Scriptophobia is the extreme fear of writing in public. The word Scriptophobia is derived from the Latin word script meaning writing and phobos which is the Greek word for fear or dread. Graphophobia is very similar to Scriptophobia but it is more specific in that; it is related to the extreme and often irrational fear of handwriting.
Both Scriptophobia and Graphophobia are very common fears affecting hundreds of people around the world. In some cases, the phobia can affect the sufferer’s day to day life. Many are unable to take on jobs that require writing. The fear is especially debilitating in case of students who are unable to progress in school. Many tend to give up education because of this fear.
Causes of Graphophobia
The fear of writing usually originates from a negative experience in one’s past. Apart from technicalities, many Scriptophobes are also afraid of fear of rejection, fear of ridicule or the fear of embarrassing themselves or fear of being criticized etc. A student might have been rebuked or laughed at owing to something s/he has written or even for their handwriting. This episode can trigger panic attacks each time one has to write in class. This deeply conditioned response can create negative thinking patterns which are hard to change or overcome. Other issues like deep rooted lack of self esteem or the fear of persecution can also cause the fear of writing phobia.
Fear of excess success can also cause a fear of writing. This may be strange to believe, but the person who suffers from it actually develops a strange complex that makes him feel afraid of writing down his personal thoughts.
Fear of exposure can also lead to Graphophobia- it makes the writer feel vulnerable that s/he is exposing the innermost thoughts or that their writing could lead to devastating outcomes.
Writing one’s ideas and thoughts is usually therapeutic for some yet at the same time; a person could feel that if someone reads those thoughts it would violate their privacy. Words can also trigger anger, sadness or evoke other emotional responses. Someone’s private matters becoming public knowledge can therefore lead to a paranoia which is akin to being naked in public.
News reports such as writers having written an explosive column and being persecuted (in communist countries etc) or even touch trigger bombs that explode due to touching writing devices can all lead to fear of writing. The latter is an extreme and exceptional case, and a majority of the cases of Scriptophobia usually stem from other causes explained above.
Symptoms of Scriptophobia
Depending on the extent of one’s fear of writing phobia, the patient can suffer from various physical and emotional symptoms.
- Some Graphophobes are extremely guarded about their writing. They might write only at night to avoid being seen by others. They will be particular about where and what they write.
- In other extreme cases, just the thought of having to write something can lead one to have a dry mouth, elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, nausea, etc.
- Students might experience debilitating symptoms due to this fear such as the inability to write in school or finish projects owing to the fear of embarrassment. They might try to avoid writing at all costs. Many tend to miss school frequently complaining about stomach ache or other disorders-anything which will let them stay at home.
Parents often tend to be strict with the kids suffering from Scriptophobia. This causes the child to feel isolated, depressed and anxious all the time. Many kids also develop other fears like that of sleeping alone or might experience bed wetting due to this fear of writing. Others tend to be lonely or some even have imaginary friends. Therapy is of utmost importance in treating this phobia in younger patients.
Overcoming the fear of writing
As stated above, children with Scriptophobia need to be treated with TLC and if needed, a therapist or school counselor must be consulted. It is important to get to the bottom of the fear through hypnotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy and other desensitization techniques.
Adult Scriptophobes must first learn to accept their fears. This will get them in a better position to overcome it. Phobics can also try making themselves more comfortable while writing-some soothing music, nice bright lights, or writing near an open window sometimes can create a an ambience that is conducive to writing.
These days, there are many different devices available for writing. You can type on a typewriter or a computer instead of traditional pen and paper. You can also read more to get inspired-these small things can help you overcome your fear of writing. Write whatever comes to mind even if it is gibberish. The important step is to start and take the first step and continue until you reach the end. You could imagine enjoying yourself while writing and focus on the goal or the end objective of why you are writing in the first place.
If writing down thoughts is hard, you can try and record them on a voice recorder, create a brief written outline and later fill in the gaps. Finally, Scriptophobia or Graphophobia can be overcome by practicing writing daily. One can start a daily blog or keep a journal-the key is to write something every day. These are good practices to get people to accept what you write and slowly overcome your fear of writing once and for all.
Daniel G Ward says
Since my divorce 12 years ago, I have had a problem signing legal documents in public. I have no problem signing any documents at home and alone. Once I go to a lawyer’s office or doctor’s office, something triggers this anxiety. And I’m a mess. What can I do going forward?
I never knew so many people had this same issue. I feel somewhat better that I’m not alone. I have a fear of signing my name in front of others. I know how to sign my name, but I get so nervous when I have to sign in front of others. At my job, we constantly have to sign documents. No matter how hard I try to calm my nerves and tell myself, don’t get nervous – you can do this. It just doesn’t work. I beat myself up about it every time and think: why does this happen? I believe I become nervous that someone is standing over me, and I have to hurry up and sign this document. The funny thing is when I have to just write, it doesn’t bother me. It’s truly embarrassing, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m incompetent.
I’ve been suffering from this for years. I’m praying to God that I overcome it because I feel it’s holding me back from doing what I’m supposed to do. Any advice, please help.
Roseline Iroegbu says
Please, I need help with this writing phobia. How do I get the help?
