Among all the weird phobias that actually exist, Papaphobia or the extreme fear of the pope tops the list. It is not a joke: indeed, the extreme fear of the authority of the pope or papacy may sound bizarre and shocking even, but it does exist. The world Papaphobia originates from Greek word for father, pappas.
Papaphobia may sometimes be closely related to Ecclesiophobia-the deep rooted fear of church. Such a fear might prevent the sufferer from entering Church or attending funerals and weddings. The fear of pope phobia may not interfere with one’s day to day life, however; the thought of the Pope or even a mention of Him may be enough to set off a panic attack in the sufferer.
Let us find out more about this phobia.
Causes of Papaphobia
There are hundreds of phobias and most of their causes are same or similar. However, if you ask different psychiatrists what the cause of a particular phobia is and chances are that you might hear different theories. Most experts do not agree on a single cause of a particular phobia; they feel that causes of phobias differ based on the sufferer’s brain chemistry, genetic makeup and also his/her environment. That being said; most phobias arise from learned behavior. A person learns to be afraid of an individual or an object probably because s/he associates feelings of anxiety, tension, stress or fear with that individual or object.
The Pope is a figure of authority. It is believed that He is the successor to St. Peter who was given the keys of Heaven by Lord Jesus Himself. The papacy is a prominent institution that has played a key role in shaping history. This authority or the powers vested in the Pope can be a bit frightening to children. The pope also wears a white cassock with a huge headgear and crown that could be terrifying to young kids. Most kids outgrow their fears but sometimes, the fear might persist well into adulthood.
Phobias can also develop due to conditioning by association. Certain negative events experienced by an individual in the presence of the Pope could trigger the phobia.
Papaphobia can also occur just because the sufferer tries to avoid this authority figure. The phobic’s mind sets off the symptoms of anxiety which it then tries to avoid by thinking that the symptoms will go away just by avoiding the object of the fear. This develops a full blown phobia. Childhood traumas linked directly or indirectly to the Church or papacy can also cause the extreme fear of the pope.
Symptoms of fear of pope phobia
Sufferers of Papaphobia may experience different symptoms based on the extent of their phobia. Typically, following symptoms may be seen:
- Feeling of choking
- Feeling faint
- Fear of being unable to speak and embarrassing oneself
- Mind going blank
- Heart racing
- Feeling of unreality
- Chest pain
- Fear of going crazy
Treatment for Papaphobia
If the fear of pope phobia is interfering with your life, you must seek therapy for treating it. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is an option of treatment which focuses on helping one change their thinking patterns to reduce distress and anxiety.
Group psychotherapy can also help where individuals share their experience and, in the process, understand and recover from their phobia. In case of specific phobias like this Papaphobia, desensitization therapy can also help. The emotional and behavioral response to the object of fear, in this case the fear of the pope, is often a learned response. This can be altered through gradual exposure to the object of fear which helps individuals change and replace their response using helpful ways of reaction through new learning.
Medication may also be used to treat anxiety caused by Papaphobia. However, drugs should be used sparingly since many are habit forming and also come with side effects.
Self help therapy can also come in handy. It must be used in combination with other therapies along with written materials that can help you handle the anxiety.