughts, or that someone is after them because of what they know.

Learning disabilities may play a role.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Sophophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

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

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