I wish we could know. I have the same challenge with my son, and school just keeps getting tougher each year as expected.
As someone who developed this phobia while in grade school, I have to say that the only thing that truly helped me was to have a scribe. I have recently graduated college, and I owe finishing my thesis to my trusted friends and family members who would let me dictate my thoughts to them, and they’d type it up for me. If your son needs help in the classroom, maybe assigning a classmate or teacher’s aid to him to help him take notes or take dictation on projects could be arranged. I’ve seen accommodations like this in college courses, and I think it could be used elsewhere.
Joe Leonard says
At 30 years old, I’ve only just found out that what I have is a phobia. It’s caused me serious problems for work and life, being constantly made to feel stupid or lazy, just because I couldn’t describe what the problem was. I have tried therapy for GAD but will try it for this also. Hypnotherapy could be useful with that right person, but I may also try the beta blockers.
Thank you so much for writing this article! I wish more people knew about this. I want to show this to my school teachers to help them not make the same mistakes on other children.
I have suffered from health problems and scriptophobia for 4 years.
Dorothy Hollie says
I am 71 now and have overcome my writing phobia. I suffered with it for more than 30 years. If someone was looking at my hand, my hand would stick to the paper and when it did move, it would scribble the word and I would be so embarrassed. I am a college graduate with a master degree. I can’t recall having that problem in college.
I also can’t recall having this problem in high school. I just started a job 2 days ago and there is writing involved in public! My hands sweat, I start to shake.. it’s terrible!
What did you do to overcome this? I’m 62 and still suffer from writing phobia.
I’m suffering from the same situation, don’t know how to go about it. Do you have any information that could help me overcome this situation? Most times I feel embarrassed after writing in public.
Dibakar ghosh says
I got this phobia a decade ago. I can’t sign or write in front of anyone, my hand starts shaking like an old woman. This is creating a lot of problems for me.
I am shivering when i am going to write. I fought the spelling some time, how to spell my name. What can i do for this please.
I think I have scriptophobia not the fear of writing in public but penning my thoughts onto paper. The irony is I teach writing and my students get it and do well but deep down I struggle constantly thinking I’m a fraud.
This fear has kept me from pursuing a higher degree because it involves a lot of writing my personal opinion on the subject matter.
This site has helped me reflect on what my fear is all about and I am taking control of it from today onwards. Wish me luck!
Gregers Andersen says
Yes, I have this phobia as well. I’m a minister in a church and am called on frequently to write things down, like written reports. I do all my handwriting from the safety of my office, but I’ll never let anyone see it. I’ll use a keyboard and print anything that needs to go public. If I have to attend a course, I’ll make excuses for leaving before I have to write anything. The strange thing is, I’m good at writing, my spelling is sometimes a little challenging and at other times it’s not. Go figure?
I never write in public, but in saying that sometimes I’m caught out as in having to fill in forms for people who can’t write, or having to witness passports etc. When I do have to write, my handwriting goes from bad to very bad. My spelling is shocking and I’m left feeling like an idiot. And the people whom I’m writing for look at me like I’m stupid. But I’d rather have this phobia than many others I’ve seen, so I thank God for small mercies.
M. thilakavathy says
Could you overcome this phobia?
My case is not exactly graphophobia or scriptophobia but somewhere near that of it. It’s more like I am afraid that my handwriting will turn imperfect and there will be different sizes of the words I write and it would look shabby. I’ll literally tear that paper off my notebook and start all over again. And I think this phobia hit me not because of negative experiences but positive ones where I was praised for my handwriting. That created a line of neatness to pass and created kind of a pride in me and I could never let anyone down with my handwriting. Firstly I didn’t really care how it turned up, until one of my friends criticized me (I wouldn’t actually call it ‘criticized’ he probably just said that to advice me) and then my parents. Things just went down for me, I would spend hours on a few paragraphs. It’s gotten less worse because I learned that it was a problem and forced myself not to tear off what I did. I did say it got better because of my decision. I think it’s more like fear of imperfection.
How did you solve this problem? Please reply to me.
Marilou Remolacio says
I had the same problem. I don’t know how to overcome this phobia. Its stressing me a lot. I need my hands. I need to write normal. I cannot be like this!
I can’t believe there is a term for what I experience everyday. Just writing this comment makes me anxious. I would rather dig ditches than write. It interferes with my life in so many ways. Glad I’m not alone.
I’m not afraid of my own handwriting. I’m afraid of others’. Seeing it is the same reaction I get to seeing a spider. I can’t eat or sleep when I see it, and it’s been this way since I was five. I don’t know if it counts as graphophobia, but I’ve never heard of anything like it before
Shukdeb karmakar says
I am suffering from writing phobia from long back. Please suggest.
I got this phobia one year ago I can’t sign or write in front of anyone my hand starts shaking like an old women this is creating a lot of problems to me.
I’m also facing the same situation, did you find any solution?
I am also facing the same situation. Any help?
s marthur says
I am writing this late, so hope you see it. I suffered with this for years – it caused problems with jobs, social etc. Therapy did no good (I even had a psychiatrist belittle my problem – how dare I come with such a small thing). My answer? A psychiatrist prescribed a small amount of propranolol (Inderal) 20 mg of this beta blocker an hour before you have to sign or write (or take in the morning and it lasts 8 hours). Few side effects, not addictive and you don’t need higher doses.
