Religion and Phobias: What's the Connection?

Understanding the Link Between Religious Beliefs and Phobias

religious man wearing sandwich board sign
Alan Powdrill/Taxi/Getty Images

The link between religion and phobias is strong, but it's not well understood. Although a strong religious faith can bring comfort to you if you're suffering, certain phobias appear to have a religious component. These phobias often appear or worsen during a crisis of faith, but they may occur at any time. And they may happen to anyone, regardless of their religious background.

Types of Phobias With a Religious Component

There are several types of phobias that appear to have a religious component.

Some of the most common include:

  • Doomsday Phobias – Doomsday phobias can be loosely defined as those phobias that involve the end of the world. They tend to fall into two basic categories: technology phobias and fears of the "End Times." Both types of doomsday phobias may be triggered or worsened by religious belief, particularly if you have begun to question your faith. Astrophobia, or fear of space, may be related to doomsday phobias.

  • Death Phobias – Death-related fears are extremely common among people of all cultures and religious backgrounds. No matter what your faith, contemplating your own death is generally not a pleasant experience. Thanatophobia, or fear of death, is the most common of these phobias, but many people also fear the symbols of death such as tombstones and ghosts. Mythophobia, or fear of legends, may also be related to the fear of death.

  • Numerical Phobias – Different religions assign importance or power to different numbers. Although these beliefs are sometimes dismissed as superstition by modern science, belief in the power of numbers can be extremely strong. Two of the most commonly feared numbers are 13 and 666.

    Exploring the Link Between Religion and Phobias

    Religion does not cause phobias. Many people draw comfort rather than fear from their religious faith. Additionally, the phobias listed above often occur in those who do not identify themselves as religious. Instead, it seems that personal religious beliefs may be a small component of a larger picture.

    As science has not yet conclusively proven what happens after death, fear of the unknown may be the ultimate driver behind the religious component of certain phobias.

    Treating the Religious Component of Phobias

    If you feel that religion may play a role in your phobias, a two-pronged approach often works best. It is important to consult with a trained mental health professional, who will treat your phobia from a scientific perspective. Common treatments include talk therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medications.

    It's also recommended that you seek counseling with your religious leader, particularly if you are undergoing a crisis of faith. He or she can help you explore your beliefs and examine your concerns within the context of your faith. While traditional therapy is action-oriented and focused on removing the fear, religious counseling can help you resolve the underlying conflict.

    Source:

    Glas, Gerrit MD, PhD. “Anxiety, anxiety disorders, religion and spirituality.” Southern Medical Journal. June 1, 2007. 

    Continue Reading