Spectrophobia: The Fear Of Mirrors And What It Means
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
How rare is the fear of mirrors?
There are no statistics currently available for how common spectrophobia, or the anxiety disorder related to a fear of mirrors, is in particular, though it’s thought to be quite rare. Specific phobias in general are thought to affect around 12.5% of the population at some point in their lives.
Developing phobias characterized by intense anxiety, intense fear, and related physical symptoms may be more likely in a person with a family history of anxiety disorders. The experience of a traumatic event(s) may also make certain anxiety disorders more likely to manifest. Mental health professionals typically treat specific phobias through some form of therapy such as behavioral therapy or exposure therapy.
What is the rarest phobia in the world?
There are no statistics currently available for what the rarest specific phobia is, but some known rare types include spectrophobia (fear of mirrors), arachibutyrophobia (fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of one’s mouth), ambulophobia (fear of walking, or falling or being injured while walking), and gerascophobia (fear of getting older). There are many other phobias out there that are very rare, but data on these is limited.
What makes mirrors scary?
A phobia of mirrors can sometimes be related to cultural beliefs or superstitions about mirrors being portals to the supernatural or ways to contact the dead. A person may also avoid mirrors for fear of breaking one due to superstitions related to years of bad luck.
Why can't I look at myself in the mirror?
A person might feel that they can’t look at themselves in the mirror for multiple reasons. First, they could feel shame related to an action they regret or to insecurities that were instilled in them by caregivers, peers, or the media. A person may also have trouble looking in the mirror if they experience body dysmorphic disorder, which is a mental illness that generally requires professional treatment. Alternatively, a person could avoid mirrors because they have spectrophobia, a fear of mirrors. An anxiety disorder classified as a specific phobia also requires treatment to manage.
Can you have more than 1 phobia?
Yes; it’s possible for a person to have more than one specific phobia at a time. Mental health conditions and anxiety disorders like these typically require professional support in order for symptoms to resolve. Treating specific phobias is usually done through some form of therapy.
What is an obsession with mirrors called?
Compulsively checking one’s own reflection and appearance in the mirror can be a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder. BDD is a diagnosable mental illness related to negative thoughts and compulsions around body image, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
How many phobias exist?
The DSM-5 doesn’t list an official number of specific phobias, perhaps because one can develop in response to almost anything. There are currently several hundred named phobias, but the number of possibilities of this condition is likely far greater.
What are the hardest phobias to live with?
The hardest phobias to live with are typically those related to situations or objects one is likely to encounter frequently in their daily life. Examples could include ambulophobia (the fear of walking) and spectrophobia (the fear of mirrors). Seeking professional treatment can help a person manage their symptoms and, in many cases, overcome their phobia.
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