Phophophobia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Phobias are characterized by the wide variety of forms they take. If there is an element of reality or even a phenomenon imaginable by human beings, probably at some point someone will have developed a phobia of that.

For example, there are the phobia of cats and spiders, forms of fear that, although irrational in the vast majority of cases, make some sense; But there are also the phobia of clowns, the phobia of holes, or the phobia of birds, which is more difficult to understand without feeling them in their own meat.

However, beyond all this variety of forms, there is a type of phobia that seems the purest of all, the trunks. It’s about phophophobia, or phobia of fear itself . In this article we will see how it is, what symptoms characterize this psychological disorder, and how it is treated in psychotherapy.

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What is phophophobia?

As we have advanced in the previous paragraphs, the simplest way to understand what phophophobia is is to consider it the phobia of fear, or the phobia of phobic crises. In other words, it is a whiting that bites its tail, a vicious circle that feeds back at the cost of the anxiety that the person who suffers it remains latent for various circumstances (the latter we will see later).

The person who suffers from phophobia can live normally for most of the time, but occasionally he will notice that several things happen to him: he will avoid places and contexts where he believes that he may have fear attacks, and on the other hand he will suffer such fear attacks extreme … or rather, anxiety.

What kinds of situations are the ones that will trigger phobic crises? Potentially anyone. This is so because in this case the root of fear is fear itself, a phenomenon that does not emanate from the environment: fear does not “spring” from a dog that barks in a threatening way, nor on the top of a sloping mountain pronounced.

In any case, fear, which triggers the anxiety peaks, is something contextual, a process that occurs in the interaction between the individual and a situation that will be interpreted and valued subjectively by the former. Because of this, what can be scary is both everything and nothing.

Because of this, phophophobia is one of the most unpredictable types of phobia , since it is not tied to any type of concrete stimulus and easy to objectify, but arises from something as subjective as the idea that each one has about what scary depending on the occasion.


What are the symptoms of phophobia? Said quickly, they are typical of practically any phobia since the main differences between them are the type of situations or stimuli that trigger them. For example, phobia of mice and phobia of driving generally manifest themselves in much the same way.

Among the characteristic symptoms of phobias are dizziness, nausea, tremors, cold sweats, increased heart rate , catastrophic thoughts about what will happen in the next seconds or minutes, and intense desire to run away from where you are, or hide.


As for the causes of phophophobia, these are partly unknown, although it is known that there are many and each of them probably contributes little to the development of this type of anxiety disorder.

It is assumed that genetic predispositions explain part of why some people end up developing phophobia, and also that certain unpleasant experiences are capable of leaving a kind of imprint on our emotional memory, progressively causing fear of fear to generate a ball of Snow down the hill, getting bigger as new unpleasant experiences are added to this set of anxious memories.

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How is phophobia treated in mental health centers? Psychotherapy has proven to be very effective in dealing with this class of anxiety disorders. What we psychotherapists do is create situations in which the patient learns to weaken the bond that keeps two memories linked to each other in emotional memory: the memory of how one reacts to the possibility of being afraid, and the memory of what bad thing that happens when having great crisis of fear or anxiety.

In this way, the unconscious part of the mind of patients with phophophobia no longer establishes an equivalence relationship between “having the expectation of being afraid” and “having an intense anxiety crisis”.

At the Psicomaster psychology center , located in Madrid, we have a team of psychologists with extensive experience in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as phobias, and the principles to be applied are always to enhance the autonomy of patients, making little by little Soon, they will be able to verify for themselves that when they expose themselves to what they are so afraid of, nothing happens.

Thus, through the experience in therapy, changes for the better are achieved both in their way of behaving (not avoiding objectively harmless situations) or in their way of interpreting reality.


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