Spectrophobia: The Fear Of Mirrors And What It Means
By: Dylan Buckley
Updated February 09, 2020
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 suffer from it, this disorder can make daily life a challenge.
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 means 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 something 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 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, the predisposition toward a phobia. It can also be a learned response from friends or family who has the same phobia or who have instilled a fear of the thing into an 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 are 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.
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.
If you're looking for a therapist, it's important to look at the options are around you. There are plenty of different therapists out there, but it can sometimes be difficult to find someone you like that's also available in your area, which is why BetterHelp is a great option. It's a service that helps you connect with therapists and other mental health professionals without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. You'll never have to visit a therapist in person again, because you can have all your sessions right online with anyone you feel comfortable with. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"She came at the perfect time in my life. I was in a tough place but most importantly I didn't know what my issues were or how to address them. But the insight and compassion and kindness that Merissa gave me was so powerful:) I will live everyday thinking of what she taught me about myself and my anxiety. Thank you, Merissa!"
"Ari has been great. I like his logical approach to things and he has been able to teach me tangible things I can use everyday to manage my anxiety. He gives me the time to speak about what is bothering me and never passes any judgment. Instead, through his wisdom, he is able to show me different perspectives and approaches them with me very gently. I really appreciate this. I would highly recommend him to anyone who is ready to get the help they need."
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. Take the first step today.