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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Phasmophobia (Fear of Ghosts): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Have you ever heard a tale about ghosts and suddenly couldn’t sleep? If yes, then you are one of the billions of people who fear ghosts and scary stories.

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Fear of ghosts and other supernatural beings has been around for centuries. As a matter of fact, this has always been a common situation in children. This fear comes from stories, folktales, TV shows, films and even experience.

Children often outgrow this fear as they turn into adolescents; However, some children do not outgrow this it worsens and develop into phasmophobia. Phasmophobia is an irrational and extreme fear of ghosts.

An individual with this condition always experiences an overwhelming fear when the thought of ghosts or supernatural beings such as vampires, werewolves, witches, etc. comes to mind. Most times, they may find the fear they feel irrational and unreasonable, but they have no control over it.

However, phasmophobia can be challenging to diagnose because it is typical to experience a little bit of fear when we watch films, hear stories, hear folktales or fairytales, or experience a situation that suggests the presence of a ghost or strike up an imagination about ghosts.

The difference is we can control the fear, cover it up or pretend like we are not afraid but a person with phasmophobia may not be able to control the fear. Phasmophobia, to certain people, maybe overwhelming that it may interfere the typical day to day activities of the individual.

Possible causes of Phasmophobia

Experts are not sure about the real causes of phobias, in general, develop, specifically phasmophobia.

However, some factors contribute to the development of phasmophobia, and there are:

Genetics and hereditary

Unfortunately, a lot of people have medical conditions and disorders passed down to them by their ancestors the same way traits are naturally passed down.

Parents with anxiety disorders may pass it on to their offsprings, causing them to suffer and develop this condition unexplainably.

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Trauma is the most common cause of phobias.  Phobias may develop from a traumatic experience that had happened in the past but keeps haunting the individual.

An individual with an unpleasant experience about ghosts may develop fear towards ghosts, and this subsequently develops into phasmophobia.

Contributing phobias

Phobias are often related. Most times, a particular phobia contributes to the development of another phobia. A good example is an autophobia, which is the fear of being left alone, may lead to the development of phasmophobia.

Also, persons with autophobia that are scared of being left alone most especially at night may as well have phasmophobia because ghostly impressions are highly related to the dark and being left alone.

People like this feeling that if they are left alone, most notably in the dark that ghosts will attack them. Currently, experts are not sure phasmophobia develops first and then cause other phobias, or that other phobias result in the development of phasmophobia.

Other related phobias include the following:

  • Fear of night (Nyctophobia)
  • Fear of darkness (Achluophobia)
  • Fear of shadows (Sciophobia)
  • Fear of Halloween (Samhainophobia)
  • Fear of witches (Wiccaphobia)
  • Fear of vampires (sanguivoriphobia) and
  • Fear of death (Thanatophobia)


Just like every medical condition, phasmophobia have severe and adverse effects on an individual’s life, and these effects can be life-limiting.

Persons with phasmophobia often feel the presence of supernatural beings like ghosts around, and they fear what the ghosts may do to them.

They usually have this impression of being watched, and any noise or any situation they find strange (for example flickering lights) will make them dread confronting “the ghosts”.

They might get so scared in such situations, and they manifest some physical characteristics such as insomnia, numbness, dread, etc.

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Symptoms of Phasmophobia

Phasmophobia (Fear of Ghosts)

Persons with phasmophobia may manifest the following symptoms when they hear, think, or see anything that would strike up the images relating to ghosts:

  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty sleeping alone
  • Extreme anxiety
  • An intense sense of dread
  • Fear of going to the bathroom at night
  • Fear of the dark
  • Fear of being alone
  • Avoiding being alone
  • Daytime drowsiness (due to lack of sleep)
  • Reduced productivity (due to lack of sleep)

It is typically overwhelming and many times interfere with the individual’s way of carrying out their daily tasks.

Persons with phasmophobia may feel that it is up to them to ward off ghosts that may confront them; thus developing certain rituals in the attempt of warding off the ghosts they think or see.

These rituals can become compulsive hindering you from continuing your typical day to day activities, thereby making you develop an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Treatment of Phasmophobia

This condition is a severe ailment; thus, it should be treated once diagnosed.

It is okay to be afraid sometimes, but phobia is having unreasonable and extreme fear for a particular object or situation and this can come in the way of the person’s way of living their healthy lives, manifests unpleasant symptoms, develop into other phobias and probably get complicated and may cause the  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Fortunately, treatments that can help relieve the symptoms of phasmophobia and subsequently cure this condition are available and are of two main categories which your doctor may decide to use either or both to help you, and they are:

  • Therapy
  • Medications


This is a psychological disorder; thus requires therapy as its treatment. In treating this disorder using therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is highly effective because this therapeutic technique is mostly used in the treatment of other phobias because of its effectiveness.

In this treatment, your therapist cooperatively works with you to help you identify and comprehend the primary source of your fear and professionally teaching you specific coping mechanisms to help you cope with the symptoms of phasmophobia.

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The coping skills involve the following:

  • Breathing exercises: This helps calm you down whenever you are nervous or getting extremely scared and prevents panic attacks and other symptoms.
  • Guided visualization: To help you control your thoughts about ghosts; thereby helping to control your fears
  • Distractions: This helps get your mind away from the thoughts of ghosts. Music, films, and books that are not strikingly related to ghosts are good sources of distractions. Another good distraction is engaging in your other hobbies.

These methods help you learn how to manage your fears and also control your reactions towards an object of fear.


Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help relieve you of specific emotional symptoms and the irrational fear you uncontrollably manifest when you encounter anything relating to ghosts.

These medications may also go along way in controlling the physical symptoms of this condition as well. These medications are nevertheless valid and quick.

We hope that you found this article helpful. Kindly leave a comment below.


  • de Oliveira-Souza R. (2018). Phobia of the supernatural: a distinct but poorly recognized specific phobia with an adverse impact on daily living; DOI
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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