Are you suffering from Xanthophobia? If you are, then you likely already know what fear of the color yellow entails. However, for most people, this word is probably a mysterious term.
When people talk about phobias, generally the most common ones come up. For instance, most people have heard of Claustrophobia, which is the fear of small, enclosed spaces. Similarly, if you bring up Agoraphobia, many people know that this is the fear of wide, open spaces. However, when it comes to more unusual phobias, you may have a hard time finding anyone who knows what the word Xanthophobia means, let alone understands the condition.
What is Xanthophobia?
Xanthophobia is one of a set of color-related phobias, collectively grouped under the term Chromophobia or Chromatophobia. According to the medical section of The Free Dictionary by Farlex, Chromatophobia is “an abnormal aversion to colours or to certain colours.”
Another definition of this phobia can be found in an article for the Journal of Garmian University, written by Azad Hasan Fatah. This article defines Xanthophobia as “aversion to yellow.” In this case, Fatah writes that an aversion is akin to revulsion, or “a strong dislike of things.”
Those who suffer from Chromophobia may have a severe dislike or aversion to only one color, or they may suffer from multiple color-specific phobias. In this article, we will focus solely on Xanthophobia, which relates to the color yellow.
What Constitutes a Phobia?
To classify as a phobia, a fear or aversion must meet certain requirements. For instance, if you simply do not like the color yellow, and, say, you refuse to wear it, this does not mean you have a phobia of this hue. So, what does constitute Xanthophobia?
According to the NHS (National Health Service of the United Kingdom), “phobias are more pronounced than fears.” The same article goes on to explain that “a phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.”
So, what differentiates a fear as overwhelming or debilitating? In an article on the Psychology Today website, Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. writes that a phobia involves “debilitating levels of anxiety.” In other words, a fear becomes a phobia when the symptoms, or thoughts surrounding the onset of those symptoms, has a significant impact on a person’s daily life.
Symptoms of Xanthophobia
Common phobia symptoms can be entirely mental, or they may be a combination of mental and physical. Please note that the following is not a comprehensive list, but is intended to include some of the most commonly reported symptoms of various phobias that people may experience.
Physical Phobia Symptoms:
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
- Difficulty breathing, choking sensation
- Body tremors or shaking
- Increased heart rate, palpitations
- Tightness in chest, chest pain
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Hot flashes, sweating
- Cold flashes
- Numbness, tingling sensations
Mental Phobia Symptoms:
- Obsession over the object
- Dissociation or feeling detached
- Expectation of danger
- Fear of death
- Desire to escape
- Severe anxiety, panic attacks
- Fear of going crazy
- Fear of losing control
- Avoidance of the object
Daily Life for Xanthophobes
It can be a lot harder to handle a color phobia than, say, a fear of something like spiders or dogs. While spiders and dogs are very common, there is, at least, some logical predictability in when and where you may come into contact with these objects of fear. But specific colors are incredibly difficult to avoid, which can interfere with everything you do on any given day.
From school buses to taxis, sunflowers to buttercups and bananas to lemons, the color yellow is everywhere. And even if a person with Xanthophobia can succeed in avoiding the most commonly yellow colored objects in the world, he also has all kinds of random, unpredictable things like yellow-colored clothing, wallpaper and art to content with. For some, even seeing the word or hearing someone mention it causes symptoms.
As you can now imagine, despite this phobia being somewhat rare, the symptoms of this condition may have a much more severe effect on a person’s daily life than those of, say, Cynophobia (the fear of dogs).
What Causes Fear of the Color Yellow?
While a specific cause for a case of Xanthophobia may sometimes be determined, it is important to note that, as Mayo Clinic states, “much is still unknown about the actual cause of specific phobias.” As such, some cases may have undeterminable causes, but there are some widely accepted general causes thought to be responsible for most phobias.
Unlike many other phobias, which are very often entirely psychological, a color related phobia may also be caused entirely by physiological changes. For example, according to The Free Dictionary entry noted above, a person may have an aversion to a specific color, such as yellow, due to “an abnormal sensitivity to some short wavelengths following cataract extraction.”
More commonly, however, a strong aversion to a specific color, especially when the phobia is long-term, is caused by negative or traumatic events, environmental conditions and genetics or changes in brain function. In some cases, more than one cause may be at play.
Trauma Induced Phobia
The Mayo Clinic reports that a phobia may be caused due to “having a negative experience or panic attack related to a specific object or situation.” For instance, a person could potentially develop a phobia of the color yellow if they are assaulted by someone wearing a bright yellow hat. Similarly, someone who becomes violently ill after eating a yellow apple might easily develop a severe aversion to the color.
