Spectrophobia: The Fear Of Mirrors And What It Means
By: Dylan Buckley
Updated August 09, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Richard Jackson
You may be familiar with some common phobias. There's agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces. Acrophobia is the fear of heights. You may recall the film Arachnophobia-but if you had a fear of spiders, you probably skipped that one. And, of course, there's the ubiquitous claustrophobia. But you might not have heard of spectrophobia—the fear of mirrors. For those who experience it, spectrophobia, also called catoptrophobia, or eisoptrophobia, can make daily life a challenge, and potentially cause major disruptions.
What Is Spectrophobia?
Spectrophobia is the fear of mirrors or more specifically, the fear of the images reflected within them. For someone that doesn't suffer from this disorder, a mirror is a good thing because it lets you see how you look, get ready for the day, and otherwise plan for whatever you want to look like. For someone with this phobia, however, it can be a big problem. This phobia may also include an extreme fear of ghosts or spirits, which stems from popular superstitions that mirrors can be used to contact the dead or act as portals to the supernatural.
For those who are afraid of the mirror itself, it's possible that the fear is related to a fear of bad luck if they break the mirror. People with spectrophobia may also be afraid of reflections in anything and everything around them, even if it's not a mirror. This can cause them to have problems with glass or metal and other reflective surfaces because it's sometimes possible to see a reflection in these materials. Because the image is usually faint and difficult to see, it can reinforce the belief of an apparition or spectral being in the reflection.
For someone afflicted with this disorder, life can be quite difficult. Sure, you can hide the mirrors in your own home and avoid them completely. You can even cover all the windows and stay away from reflective surfaces. But when you're out somewhere, it's impossible to avoid reflections. How are you supposed to cope when you walk by something reflective or deal with several reflective surfaces throughout the day?
Having spectrophobia may mean changing everything about your life to stay away from reflections. While others may not understand what's going on or understand the intensity of the fear, for you it's all-consuming. Simply ignoring the reflection isn't an option, because as soon as you see it, the reaction can be intense and immediate, causing feelings of panic.
Symptoms Of Phobias
How do you know that what you're experiencing is a type of phobia? Well, in general, phobias cause an overwhelming fear response that may be triggered by sights or sounds (for example hearing the bark of a dog if you have a fear of dogs). The fear response can encompass a range of different things and may be severe depending on the specific person and their level of fear regarding the trigger.
Panic symptoms, which may occur if the object you are afraid of gives you extreme anxiety, may consist of trouble breathing, shortness of breath, nausea, racing or irregular heartbeat, dry mouth, shaking, sweating or anything related to panic. These symptoms may occur in any order or combination. It's important to watch for any symptoms that are strange to you or cause you any distress. It is also important to treat these symptoms while you are dealing with your phobia to lessen the impact of your fear.
Where Do Phobias Come From?
In many cases, phobias come about as a result of something that happened to you at some point in your life. The traumatic experience led you to develop a fear of that experience happening again, and your fear response is your body attempting to give you a fight-or-flight response, so you are able to avoid another traumatic experience related to that situation. Others believe that phobias may have some genetic or even hereditary cause, though the specific phobia may not have come from anyone or anywhere in particular. Rather, there exists a passed-along predisposition toward a phobia. It can also be a learned response from friends or family who have the same phobia or who have instilled a fear of the thing into the individual at a young age.
Although counseling is vital to overcoming your phobia and working through it, that doesn't mean there aren't things you can do on your own to start the path to recovery. Here are some of the things you can do before and during therapy.
Determine How Your Spectrophobia Affects You
There is a myriad of reasons why you may be afraid of reflective surfaces. Perhaps it is because there is something involved with your self-perception, or perhaps you are more spiritual and are worried that something may appear in the reflection. Determining the true reason behind your fear will greatly improve your ability to conquer it.
Do Your Best to Push Your Limits
While you shouldn't start uncovering your mirrors and staring into reflective surfaces, you should try to see what you are capable of doing so that you can begin to deal with the phobia. What little you can do, try to fit it into your day so that you become a little less scared of mirrors as you go along. It may be difficult, at first; but the more you expose yourself to reflective surfaces in non-threatening circumstances, the better your chance of overcoming your phobia.
Treat Other Symptoms As Well
Fear comes with anxiety, and anxiety comes with its own set of symptoms that can impact your mental health and wellbeing. Make sure you are doing exercises and treating this anxiety as you go along to make the process easier for you.
An increasing number of studies show that online therapy can help individuals recover from phobias such as spectrophobia. In one study, researchers examined the benefits of online cognitive-behavioral therapy when treating the fear of public speaking. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, works by helping participants reframe intrusive, unhelpful thought patterns underlying unwanted feelings or behaviors, such as the fear of public speak or reflective surfaces. This particular form of CBT combined online exposure therapy and cognitive therapy, and was found to be as effective as the traditional form of the same treatment. Exposure therapy is a way of introducing the phobia trigger to participants in a non-threatening way, so that they are able to develop a less negative association with it, and hopefully, overcome their fear.
It can sometimes be difficult to find someone you connect with who is also available in your area, which is why BetterHelp is a great option. Online therapy through BetterHelp allows you to connect with a therapist without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. A qualified mental health professional knows how to help you address complex feelings related to a phobia. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
“Joyce is a fantastic therapist! My anxiety is a lot better, and I have less fear examining the issues that bother me. She has allowed me to pause and reflect, and really get to the bottom of some issues that have kept me going in circles for a long time. I like her approach, because it doesn't feel like a formula, it's about learning to know yourself better. Thank you Joyce! My life is changing, and I am finding my voice because of you!”
“I've been through a great deal of counseling throughout the years. Ive done many online sessions since covid began. Ive had a few different counselors online looking for someone I can connect with. Someone who would understand that my complaints are very serious to me but may not be that serious to my counselor. Or my fears are real to me. Michele is different. She is caring. She listens to me and gives a different perspective that I often dont think of. I've actually felt comfortable sharing my struggles with her in depth. She has texted me via app to check on me time and time again. She quickly responds to every message or journal entry I make. She has given me some support that I dont have in my everyday life. I'm grateful i finally found someone who i feel cares. And when you are seeking this type of service you are looking for a caring understanding person. Michele is just that. I highly recommend her. She is so supportive. And I know shes there anytime I need her. Her schedule is perfect. She works all hours of the day and evening. You don't have to wait till next week or later to talk about the crisis I seem to be facing today. I'm very happy and comfortable in confiding in her.”
Mirrors and other reflective surfaces do not have to rule your life and prevent you from living like everyone else. A fulfilling life is possible—all you need are the right tools to get there.
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