The extreme, often irrational fear of flowers is called Anthophobia. The word Anthophobia is a combination of two Greek words namely anthos meaning flowers and phobos meaning fear or deep aversion.
Often the excessive fear of flowers is confused with the fear of nature. However, Anthophobia is different in that; the sufferer is mainly only afraid of flowers and not of trees or plants. Majority of Anthophobic individuals however still tend to stay away from nature, especially from flowering plants and trees. But they usually remain morbidly afraid of flowers only. As such, the phobia of flowers is rare and affects only a few people from around the world.
Causes of fear of flowers
- Like most fears, the extreme fear of flowers is a learnt experience. Repeated events related to flowers, such as bees or wasps stinging a child (owing to flowers in the garden) can make the child learn negative things about flowers. This creates negative thinking patterns in the child’s mind. Just like a child will be afraid of touching a hot object after having burnt its hands, the fear of flowers gets permanently etched on the child’s mind.
- Flowers are often associated with funerals. A child who has lost a family member can suddenly develop an excessive fear of flowers due to such traumatic events. Sometimes, the mere presence of flowers while watching a horror movie could lead to a permanent fear of flowers.
- Some cases of Anthophobia are inexplicable; a person develops the fear suddenly and forgets the root cause of why it arose in the first place. The irresistible fear then becomes a part of the individual’s personality and, like a reflex action, one simply cannot control it.
- People with severe seasonal allergies could also develop Anthophobia due to the extreme symptoms they cause in him/her.
- Other mental disorders/anxieties, physical illnesses and deficiencies can also cause the fear of flowers phobia.
Symptoms of Anthophobia
Anthophobia can cause various symptoms including
- A full blown panic attack at the sight or thought of flowers. This includes racing heart, sweaty palms, rapid/accelerated breathing, shivering, shaking, etc. These symptoms might arise at the thought, and not just the sight of flowers.
- A fear of impending doom, thoughts of death or dying or feeling completely powerless over a situation are some other emotional symptoms associated with Anthophobia.
Friends and family members are often unsympathetic towards the individual and this could give rise to feelings of isolation or depression in him/her. Sometimes, the phobic might avoid outings, picnics, visits to gardens, or even funerals and weddings/ parties where flowers are usually present. This could cause him/her to be ridiculed or laughed at.
Overcoming the fear of flowers
Since different people are affected differently by the fear of flowers phobia, the treatment options also vary. If the fear of flowers is affecting one’s day to day life, one must certainly seek help of an experienced psychotherapist. Today, many treatment options are available including cognitive behavior therapy and gradual exposure or systematic desensitization therapies. The latter includes putting the phobic in close proximity of flowers to help him/her control the anxiety and desensitize one once and for all. Some cases can be helped simply by talking to a therapist or through group therapy sessions where other phobics express their fears and the ways in which they are coping with them.
If seasonal allergies are causing one’s phobia, one can get prescription strength medications to alleviate those symptoms. Anxiety reducing drugs are also available to reduce the panic attacks experienced due to one’s Anthophobia. These should be used sparingly.
Hypnotherapy is another option which can help one get to the bottom of the Anthophobia and overcome it once and for all.