Xenophobia is derived from the Greek word ‘Xenos’ meaning “foreigner or stranger” and Phobos which means ‘morbid fear’.
Xenophobia is the irrational sensation of fear experienced about a person or a group of persons as well as situations that are perceived as strange or foreign. It is the fear of anything that is beyond one’s comfort zone.
The fear of unknown comes in many guises. A person may not be afraid of swimming pools, but might experience great fear when he sees a dark lake. The fact that s/he cannot see the bottom of the lake triggers a fear of the unknown. Such thoughts can overwhelm the person to an extent that one’s daily life and activities are hindered by it.
Xenophobia or the fear of foreigners can sometimes become collective leading to racism or the rejection of “strangers”. However, the intense and irrational fear of foreigners can also be based on a fearful experience with a stranger. Today, xenophobic or racial violence is not uncommon and is making headlines at an alarming rate on accounts of mass immigration and globalization.
Causes of the fear of the unknown phobia
Number of different attitudes and triggers can lead to the fear of the unknown. Worldwide people are becoming increasingly concerned about economic factors, results of elections, jobs, retirement planning, and health issues and so on. Fear of the unknown phobia also goes hand in hand with the fear of loss, fear of death etc. An agoraphobic (someone who fears the outdoors) might also have Xenophobia.
- A past experience, death of a near or dear one, divorce, change of lifestyle can all lead one to fear the unknown. As mentioned above, Xenophobia or the phobia towards strangers can also be triggered by having a negative experience with a stranger. In times of economic recession, the society starts to look for scapegoats to blame. This can lead to collective Xenophobia where the entire society blames a foreign community for their poor economic situation.
- The fear of unknown is also evolutionary in that; man has always felt insecure about something which he is unaware of. Most people do not like change. In case of Xenophobia, the individual is unable to fight his insecurity. S/he simply cannot cope with being unable to experience stability and security.
- A child who has been always instructed by parents to resist or fight change or an unusual circumstance is also likely to turn fearful towards the unknown.
Symptoms of Xenophobia
Most cases of fearing unknown objects, foreigners, situations etc are normal. We all tend to worry about coping with a change in lifestyle, dealing with a new job etc. We accept them to be facts of life. However, for a phobic, the day-to-day life can become very stressful owing to persistent fear. His personal and professional activities can be greatly hampered owing to this fear.
Like most other specific and social phobias, the fear of the unknown is also characterized by many physical and emotional symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate or palpitations.
- Dry mouth, shallow breathing.
- Full blown panic at the thought of the unknown or strange.
- Feeling anxious, trying to run away or avoid the situation that requires a change or facing strangers or the unknown.
- Crying, shaking, trembling, throwing up, fainting etc are some more symptoms of a xenophobic individual.
Overcoming the fear of the unknown phobia
People suffering from Xenophobia are often unable to live happy and stress free lives. Their anxiety is constant as a result of which they may be unable to take pleasure in daily activities or form healthy relationships.
- Drugs and medications can help overcome depressive thoughts and lessen panic attacks, to an extent. However, most of them are addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
- Meditation and changing one’s thoughts and imagination are more beneficial remedies and they are also long lasting.
- Self help techniques as well as NLP or neurolingustic programming can also help resurrect one’s confidence and deal with one’s Xenophobia.
- Religions and politics should also focus on changing the environment to challenge the collective anti-immigrant sentiments.
- Experts also advise focusing one’s mind on the goals rather than letting negative experiences sidetrack it.
- It is very important to remove negative associations with all that is strange and unknown to restore mental and physical peace.
Mason Stevens says
Hi my name is Mason, and I have always been afraid of the unknown. Such as a dark room, I’m not afraid of the room or the dark, I’m afraid of what’s in it.
mary Jo says
Hi, I’m glad I stumbled onto your page. I have the worst irrational fears that have all but consumed my entire life. It’s hard to explain to other people what it feels like.
I am 18 years old and I have very bad stress about my grades sometimes I cry and I wanna throw up and even if I study 24 hours I feel like I have to study more and If I don’t, I feel guilty.
if I try hard I want to get a good result and if I see my grade is B I will lose all my hopes and I feel like a loser.
I want to be a doctor and I have to take MCAT, I have to take it in next 4 years but I am worried about it right now and I can’t sleep some days because I think what would happen If I don’t pass the MCAT
even right now I worry about that what would happen if I can’t enter UCI or UCLA
and I also think about that what should I tell my father and brother if I couldn’t go to Medical School or a good university because they did a lot for me.
