Phasmophobia is the fear of ghosts. The word originates from Greek word ‘phasmos’ which means ‘supernatural being/phantom’ and phobos which means ‘deep dread or fear’. Another word sometimes associated with it is Spectrophobia, which originates from ‘specters’ or ‘reflection’. Many people, young and old alike, fear ghosts. This fear is deeply ingrained in us right since childhood fuelled further by TV shows as well as religion and culture.
For people having extreme fear of ghosts, life can become downright miserable. Many refuse to step outside after dark, or sleeping alone or turning out the lights. Halloween is an especially scary time of year.
Causes of Phasmophobia
Anticipatory anxiety, fear of the dead or unknown (or things which go ‘bump in the night’) are mainly responsible for triggering Phasmophobia. This is fuelled further by movies, scary folktales, religious/superstitious beliefs and news or media reports about supposed ‘ghost sightings’.
The amygdala, a part of the brain secretes a chemical that triggers fear. The brain simply does this as part of its defense mechanism. For example, a child might have been spooked out by siblings or friends, as a result of which, they tend to recollect those fearful events each time they are left alone or in the dark.
TV shows, Hollywood movies, culture or religions also steep in our fear of ghosts. Ghosts are portrayed as evil entities that injure, harm or have violent tendencies. Stories of ghosts taking away and murdering children or pets, finishing off one’s life savings or destroying households also trigger Phasmophobia.
Many scientists believe that Phasmophobia is actually the fear of our own death or things to come. The concept of ‘returning dead people’ haunting a household might sometimes be triggered by stress which comes from the belief that someone they are close to is about to die.
Symptoms of Phasmophobia
Phasmophobia can be quite debilitating in that; the affected person suffers from many physical, social and emotional symptoms.
- Heart palpitations, stress and anxiety or panic attacks are common in such cases.
- Children, for example, might start to scream, cry or wet their beds.
- Lying awake at night, hallucinating, jumping at every sound one hears are few of the most common symptoms of fear of ghosts.
- Many sufferers show impaired performance at school or work. Lack of sleep increases their stress and inability to concentrate. They tend to have mood swings, or might appear irritable, angry or start crying over small issues. They also appear needy, depressed, clingy, shy, withdrawn, nervous, and high strung, easily startled or hyper-aroused.
- Poor social life is common as their relationship with peers or family members may be strained.
- The health of such individuals also suffers and their likelihood of getting diabetes, hypertension and heart disease increases. Muscle tension, aches and pains, gastrointestinal distress in the form of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches etc is common. Increased perspiration, skin blotchiness and rashes are other symptoms of Phasmophobia.
- Insomnia, dizziness, fainting, increased urinary frequency may also be observed in patients.
- Many patients express fear of dying, of going crazy or of imminent disaster.
Fear of ghosts is often accompanied by other phobias like fear of mirrors, fear of photographs, fear of shadows and fear of the dark.
Treating and overcoming the fear of ghosts
Often, individuals with Phasmophobia avoid getting treated for their condition, since they do not believe/admit that their fear is disabling enough, at least during daytime. In case of phobic children, parents feel that the child will outgrow the fear of ghosts with age.
Parents must play an important role in treating their child’s fear of ghosts. They can help the child feel brave through make believe, role play or positive tales of heroism and bravery to help the child cope with its fear. For this at-home therapy to become successful, it is vital that parents themselves portray confidence. It is important that they do not show anxiety whilst trying to help the child overcome its anxiety.
Adults with Phasmophobia must try to understand their fear. They can list down situations which trigger the fear and rationalize it by writing down their response as well as ways in which they can change the response each time. It is important to get support from friends and family and assure oneself that the fear of ghosts is absolutely common and that they are not alone in suffering from it.
Talking about one’s fear is also a therapeutic way of dealing with Phasmophobia. Online or offline forums, as well as professional psychotherapists or hypnotherapists can help the individual deal with Phasmophobia.
I’m doing a project on this type of phobia, and this was very helpful. I like that you can comment on this stuff because it helped me know the age range of people. I didn’t read it yet, but this is a very good article by the looks of it. One time I woke up, and I had a strange feeling. I was shaking up, and I had a lot of fear inside of me. I stayed up for a while, looking at my room to see if anyone was there. I just had this unwanted presence like someone was there or was watching me. I went to sleep after a while, but I don’t know why I felt like that. I’m pretty sure I have seen a ghost too. I’m 11 years old, and I would like to learn more about this fear and its explanation. Thank you for this information.
