Enosiophobia is an intense or irrational fear of being criticized or committing a sin. Criticism is meant, in many ways, to be a constructive tool that will help a person grow and enhance their skills or abilities. For many, however, it is looked at as a means of pointing out flaws and accentuating a person’s failures. Even the smallest hint of criticism can send a person experiencing enosiophobia into a severe panic attack that will shut them down and prevent them from functioning.
For a person with enosiophobia, everything they do must exceed expectations, both their own as well as the expectations of others. They will sometimes be their own worst enemy when it comes to critiquing their own work. While praise is the ultimate goal, approval will prevent their anxiety from spiking and causing them to have a breakdown.
Committing a sin is a way of failing that is most often associated with the church. Constantly seeking forgiveness from others and always trying to make amends are two ways someone with enosiophobia will respond to a situation. They are so deeply invested in their faith that committing even the smallest infraction is prohibited and will result in their phobia taking control over most of their actions. This type of phobia may eventually result in depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other mental health disorders involving negative self-worth or loathing.
What Is Enosiophobia?
Enosiophobia is, in essence, a fear of being criticized. It is an intense, irrational fear of being criticized or committing a sin. Even the thought of doing something wrong is enough to send a person into a downward spiral that will result in severe anxiety or panic. Their heart rate and breathing will increase dramatically. Their muscles will tighten, and they may begin to have thoughts of paranoia or running away. The severity of the attack will vary from person to person and how they normally deal with stress or fear.
People who suffer from enosiophobia may sabotage themselves simply with their own thoughts. Feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough may lead them to believe that they can’t do anything right. They will constantly be evaluating their own work, looking for even the smallest of flaws. While they may be able to maintain a modest amount of control by micromanaging everything they do, if someone else criticizes their work or points out something they believe is a sin, they may lose control and have a severe panic attack.
A person with enosiophobia may avoid tasks they are not good at to avoid being criticized. They may avoid groups of people who they believe are too critical of their work. They will also go to great lengths to avoid being around people or activities that may cause them to sin or err against God in some way. Constant worry and irrational thought patterns may cause them to avoid society altogether.
What Causes Enosiophobia?
At this time, there are no identifiable causes of enosiophobia outside of the possibility of genetics and a person’s environment. If a person has a family history that includes multiple forms of mental health disorders, then it may be determined that genetics may be partially responsible. Having other mental health disorders may make a person more predisposed to enosiophobia. In some cases, specific phobias tend to be diagnosed together.
A person’s environment will also be a factor, especially if they are exposed to specific elements. The fear of being criticized can result from being bullied, having parents who constantly demanded perfection, or having teachers and mentors who were perfectionists. When a child is in an environment where nothing less than perfect is acceptable, the child may set standards for themselves that they are unable to meet, no matter how hard they work or how much effort they put into the task. Traumatic events in childhood can result in lifelong patterns of self-judgment, shame, and self-loathing for not being good enough.
The fear of committing a sin is based on the church and Biblical teachings. The thought of not being able to attain Heaven is more than many deeply religious people can bear. They constantly struggle with both their thoughts and their actions, as both can be sinful if allowed to get out of control. A person who suffers from enosiophobia may be seen at church more than other people in the congregation. They may ask to confess more frequently than others or ask for forgiveness for even the smallest indiscretions. If they aren’t forgiven or absolved of their sins, they may begin to panic or have a severe anxiety attack.
Symptoms of Enosiophobia
Because of the mental stress and upset that enosiophobia causes, severe anxiety is normally considered to be one of the most prominent symptoms. Severe anxiety attacks may transition into debilitating panic episodes that result in the person shutting down mentally or being put into the hospital over signs of physical distress. Every person is different and will respond to their triggers in their own way. Many will have learned or developed coping mechanisms that will help them maintain at least a small amount of control.
As part of their means of control, they may go to great lengths to avoid making any type of mistake or coming in contact with anyone who may criticize their efforts. Avoiding things that spark their fears is a top priority. If their phobia becomes too intense, they may avoid associating with other people altogether and remain as secluded as possible. They may also avoid trying new things that may set them up for failure or even the smallest chance of being criticized.
Individuals with enosiophobia can experience a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological. They can include, but are not limited to:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Inability to maintain a normal breathing rhythm
- Inability to maintain focus
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Anxiety or panic episodes
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling worthless
A person can experience one or more of these symptoms at any given time. They can range from mild to severe and can be brought on by the smallest trigger.
Depending on the severity of the phobia, a person can sometimes become so worried and fearful that physical symptoms occur immediately after being triggered. In some cases, simply thinking about receiving criticism or committing a sin can trigger a full-blown panic attack or uncontrollable anxiety. If a person can begin to understand what triggers their symptoms, they may be able to take steps to control their anxiety and minimize the effect it has on their quality of life.
Treatments for Enosiophobia
With no definitive causes to be found, it stands to reason that treatment options may be limited as well. Treating the anxiety that results from being criticized or worrying about committing sinful acts is often the first line of defense. Other psychiatric medications may be tried as well in an attempt to fight depression and maintain feelings of general wellness. The type of medications used will depend on whether or not the patient has any other mental health issues they are being treated for.
Exposure therapy may be beneficial if performed so that the patient can see the benefits of the criticism being offered. Using constructive criticism that offers a teaching lesson allows the patient to find ways to improve their methods instead of just pointing out what is wrong and leaving them to figure it out on their own. This may not be the best method for everyone, but it does allow the person to gradually get used to criticism in their own way and in their own time.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is also beneficial as it helps to uncover the reasons for a person’s behavior. If the cause of their behavior and irrational fears can be addressed, it will allow them to alter their thought patterns so they are more positive and constructive in nature. CBT can effectively be used in conjunction with exposure therapy to help patients re-align their thought patterns so they are not so irrational. This type of therapy may be able to improve their quality of life and help them begin to function somewhat normally within society.
Yoga is a form of exercise that strengthens both the mind and the body. It improves a person’s ability to focus and maintain a relaxed state, even during the most stressful situation. Although this is not a “cure,” it can be used as an effective coping mechanism and will allow a person to maintain physical and psychological control of their bodies and minds.
Enosiophobia is a debilitating, irrational phobia that can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life, especially if they are even moderately religious. The fear of being criticized for their thoughts, words, or deeds can be mentally draining. The same is true if a person fears committing any type of sin or sinful behavior/thoughts. Understanding what causes this type of phobia is essential if it is to be treated successfully. Treating the symptoms is a good place to start and may lay the foundation for future progress if the patient is willing to address their fears and be willing to move forward.