Chaetophobia is a rare phobia which causes an irrational, abnormal and persistent fear of hair. The word is derived from Greek khaite which means ‘loose flowing hair’ and phobos meaning aversion or fear. Other names used for the phobia include Trichopathophobia where tricho is Greek for hair and patho for disease. Thus Trichopathophobia means extreme “fear of hair disease” which causes a person to be afraid of going bald or developing scalp or hair issues.
Another name for the fear of hair is Trichophobia which is the general fear of “loose hairs” seen on clothes, furniture, floor etc. Hypertrichophobia is the persistent and constant fear of hair and is more closely related to Chaetophobia.
While a vast majority of the population spends a lot of money and time in grooming and looking after their hair, Chaetophobic individuals want to have nothing to do with hair. Most are afraid of other people’s hair and, in some cases, even animal hair. Many Chaetophobes try to avoid people with thick, dense and curly or Afro style hair. Still others are only afraid of loose, stray hair and avoid places like barber shops or salons where there is greater possibility of encountering hair on floor. The phobics literally have a full blown panic attack at the sight of hair- often believing that they are “going to be harmed by it”. Many realize that their phobia is irrational; however they are completely unable to control it.
Some people do not let other people touch their hair (or they avoid touching other people’s hair) fearing that this might cause one to go bald. Still other phobics are known to panic at the sight white or grey hair, or even their own body hair.
Causes of Chaetophobia
Chaetophobic individuals believe “hair to be dirty”. Often the condition is related to the fear of germs; one feels that hair might cause them to get sick if they come in contact with it. Hair also tends to have oil, dandruff, lice, or sometimes fungal infections. This leads people with anxious mindsets to feel revolted or disgusted by it.
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Hair loss could also trigger fear of hair phobia in men or women who are afraid of growing bald.
Other causes of Chaetophobia include a negative or traumatic incidence in one’s childhood involving a hairy person. The brain develops a mechanism of protecting itself by creating a conditioned response each time the phobic encounters a hairy person.
Often people suffering from skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis may develop this phobia as their condition may lead to dandruff, itchiness of the scalp and flaking etc.
People, who are obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness, often bordering on obsessive compulsive disorder, are also more likely to suffer from Chaetophobia. They feel extreme disgust at seeing hair in unlikely places like food, clothing and so on.
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Symptoms of fear of hair phobia
Chaetophobic individuals display various symptoms depending on the level of their phobia. However, all of them experience a range of emotional and physical symptoms which are listed below:
- Shivering, trembling at the sight of hair
- Feeling nauseated, queasy or suffering from various gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea, cramps, vomiting etc.
- Many think about hair all the time- they may feel detached from reality, or feel as if they are going crazy.
- Some show avoidance behavior- avoiding people with lot of hair, or avoiding salons, barber shops etc. Often they refuse to cut or trim their hair for months, or might prevent others from touching their hair.
- Some tend to clean obsessively to ensure there is no hair lying around.
- Some are known to experience a full blown panic attack- accelerated heartbeat, rapid breathing, dizziness, etc.
Thus, it is evident that persons suffering from the fear of hair tend to face many difficulties in day-to-day life.
Treatment of fear of hair
Chaetophobia is a highly treatable phobia; the best way of overcoming it is through a combination of drugs and psychotherapy. Talking about one’s fear or revulsion about hair is also a proven method of overcoming the phobia.
Depending on the severity of the phobia, the therapist might prescribe anti-anxiety medications. However, these have some side-effects including drowsiness, etc. Hence, their long term use is strictly prohibited.
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NLP or neuro linguistic programming is an effective remedy for treating Chaetophobia. This therapy was developed by Dr. John Grinder and Dr. Richard Brandler. It involves asking the phobic to describe the first event/memory which led to the phobia. S/he is then asked to “float out of the body” and dissociate oneself with the memory. S/he is made to believe that their older self is ‘watching a movie’ of their younger self experiencing the trauma but going on to a safer place where there is no fear. This reprogramming and dissociation therapy helps the phobic see new perspectives so that the nervous system no longer creates a “flight or fight” response.
Other than NLP, hypnotherapy, relaxation and self help techniques like Yoga and meditation can also help one overcome Chaetophobia.