Spectrophobia: The Fear Of Mirrors And What It Means

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated July 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Spectrophobia refers to the fear of mirrors or reflective surfaces. It’s sometimes also called eisoptrophobia or catoptrophobia.

For those who experience it, spectrophobia can make daily life a challenge and potentially cause major disruptions. However, there are treatments available for spectrophobia and other specific phobias. 

Below, we’ll discuss spectrophobia, the symptoms it can cause, and ways to overcome it.

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Are you afraid to face the person in the mirror?

What is spectrophobia?

Spectrophobia is the fear of mirrors or the fear of the images reflected within them. For someone who doesn't experience this phobia, a mirror is often a good thing because it lets them see how they look and get ready for the day. However, for someone with this phobia, the presence of mirrors can cause significant challenges. This phobia may also include an extreme fear of ghosts or spirits, which may 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 a 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 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 experiencing this phobia, everyday life can present significant challenges. They may be able to hide mirrors in their home and even cover all the windows and stay away from reflective surfaces, but when they are out somewhere, it may be impossible to avoid reflections. 

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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 a person experiencing this phobia, it can be all-consuming. Simply ignoring the reflection may not be an option, because as soon as you see it, the reaction can be intense and immediate, causing feelings of panic.

Symptoms of phobias

Phobias can 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 symptoms and may be severe depending on the 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 shortness of breath, nausea, a racing or irregular heartbeat, dry mouth, shaking, sweating, or anything related to panic. These symptoms may occur in any order or combination. 

Where do phobias come from?

In many cases, phobias come about as a result of something that happened to a person at some point in life. The traumatic experience may have led a person to develop a fear of that experience happening again, and their fear may be their body’s fight-or-flight response to avoid another traumatic experience. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Phobias may also have some genetic or hereditary cause, though a specific phobia may not have come from anyone or anywhere in particular. Rather, there may be a predisposition toward a phobia that is passed along from one generation to another. A phobia can also be a learned response from friends or family who have the same phobia and who have instilled a fear of the thing into an individual at a young age.

Moving forward

Counseling may help you overcome a phobia, but there are also some strategies you can do on your own to start the path to recovery. Below are some of the things you can do before and during therapy.

Determine how your spectrophobia affects you

There are a number of reasons that a person can experience a fear of mirrors of reflective surfaces. It could be related to their self-perception, or some people may be more spiritual and be worried that something may appear in the reflection. Determining the true reason behind your fear may improve your ability to conquer it.

Do your best to push your limits

While you might not benefit from immediately uncovering your mirrors and staring into reflective surfaces, you might try to see what you are capable of doing so that you can begin to address the phobia. Whatever you can do, you might try to fit it into your day so that you become a little less scared of mirrors with time. It may be difficult at first, but the more you expose yourself to reflective surfaces in non-threatening circumstances, the faster you may overcome your phobia.

Treat other symptoms as well

Fear typically comes with anxiety, and anxiety often comes with its own set of symptoms that can affect your mental health and well-being. It may help to treat this anxiety as you go along to make the process easier for you. Aside from using self-care strategies, it may help to speak with a licensed therapist to address your anxiety.

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Are you afraid to face the person in the mirror?

Seek help for spectrophobia

Research shows that online therapy can help individuals recover from phobias such as spectrophobia. In one study, researchers examined the benefits of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat the fear of public speaking. CBT aims to help participants reframe intrusive, unhelpful thought patterns underlying unwanted feelings or behaviors, such as the fear of public speak or reflective surfaces. In the abovementioned study, CBT consisted of online exposure therapy and cognitive therapy. 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.

If your phobia makes it difficult to leave home for therapy, you might consider trying online therapy, which allows you to connect with a therapist from the comfort of your home or anywhere with an internet connection. You can communicate with a therapist in a way that’s most comfortable for you, whether by phone, live chat, videoconferencing, or a combination of these methods. You can also message your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may prove to be helpful if you experience fear in between sessions and want to write down what you’re experiencing in the moment.

Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar concerns.

Counselor reviews

“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. I've 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 don't think of. 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 don't 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 she's 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.”

Takeaway

Spectrophobia is a fear of mirrors or reflective surfaces. If you experience a fear of mirrors or other reflective surfaces, know that you are not alone. There are evidence-based treatments for your phobia, both in person and online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people overcome phobias of all kinds. Take the first step toward overcoming spectrophobia and reach out to BetterHelp today.
It is possible to overcome phobias
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