Atephobia (fear of ruins): symptoms, causes and treatment

In the field of anxiety disorders, we know that there are many rare phobias; surely, many of them do not even know them. Perhaps it is the case of the phobia that we will deal with in this article: the atephobia, which consists of the phobia of the ruins .

Here we will see what it is, what are its predominant symptoms, their causes and possible treatments framed in psychotherapy that we can use to combat it.

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Athephobia: what is it?

Atephobia is a type of specific phobia, which consists of an intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of the ruins.

When we talk about ruins, we mean remains of human architecture . That is, structures that have collapsed over time, either partially or totally, as a result of depopulation, wars, natural disasters … The ruins do not have to cause fear, although they may acquire a mysterious or “spooky” air , Especially at night.

In scary, horror or suspense films, for example, ruins are often used as an element to generate some tension in the viewer. If in addition, the scenes where ruins appear are set at night, this generates more restlessness or fear.

Disproportionate fear

Still, the ruins are not something that can harm anyone (unless they are really in a state where certain structures could fall), and it is for this reason that in itself, it is not something that “ I must be scary. ”

In atephobia, however, there is this intense fear towards them. It is important to remember, in this sense, that phobias are usually generated towards objects or situations that do not have to be scary (or that if they do, they do not generate symptoms as intense as in phobias).

That is precisely why they are phobias, because they are disproportionate fears of a specific object or situation; phobias also generate interference in the life of the individual, and cause discomfort, in addition to other symptoms that we will see throughout the article.

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What are the most frequent symptoms associated with atephobia, beyond discomfort and interference in daily life? Let’s meet them.

1. Fear or intense anxiety

The main symptom of atephobia is an intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of the ruins. These can be of different types: very old or not, large or small …

Fear appears in the presence of the ruins, or in some cases just imagine them to feel it. This fear, in reality, is a feeling of anxiety and anguish that the phobic object generates , and can be of different intensities.

2. Avoidance

The second typical symptom of specific phobias is the avoidance of the phobic object or stimulus . Thus, in the case of athephobia, avoid being in contact with ruins, or near them. You also avoid watching them on television, in movies, newspapers …

It may be that the person, instead of avoiding them, “faces them”, resisting seeing them or being close to them, although, yes, with high anxiety.

3. Psychophysiological symptoms

In the athephobia, psychophysiological symptoms also appear, as is the case with most phobias, given the idea of ​​seeing ruins or their presence.

These symptoms translate into various physical reactions and sensations, such as: fast heartbeat, sweating, chest tightness, migraines, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, choking , agitation, fast breathing, feeling of “losing control”, fear of die etc.

Many times, these symptoms feed themselves, and also feed back catastrophic thoughts also associated with phobias, in this case, of the type: “I will hurt myself”, “something will fall on me”, “there will be someone hidden who will will hurt ”, etc.

Misinterpretation of symptoms

In addition, what often happens in atheophobia is that the person feels “something” that bothers him at the idea of ​​ruin (or a small fear) and that he ends up interpreting those physical (or cognitive) sensations in a very catastrophic way, of so that this “erroneous” interpretation of the symptoms just the symptoms themselves generating phobia .

That is, this whole process ends up becoming a kind of totally maladaptive feedback loop for the person , because the objective reality (phobic object) will not really harm him (in fact, this is what phobias consist of).


The most likely and frequent cause of atephobia is a potentially traumatic event or situation experienced in ruins. For example: being lost in them, having been scared in them, having hurt themselves when something fell, having spent a lot of fear in them for “X” reason, etc.

However, a traumatic event is not the only probable cause of atephobia; It may also have developed as a result of hearing negative stories lived in ruins (for example through television, friends, family, books …). That is, phobias can also be acquired by vicarious or verbal conditioning .

Watching movies where very negative things happen in ruins (for example murders, accidents …) can also be related to the origin of athephobia; If we add to this a certain individual vulnerability (because we are very sensitive, for example, or because we have “inherited” a certain biological predisposition to anxiety disorders in general or to specific phobias in particular), this can facilitate and explain their appearance.


In psychotherapy, the treatment of atephobia, like that of most specific phobias, is usually of two types: exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy .

1. Exposure therapy

In exposure therapy, the patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus or situation, gradually and through a hierarchy of items (from less to more anxious, in order). This list of items is made jointly with the patient.

In the specific case of athephobia, you can choose the following: start seeing ruins through photographs, movies, etc., and gradually expose the patient to the ruins live.

That is to say, accompany him to visit some ruins (although later he will be able to – and should – do it alone); For the first few times, for example, you should approach up to “X” place, and gradually get closer until you get to touch the ruins and remain in them without anxiety (this will be the goal).

In exposure therapy, the patient must “resist” the anxiety that appears before the phobic object , and learn to combat it (for example through a state of relaxation, more typical of Systematic Desensitization). The objective is that finally the psychophysiological symptoms are “disassociated” from the phobic stimulus, and, in the case of athephobia, that these do not appear before the ruins.

2. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another treatment that we can apply in cases of atephobia. In it, it will be prioritized to provide the patient with the resources and strategies necessary to deal with the phobia .

More specifically, you will be trained in relaxation techniques, breathing, etc., that is, in different coping techniques that you can use to reduce anxiety when it appears.

In addition, the CBT also works with the patient’s dysfunctional thoughts associated with the phobic stimulus (for example “I will hurt myself in a ruin”, “I will not be able to escape it …”), helping the patient to replace them with more realistic ones and adaptive (for example “I don’t have to hurt myself”, “the ruins are not dangerous”, etc.).


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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