Environment and Genetics
When a phobia is caused by something in the environment, it is often linked to an early childhood experience. For instance, if a woman was abused by her father growing up, and most of that abuse took place in a room with yellow walls, she may develop a phobia of the color yellow.
As far as genetic causes, phobias that stem from childhood may be caused by observation and mimicry of a phobia already present in a parent or another influential person. If someone has a relative with a phobia, they are far more likely to develop this same phobia. Further, a phobia could also be caused by unknown factors that are passed down through genes.
Changes in Brain Function
Changes in brain function, such as after physical injury, a medical procedure or a mental illness, may also play a role in the development of certain phobias.
Furthermore, those of a certain temperament, or personality, may be more susceptible to developing a phobia, outside of any significant change in brain chemistry or function. Individuals who are highly sensitive, emotional or timid may be more likely to have phobias.
How is Xanthophobia Treated?
Treatment for Xanthophobia, as with any phobia, will depend on the individual case. Many factors, from the severity of the condition to the age of the patient, will determine what treatment is best for each patient. However, there are some fairly common, and usually effective, treatments that are used in most phobia cases and that may help in the treatment of Xanthophobia.
Common Phobia Treatments:
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
- CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
- Exposure Therapy
Of these three, Mayo Clinic reports that “exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are the most effective treatments.” Traditional talk therapy, or psychotherapy, may also be used in combination with one or more of the other two options.
In an article for Psychiatric Times, Johanna S. Kaplan, PhD and David F. Tolin, PhD report that “exposure-based therapies are highly effective for patients with anxiety disorders, to the extent that exposure should be considered a first-line, evidence-based treatment for such patients.”
Unlike other treatment options, exposure therapy was specifically developed for the treatment of various fear-related conditions. According to the American Psychological Association, “exposure therapy has been scientifically demonstrated to be a helpful treatment or treatment component” for a variety of conditions, including phobias.
In exposure therapy, a patient is gradually exposed to the object of his fear over time, with the purpose of conditioning the individual to react and relate more logically to that object. There are several different forms of exposure therapy, but only some of them may be applicable in a case of Xanthophobia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly referred to as CBT, can be used to help individuals overcome various conditions, including anything from an eating disorder to an addiction. It is also known to be an effective treatment in many phobia cases.
According to Medical News Today, “CBT works on the basis that the way we think and interpret life’s events affects how we behave and, ultimately, how we feel.” A Verywell Mind article further explains that CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment that “focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that can contribute to and worsen emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety.”
In CBT, through a wide variety of techniques and exercises, patients learn to identify their negative and destructive thought patterns and how to overcome them through more positive thoughts and actions. Some possible tools a CBT therapist may use in a phobia case include: individual therapy, group therapy, journaling exercises, meditation, role-playing, body-calming and grounding exercises and the practice of positive behavior.
Outside of these mainstream treatments, sufferers of Xanthophobia may also wish to try any number of the following to treat their condition: meditation or mindfulness, yoga or other exercise and various homeopathic remedies. A general practitioner may also be able to prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, however, most psychologists prefer to use therapeutic treatments rather than drugs when it comes to phobias. Always consult your physician or psychotherapist before attempting any home treatments or new medications.
Can Xanthophobia Be Cured?
While there are many treatment options, several of which have proven highly effective, can Xanthophobia actually be cured? The good news is, according to the NHS, “almost all phobias can be successfully treated and cured.” However, an absolute cure for any given phobia is not necessarily predictable and, as in any mental health condition, may depend in part on the cooperation of the individual in question and the treatment that is available to him.
In some cases, a phobia sufferer may be so terrified of treatment that he refuses to seek it out. In these cases, it can often be helpful for a close friend or relative to gradually encourage the individual to try some form of treatment. Offering to attend treatment sessions with the phobic may also motivate the person to work towards a cure.
But in most cases, if a patient desires a cure, and he follows through with treatment, the prognosis is fairly positive.
In conclusion, with a greater understanding of Xanthophobia, including likely causes, common symptoms and potential treatments, an individual suffering from this condition can find better ways to cope and seek effective treatment. Psychologists, psychotherapists, nurses, pediatricians and general practitioners may also grasp a wider knowledge of the condition in hopes of offering more hopeful treatments and a better prognosis for patients suffering from Xanthophobia.
If you, or someone you know, experience any of the symptoms of phobias listed here, or elsewhere, seek a professional opinion as soon as possible. Do not rely on self diagnosing for any mental health condition, and do not attempt to self medicate as a coping mechanism or cure. There is hope and help for Xanthophobia. If you need help with this condition, talk to a nurse, doctor or therapist today.