What is Syphilophobia?

Syphilophobia is the irrational and persistent fear of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum, a spirochete (spiral-shaped) bacterium. Syphilophobia is also known as Syphiliphobia. It is also known as Luiphobia, as a historical name for syphilis is “lues” (pronounced “lou-ease”).

Syphilis is one of the most common and widely known sexually transmitted disease. In the early stages the disease is painless and fairly unobtrusive (producing sores called “chancres”, but if left untreated it can lead to serious complications like neurosyphilis, and the final phase of the disease can be fatal.

Fear of syphilis may be closely related to and concurrent with fears related to cleanliness, germs, disease, etc.

The root word 'syphil' is Latin meaning 'syphilis' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Syphilophobia

  • 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 Syphilophobia

Syphilophobia 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.

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

A previous STD infection (trauma) is not required for the development of this fear.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Syphilophobia

  • 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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