Panthophobia is the clinical description for an overriding fear of personal suffering and disease. This fear is interesting because it is one of those phobias that encompasses more than one fear.
For instance a panthophobe may actually struggle with a fear of germs, a fear of hospitals or even the fear of death of fear of hell or heaven. All can contribute to this fear. In fact some of these fears may actual be the source of the fear of disease.
A person who struggles with this fear may spend the bulk of their physical energy as well as mental attention on a revolving door of fear. They may want to engage life in a more carefree way, but their mental energies seem fixed on something they have no control over.
What Causes Panthophobia
It could start as simply as having an adult say, “You get into that bathroom and wash your hands. You could sick from all the germs on your hands.” For a child that can translate into the feeling that their own hands can cause illness. Illness in turn can cause physical pain. The end result can be a long-stretch belief that simply touching something could result in death.
As with most phobias this fear can be introduced by a well meaning adult in the childhood of the panthophobe. The fear grows into something that is equal parts debilitating and all consuming.
It can be so frustrating for someone who experiences this phobia to find that the only subject they can fully concentrate on is the fear of personal suffering and disease. They may try to engage in conversations about something else, but they often come back to their fear. It frustrates them that something in almost every conversation triggers thinking about their fear.
They may even try to deny they are consumed with thoughts of their fear, but when the anti-bacterial gel comes out or they excuse themselves to wash their hands it becomes clear they have very little control over the safety measures their fear dictates they should do.
Symptoms of Panthophobia
We’ve talked about some of the symptoms that are common among those who fear disease. It should be noted that these individuals are very uncomfortable around anyone with visible signs of illness and will not easily consent to visit someone in the hospital.
Other symptoms include…
- Air Hunger
- Irregular or elevated heart rate
- Urge to flee
- Urge to wash hands or use germ control gel
The video below is in no way meant to make light of those who have this fear, but it is also likely you can identify with the main character in the commercial.
How to Overcome Panthophobia
This fear is one that has become so entangled in other fears that it will likely require some help from a therapist to help you understand the impact of related fears on this phobia.
One of the greatest tools available is working to help your brain understand the difference between an emotional response (fear-based) versus a rational or logical response. This is a great first step, but locating the original fear source will also be important to developing a plan to manage your fear response.