I don’t know if anyone else feels like this but I hate sleeping in my bed. I will sleep on the sofa and my parents bed (I’m 10 btw). I have a fear of ghosts and the dark. Does anyone know what I should do?
Have you told anybody? If not you should try. It would help a lot to tell someone.
I’m not sure if I have phasmophobia, but I do know that it’s extremely hard for me to sleep at an unknown place (mainly places that have haunting folktales attached to it) and to sleep alone. It’s also really hard for me to muster up the courage to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I would always shuffle the bed sheets to make my mother wake up, so I could feel comfortable enough to go to the bathroom. I hate this fear, because I can never sleep over at my friends house or even go on a trip with my friends or any trips for that matter due to my fear of ghosts. However if I do go; at night my body would shake, my thoughts would be filled with vivid horrific images, I would sometimes cry but silently because I don’t want my friends to know. I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I see the sun rise or somehow I just keep praying and my eyes would fall shut. Overall, I just hate it and what makes it worse is I’m 19 years of age and I can’t even live in a dorm or an apartments because of my fear! Anyway thanks for allowing me to vent this out. It helps in some way.
I have the same thing except I love to sleep in new places as long as there are people in the room with me. When I do go to the bathroom at night, which is rare, I feel like I will die of fear (or something else). I never told anyone until today except I told my sister and she just laughed at me, so now I am scared to tell my parents. My parents are very judgmental so I never tell them my problems. I am only 13 and I don’t know what to do.
It was cool and interesting.
Some random guy says
I don’t understand, is spectrophobia the fear of mirrors or ghosts?
Me too! I’m glad I’m not alone.
First, I love the information here and how it was compiled. I have been scared of ghosts since I got to watch this really stupid horror movie as a kid, and I would partly blame my parents for this carelessness because they were cold to the fact that there are other things asides from a kissing scene in a good romance movie can be a potentially destructive material for a child. My siblings got over their fears after watching multiple other scary movies and scenes, but I just really couldn’t move on try hard as I may. The result is a 25yr old typing this to you. My main fear usually comes when I’m alone, based on what I’ve heard people say and act I am mostly concerned of the fact that there may be a presence other than me watching obsessively, and even as a wiser and rational part of me knows that this is only a product of my cruel mind, I don’t give in to rational thinking most often especially when emotional (in fear). Well, I’m not as severly anxious as the worst of people with these fears basically because I eventually tire myself out from all the expectations and yet witnessing nothing, and mostly because I am the type of person that figures that all problems have a solution, and it only requires one finding it, thus if problems can be solved then maybe they aren’t as powerful and no matter how slim the chance of getting a solution, I have a potential of finding one, ghost problems included (when they maliciously pose a threat). One place I disagree admit applies to me with your post is that a fear of ghosts can be linked to one’s fear of death. Mostly, even though it’s weird , I usually see death as an escape plan and the only regrets for my death are people that love me and would mourn me, otherwise I care not about missing one person or object on earth if I die (I mean I practically came hear alone and frankly contented, life was the complication and challenge, not inexistence). In essence forgive my talk-a-tiveness, plus I agree that rationalization is a big step to overcoming fear.
Sonam Dadri says
I am suffering from spectrophobia i just cant help myself im a 25 yr old girl and nobody believe that im having this kind of issues in my life. I can’t study and i cant do paintings anymore. My mind keeps running every single minute. This is the high time for me for my career but i cant even make any decisions.
Can you tell me the difference between phasmophobia and spectrophobia?
It’s kinda the same thing.
Very interesting article.
I have a fear of the dark and of ghosts. This fear started when I was approximately 9 or 10 years old. My bed would shake at night when everyone is fast asleep. I shared a bedroom with my older sister and this shaking would only happen to me. I would lay awake until day light and catch barely a few hours of sleep. In addition to the bed shaking, I had also seen the ghostly man in different locations of the house. But of course everyone thought it was just over active imagination.
I am now in my early 40’s and still have a fear of ghosts and the dark. I sleep with my tv on most nights and the blankets over my head. I know it may sound silly being afraid at this age but the experience was so traumatising that I have not been able to over come it. I simply bare with it.
I realise this article was written some time ago. But it helps to write all this down.
