Scelerophobia is the fear of burglars, bad men or crime in general. The word Scelerophobia is derived from Latin, ‘scelero’ which means ‘wickedness or crime’ and ‘phobos’ which means ‘deep dread or fear’.
Fearing crime is a common and prevalent issue in modern society. The level or extent of the fear of crime depends on various factors like age, gender, past experiences etc. Other factors like the neighborhood where one lives, ethnicity etc can also have a bearing on the fear level.
To some extent, the fear of crime is normal and even essential for safety and well being. However, in extreme Scelerophobia, many ‘normal’ things become difficult for the suffering individual. For example, one might go to great lengths to prevent crime (such as locking one’s home or constantly checking and rechecking locks to an extent that it becomes an obsession). Many refuse to step out of their home after dark or travel to lonely places for the fear of being attacked or robbed. Their phobia leads to constant fatigue as it causes them to believe that they need to be vigilant all the time.
Let us study Scelerophobia in detail.
Causes of fear of crime
As stated above, many factors are responsible for the fear of crime phobia.
- Gender is the strongest predictor of crime. Women fear crime more than men owing to greater possibility of sexual assaults. Other factors like fewer coping skills, irrationality etc are also attributed to higher levels of Scelerophobia in women.
- Elderly people are also known to suffer from Scelerophobia more than younger people. This may be due to higher number of mugging or breaking-and-entering type of incidents. (Research has actually shown that elderly people are not specifically targets of crimes, but their level of Scelerophobia often exceeds their risk of victimization).
- Trauma transference which occurs from watching a friend or a loved one become the victim of crime can also instigate the fear to an extent that one obsesses about locking windows and doors, closing shades and curtains, stowing away valuables etc.
- Crime can be of different types: motor vehicle or household theft, sexual assault, robbery, vandalism, break and enter etc. Each of these crimes instills different levels of fear in the victims of the crimes. For example, theft of any kind involves sharp weapons, assault, loss or damage of property/money, as well as a stranger doing these. Crime also involves police reports, court cases etc which are viewed in negative light.
- Geographical location can also lead to fear of crime in that; people in cities are likelier to suffer owing to higher crime rates than those in rural areas.
- Similarly, ethnicity tends to impact the level of fear: research has shown that Asians have the most fear followed by ‘Black groups’ followed by White groups.
- Media and news reports about crimes like teenagers being shot, women being raped, new homes being vandalized etc all enhance the level of fear of crime. This is more so in the case of anxious or high strung individuals already suffering from anxiety disorders.
Symptoms of Scelerophobia
People with Scelerophobia usually show avoidance and protective behaviors such as refusing to go out at night. Many tend to obtain protective measures like watch dogs, electric fences, security systems with alarms or join self defense classes and other neighborhood crime watch programs. Some tend to go overboard and obsessive in checking and rechecking their locks.
Physical symptoms of Scelerophobia including having a full blown panic attack at the thought of crime or being attacked. Crying, shaking, weeping, trembling are other signs of Scelerophobia. These people are constantly vigilant and never relax which can be a tiring experience for them.
Overcoming the fear of crime phobia
Often people who are afraid of crime expect the government and police to help them. However, these agencies might not always be in a position to stop or prevent crime. In such cases, the phobic might resort to vandalism or taken the matters in his own hands. Hence it is vital that the government takes all necessary steps to educate people about crime and also help them find ways of protecting their community while reducing personal fears.
Thus, the fear of crime phobia is a social responsibility as well as an individual one. Those who have been clinically diagnosed as being Scelerophobic should resort to clinical evaluation and psychotherapy. Gradual or systematic desensitization, counter conditioning, Hypnotism and NLP or Neuro linguistic programming therapies are all known to help overcome this fear. Reading statistics and educating oneself about actual incidents of crime in one’s residential area can also be beneficial in overcoming Scelerophobia.