All I can say is this, I had always been very good at writing, and wrote lovely, but a long time ago I was in a reception area and had to answer the phone then log notes for the social workers of children’s cases, anyhow I was rang one day with a lady in a panic asking for a social worker, that I could not get hold of (I did work in a room on my own) I tried everything I could to get hold of one of them, to no avail, then was accused of potentially having killed a child because they did not have the information!
I have been trying to establish where this phobia comes from but I know it is from my past and like said earlier in the page I feel naked now writing in front of anyone, pen will not work but at home it is normally fine, I didn’t get it, now I sort of do, it has to do with feeling criticized, I know this is in my head. When I saw the wording for it, I will tell the Job Centre what this is and how bad I feel about it, makes me feel stupid and I am not. Thank you.
Debmilan rao says
I have developed this phobia after a traumatic experience. It is so debilitating that I can’t attain jobs, exams or interviews. This is ruining my career.
Did you ever figure this out? I am going to therapy tomorrow for this after 10 years of avoidance.
I understand. It’s real. I suffer too. I have found ways to get through life with this phobia. Use things to shield your hand , even breathes and know it won’t kill you. Scribble with your pen, like to get it too write and ask the person your with a question about themselves. It takes their attention from you and what you’re doing. If it’s cold wear gloves. It’s easy to write with gloves for some reason. Vote and get that Dem Joe Donnelly out of there. Write a letter when you’re by yourself with someone near but not paying attention and keep telling yourself that that person is standing right next to you but keep writing. It works .
David Del Grande says
This is the second website I’ve visited on this dreadful subject and I am quite surprised that I am not alone with this problem. At 67 years of age I’ve had this phobia most of my adult life. I have yet to come up with a solution besides avoiding situations where I must write in front of someone. Thank you for the information.
I can’t control my fear when writing on board in class, I feel that people is going to laugh at me
Thanks, you have really been of help to me.
Thank you for writing this… Thank you for the advice. I have been dealing with this fear since I was very young and I hope that through practise, writing will become a source of pleasure rather than pain.
David Finnigan says
I have the same thing. Mine started about 10 years ago, when I had to fill out an application for a job and the employer themselves was watching me do it intensely. I panicked, and as a result I could not even control the pen in my hand…. Try to sign things in front of someone and its always an ordeal, I need a secretary wife cause its just not worth the hassle :D
Arun chauhan says
I have completed my MBA and now I have a job. I also have the same problem of writing. This problem has been with me for the last 7 years. Now the position is that I am not able to hold a pen or pencil in my hand properly. It shivers in front of others and while writing anything I also forget the spellings of words. This is only because of fear of writing. Sir can you suggest me some steps to overcome from it. Without writing I am an illiterate person who is having all degrees.
Dear Arun, do not panic and think that you only have this problem. Every problem has its solution do not worry much.. you can gain your inner confidence soon. Firstly forget you are having a problem. Secondly write something very slowly alone. Thirdly write or draw a picture you love more in front of unknown people.. Then slowly write in front of known people. Im sure you will get good at handwriting soon. All you need is your confidence back and do not read much about the problem of writing it will take you to the state where you cant write. Writing is not the only parameter that will decide your life. So do not worry, practice makes man perfect. All the best.
Mohammad Ramiz Uddin says
You said the truth… i am like you. Many people says you are a highly educated person but why are you not successful? I always feel like this.. if you find any solution please reply to me brother.
Moin kureshi says
I have a writing problem, i have not written for the past 4 years. Before i wrote with the right hand, now i write sir with the left hand.
I took treatment from the neurologist. In the report everything was normal. Sir i am suffering from this problem. What do i do? So please reply with your suggestions fast.
Richard UK says
I have been suffering for years with this problem. In my 20s it was extremely difficult. Now in my 30s I am starting to cope a little bit better with this condition. Lifestyle changes have helped loads. Meditation, exercise, good sleep pattern and healthier diet. Plus cutting down on alcohol. Then next day my nerves are out of control from a night out with friends at the bars.
CBT is excellent, but £40 per hour private or there is the NHS long waiting list. Talking Changes is a free online NHS help service. I am also on GP medication to cope with my anxiety.
I am currently back at college this week. Needing my meds to calm me down. I was extremely panicky as it was my first day. I was ok in the morning and panicked in the afternoon. My hands started to shake and my writing was not neat. I forgot to take my meds at lunch time.
Next weeks plan at college is to continue my meds and listen to my meditation music in one ear phone and have my large file hiding my writing from others. These techniques are only there for me until I start feeling comfortable in class and start making friends which should calm down my anxiety. I am not going to let anxiety trap me indoors and control my life. I will always get out in the community and face my fears or they will only get worse. Wish me luck.
I wasn’t aware of Graphophobia or Scriptophobia, but it’s surprising how many phobias there are from your website.
I can say I don’t have that problem as I write a journal everyday, but just need information on dealing with Nosocomephobia.