Pogonophobia is the irrational, persistent and often unwarranted fear of beards. The word is derived from Greek pogon (beard) and phobos (fear). Mothers often warn their daughters to “never trust a man with beard or facial hair unless he is Santa Claus”. In the United States, there has not been a president with a beard since the 1800s. The fear of beard or facial hair on other people can cause a great deal of anxiety to a Pogonophobic. This can severely affect his/her health and mental wellbeing.
The phobia is known to affect thousands of people worldwide.
Causes of fear of beards phobia
Pogonophobia may be caused owing to a variety of reasons.
- At some point, there might have been a negative or traumatic event in the sufferer’s past linked with men with beards. The unconscious mind then creates the phobic response as a protective mechanism.
- Facial hair is often viewed as a sign of ruggedness. The ‘unclean-unshaved’ look is associated with illness, misfortune, or homeless people etc. Phobics tend to think of bearded men “as coming from unhygienic places or not having access to materials for cleaning and shaving”.
- Stereotypes about bearded men not being trustworthy, benign TV shows or books depicting trauma caused by bearded individuals can also trigger Pogonophobia.
- Post 9/11 the fear of beards phobia increased as the perpetrators of the act were a bearded group of religious fanatics.
- Some cultures and religious doctrines force men to keep facial hair. In Western countries though, beard is considered to be out of fashion. The western portrayal of Jesus is usually without a beard though most paintings of Da Vinci, including “The Last Supper”, show Him with a beard.
- While the fear of beards phobia can affect all genders and ages, it is usually women who are known to become “uncomfortable” around men with beards. A survey shows that most women do not mind a bit of stubble or “five o’clock shadow”, but a full-fledged beard was a ‘turn-off’ for 9 out of 10 women who participated in the survey.
- In America, the most famous bearded president was Abraham Lincoln. However, a majority of the political candidates, members of Congress or presidents today are known to prefer the clean shaven look as it “helps them earn the trust in the minds their voters”.
Symptoms of Pogonophobia
People living with Pogonophobia have to pay a real price in terms of their health, careers and social interactions. The problem significantly impacts their quality of life as the sufferers experience different symptoms based on the level of their fear. These include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilating around bearded men
- Irregular heart beat/palpitations
- Sweating, trembling
- Feeling anxious, nauseated
- Having a full blown anxiety/panic attack
Working men and women may face many financial impacts due to Pogonophobia. The fact that they live with fear means they are unable to give the best in their career. They cannot concentrate around bearded colleagues/bosses, as a result of which they might have to pass promotions, opportunities or even suffer from poor performances or grades. In fact; research has shown that many social or specific phobias like Pogonophobia can cost individuals tens of thousands of dollars in a lifetime.
Overcoming the phobia of beards
Doctors often prescribe anti-anxiety medications for Pogonophobia, however, these do not cure the phobia; rather they can only temporarily suppress the anxiety symptoms.
Talk therapy and Psychotherapy are one’s best bets in overcoming and treating the fear of beards. It is essential to educate oneself as to why some men wear beards and it might help to remind one not get influenced by stereotypical notions about beards and that not all bearded individuals are evil or harmful.
Other therapies for overcoming Pogonophobia include Hypnotherapy, NLP therapy and CBT which must be done under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.