29th Mar 2023
Phobophobia is a fear of phobias or of being afraid and can occur following a traumatic event or due to unknown causes. Treatment for phobophobia includes therapeutic interventions and medications.
Phobophobia is an intense fear of fear. It may be related to the individual feeling afraid of the physical sensations associated with anxiety, such as sweating, shaking, and fast heartbeat, or of developing a specific phobia such as claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), or of unforeseen anxiety-provoking events occurring .
People with phobophobia become so afraid of the emotions or physical manifestations of fear that this becomes a phobia in and of itself. This phobia has the potential to cause persistent anxiety .
Although not specifically mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), phobophobia is considered a specific phobia. Specific phobias are characterized by an irrational and disproportionate level of fear or anxiety when faced with a certain stimulus .
Current research on phobophobia is limited, due to the fact that many people do not seek professional help for phobias and because symptoms often overlap with other disorders . As such, further research is needed to understand the causes and risk factors of the development of specific phobias such as phobophobia.
Symptoms of phobophobia may vary from person to person but can include :
The exact cause of phobophobia is not known and may vary from person to person. However, some research shows potential theories relating to the development of this phobia and certain factors that may increase the risk of a specific phobia.
Research suggests that there is a strong familial link associated with the development of specific phobias. Studies have found that people with a specific phobia are more likely to have a relative with an anxiety disorder or phobia than those without a phobia, thereby suggesting that genetics can increase the risk .
Research suggests that some people may be more sensitive to fear, thereby increasing their risk of developing a phobia. Studies have indicated that those with a specific phobia often have a difference in the activation and function of the fear response in the amygdala, suggesting that this could be a cause or contributing factor to specific phobias .
Phobias can develop as a response to a traumatic experience . For example, someone with phobophobia may have experienced an intensely scary or traumatic event as a child that caused them to feel extreme emotional and physical sensations of fear and they become so afraid of experiencing this again that it develops into phobophobia.
Similarly, if someone has experienced a panic attack or severe anxiety due to another phobia, this could then develop into phobophobia. For example, someone who is afraid of spiders and experiences a panic attack every time they see a spider could become as afraid of having a panic attack as they are of the spider itself, thereby having both arachnophobia and phobophobia .
Specific phobias are often not diagnosed. Some choose to live with their fear and avoid the stimulus that causes it, while others may believe that they have a different condition such as OCD or generalized anxiety disorder .
However, if you think you have phobophobia, it is important to seek a diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment so that this phobia does not cause a negative impact on your quality of life or cause an avoidance of potentially anxiety-provoking situations.
To diagnose phobophobia, you will be asked questions about your symptoms as they relate to diagnostic criteria. The diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia according to the DSM-5 includes :
Due to limited research of specific phobias, it is not currently clear if each phobia can be treated effectively in the same way. However, treatment for phobias usually involves systematic exposure, response prevention, and desensitization, to gradually alleviate the fear associated with the stimulus, while also managing symptoms of anxiety .
Although there are no approved medications for the treatment of a specific phobia, medication can be prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of phobophobia, including :
It is crucial to take your medication exactly as your doctor has prescribed, because taking higher doses, missing doses, or suddenly stopping a medication can cause serious effects and can worsen your physical and mental health.
If you have phobophobia, you might find some self-help techniques to be useful in managing your symptoms, including :
Due to the limited research and reporting of the condition, the prevalence of phobophobia is not known. However, studies show that specific phobias are much more common in females than males and that between 1-10% of the population will have a debilitating phobia .
Untreated, phobophobia can persist and potentially worsen, which may have an ongoing negative impact on your life, such as an increased avoidance of certain situations, and result in a decline in mental wellbeing. However, with appropriate treatment, the symptoms of phobophobia can be effectively managed to improve quality of life and functioning .