Hi! I’m somewhat clear on my phobia… But my actual problem is like this… below….
my friend told us the story of bloody mary.. from then , i have the immense fear of mirrors. Then my parents forced me and my sis to sleep i our own room. i am 13 and my sis, 7. She sleeps soundly but i cry at night and i am afraid to look at the mirror. then i wake up my mom and dad and request them to let me sleep in their room.. but i want to sleep alone in the room with my sis. do you have a solution for this? thank you. please reply fast…!
I am afraid of mirrors too, mostly I’m afraid something is going to be there that isn’t supposed to be. I cover my mirror with a sheet so I don’t have to look at it and it helps to calm me down. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. You can get through it! P.s. I’m thirteen too.
This is very good information for my project. This helped me so much and I made an A+ on it. Thank you very much Jacob! :)
Hannah Genther says
Hi, Jacob! Thank you for making this. Lately, I have been extremely afraid, like something huge will pop out of the shadows and kill me, and making it hard to sleep. I will jump at my own foot steps, scream at something, then realize there was nothing, I will hallucinate at a normal point in life, like doing homework and there will be a tall black figure in the corner, but when I blink, it is gone. I am also very introverted and push myself away from society. I realize what is going on now, and I will look into it. Thank you!
Are you serious? I have always wondered the real effects of phasmophobia, I am doing a project on it and I’m very interested, please tell me
I am terrified of ghosts, the dark, staircases, intruders, and statues.
I haven’t always been afraid of these things except for statues,
Statues are always horrifying.. I have nightmares about the statue of liberty.
My daughter just turned 1 and the fears started when she was born. I recall having similar fears when my son, whose now 10, was born and it lasted until around age 2.
I’m not sure why I become so afraid of these things when I have a baby but I know its related.
Jim Stouffer says
Good article! Like most people, I was scared of ghosts as a child. My mother would spray some air freshener around the room and pretend that it was “ghost repellent.” It always calmed me down. These days I only get scared after watching a particularly scary horror film :)
I do have a sort of mental exercise I use whenever I start to get afraid of made up, supernatural terrors. I picture the Earth, then the Solar System, and then the Galaxy in my mind’s eye. I try to remind myself that life on Earth is just a thin layer of pond scum growing in a puddle of water and O2, on a dust mote, in a sunbeam, rotating through an infinite, expanding universe. How scary is a ghost or a demon compared to the reality of our situation?
Hi I’m doing a project, do you know where I can find any true personal stories?
I have phasmophobia, and sometimes I’m afraid to even have my back exposed because I feel like someones behind me. Because of this, I have to mainly sleep flat on my back even though it’s uncomfortable. Even though I have this phobia, I’m not always afraid of scary stuff. I like creepypasta’s and creepy Japanese urban legends, as long as they’re not too graphic. I know that you commented on this a while ago, but whatever.
I have it too. It’s much better now, but my whole life I have had it for as long as I can remember. I always say if I ever get as bad as I used to be again, I’m going to a therapist!
Damien Pierson says
Hello Jacob, I am making a game based on someone who has the fear of ghosts and this has helped me think out the way he acts and thinks. I’ll be sure to reference this in the credits of it. Thank you, tons, for making this. It really helped me out!
J. Harouni says
First of all, I want to thank you for your endeavor. The case that you just mentioned in this article is what I have lived with since I was 4 or 5 years old. I am at my 30s and this fear is still coming after me. This, as you said, stopped me from being independent. I treated some of my fears such as insects phobia but I am also trying to sort this main one out too.
I have this fear. I have to sleep with a pillow over my head to mute sound and my vision. It’s miserable. I think I need nerve pills.
James Hindle says
Amazing in depth article.
I suffer from this phobia and you’ve got everything spot on!
Do you know so much from research or personal experience?
Thanks, I’m glad you liked it.
I have never been afraid of ghosts myself but I can definitely relate to what real fear feels like as I used to suffer from fear of death.
Hey Jacob I’m doing an ELA project for our fears and I need to know your last name Jela answered my question on when it was written. I don’t want you to think I’m a creep our teacher needs the full name to know it’s a reliable source. So far it’s excellent, but my assignment is due tommorow so please respond quickly. Thanks.
Hello Jacob, I’m using this “fear of ghosts” article for my research paper. My problem is I need to quote you. So I already have your surname but I also need the year that you published this article :) thank you please reply asap. :)
I’m glad you find this article helpful. It was written and published on June 19.
Have a nice weekend.
leah brown says
hello im trying to write an article about ghosts