Gerry nicol says
Hi ive enjoyed reading some of the stories people are afraid of. Im a 56 year old man experiencing a fear of when everything ends a fear which ive had most of my life.
Would like very much to find out more of these phobias.
Larry Spears says
I’m a 53 year old man with the fear of when everything ends. I feel your pain brother. Stay strong and take care of yourself.
Hey can you help me, I have a fear of death and every time I think about it I get overwhelmed with fear and every day this happens please help
try thinking of how great life has already been and know that whenever you do die, your life was beautiful already
sucks if it wasn’t lol
Muzammil Ahmed says
learn religion, you will get relaxed . the only way
Religion is not always the answer, using religion as a way to face a fear can work but its blind faith, personally I don’t do blind faith. If I fear something unknown, I make it known, I don’t pray for it to go away, that doesn’t always happen. I find the unknown and make it known, that’s how I deal with my fear, though some fears aren’t like that. Fear of death.. you cant find death, you come to peace with the fact that nothing last forever including yourself. Fear of spiders, something I have, well you learn to live with them, think of the benefits of having them around: less bugs. But in my experience the only way to beat your fear of the unknown is to make it known, that’s why at least in my case religion is not always the answer, blind faith isn’t a concrete way of getting rid of your fear.
I’m fearful to going at college for the 1st time.
And also fear to go to new places.
Please suggest something quick.
Think about the fact that millions had same phobia and eventually left their homes, families and friends to acquire education, now they are achieving their career dreams. Just scarify today, tomorrow you will be happy instead of living in fear for the rest of your life. Good luck.
Tyvez Woodberry says
Can you tell me when this was published? I need it for a citation
Thanks for your comment.
This post was published on Feb 9.
Tuscan Crandall says
Could you also send me the information for the article about fear of the unknown, I also need it for my works cited.
Sure thing, what else do you need besides the publishing date below?
Hi, Jacob. I would like to cite this particular article, and I just need to know when it was published. Thanks in advance!
This article was published on Feb 9.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
I have a fear of hurting the people around me. This is not normal. What can I do about this? Please help.
If you love them, you wont
Tiffany Mott says
Can you tell me when the article about the fear of the unknown was published. I need it for a citation.
I have sent you an email.
I’ve got fear of people and intimacy. Can you please advise me on how to overcome this.
I have a fear of strangers, fear of eye contact with strangers, fear of talking to people, fear of crowded places and fear of being touched or hugged (my skin crawls and I feel nauseous if a stranger touches me).
I’m basically stressed out ALL the time I’m in a city or around people. I only relax when I go home or I’m around a group of people I know well. However since I don’t like being touched (even by people I know although it’s much less pronounced than with strangers) I hate it when I arrive or leave and I have to kiss & hug everyone hello / goodbye (this is a cultural norm here and if you don’t do it people perceive you as rude or cold).
I haven’t really “overcome” my fears but I just force myself to endure them so as to appear “normal”. I do the kiss and hug thing even though I HATE it, and I talk to people because I have to just to work and buy things etc. I rarely go out to socialize but when I do I get drunk first because I feel less anxious that way (I can also hold a conversation while drunk whereas while sober I feel too nervous). This basically means I am unhappy most of the day and only happy alone or with close friends and family. I am euphoric when I get out of the city to go on hikes because there are NO PEOPLE AROUND! =D and I finally feel like I can breathe and relax.
I love animals and have lots of pets who I love hugging – it’s only people I feel disgusted to touch (I can even pick up spiders and bugs bare handed which freaks out my friends and family) so its not a germ phobia, it’s more of a “people are filthy and disgusting” ingrained thought. Oddly I don’t mind touching romantic partners or being intimate with them but if they hug me or restrict me too much I don’t like it (I do have to shower after sleeping with them though because the thought of their sweat on me makes me feel sick).
Forcing myself to talk to people has made it easier over time and I’ve learned how to have conversations that are predictable and how to end a conversation when I feel uncomfortable. I try to avoid small talk as this is the most uncomfortable for me… heaven forbid I am asked a question about myself as that is intensely stressful. Keeping the topic on the other person is safer and lets them talk loads and all you have to do is smile and nod in the right places, then ask another question to keep them talking (not that I care at all about them but it keeps the subject off me which is good). Discussions about subjects that interest me are fun but tend to agitate me. I try to avoid subjects I’m passionate about for that reason. I invariably end up roped into arguments at some point which tend to get heated… this is something I’m still working on (how to have a calm discussion).
The intimacy thing I have no idea on sorry… perhaps just go in baby steps, and take everything really slowly? Forcing yourself to do too much at once is only going to set you back.