Algophobia (fear of pain): symptoms, causes and treatment

There are as many phobias as there are stimuli or things in the world. So you can have a phobia of anything. In this article we will know about a little known phobia, algophobia or pain phobia.

Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that involves disproportionate or irrational fear of certain stimuli, objects, or situations, and which causes interference in a person’s life. Algophobia is considered a specific phobia because the stimulus or the feared situation can materialize (pain).

    What is legophobia?

    In algophobia, the fear that appears is abnormal and persistent, and goes beyond “normal” fear suffer from pain. It is a more common phobia in the elderly. It can be treated with behavioral treatments and also with anxiolytic drugs, as we will see later.


    Algophobia is characterized by fear in a “phobic” way any type of experience related to pain, Not just “the pain itself”. People with algophobia can develop a strong obsession with any situation, circumstance, or stimulus that can produce sensations of pain. Thus, in algophobia, the phobic element is pain as an experience and / or sensation.

    What a person with algophobia fears is actually the subjective perception of pain. This implies that there are no specific mechanisms to detect which stimuli (and which are not) may be phobic for the person. In other words, it cannot be established what type of pain or sensation will be high enough that the person reacts with a phobic fear in front of them.

    On another side, it is also not essential that the person be exposed to health situations that cause them pain for algophobia to affect their daily routine.

    Having algophobia can significantly affect a person’s quality of life and interfere with their normal functioning or behavior. This is why it is important to properly detect its characteristics and to design specific interventions to treat it.

    the causes

    The causes of algophobia are the same as the causes of specific phobias, although depending on the type of phobia these can vary.

    In the case of algophobia, this may have appeared by conventional conditioning (By associating the sensation of pain with another negative stimulus, although in this case the pain itself is already aversive); it can also be the result of traumatic experiences (direct conditioning), if the person has been subjected to uncontrollable or excessively intense pain situations.

    On the other hand, phobias are also “inherited”, that is to say they can be acquired by observation (For example that the person’s mother has also manifested this phobia, and the person eventually acquires it), or through conditioning or proxy modeling processes (for example, that the person has seen another suffer a lot pain and / or pain phobia).

    Finally, conditioning by transmission of information can also give rise to algophobia; in this case, third parties would contribute to the development of algophobia (that is, third parties would explain the pain situations and symptoms of their disease to the person, who would eventually develop the phobia).


      The psychological treatment of algophobia would be the same as for a specific phobia; like that, live exposure is used as the treatment par excellence (Behavioral treatment), cognitive behavioral therapy, with the aim of eliminating the cognitive distortions associated with the phobia, and finally we can also use the exposure via virtual reality (in experimental phase).

      At the pharmacological level, anxiolytics can be used (To reduce anxiety), although it is not recommended to use them in exhibitions in the case of behavioral treatment, because the therapeutic effect is reduced (the person does not cope with the situation in a “Natural”). However, they can be used in addition to other psychological therapies.

      Types of phobias

      It is important to know that DSM-IV characterizes and encompasses 3 types of phobias. These three types are: agoraphobia (fear of various situations), specific phobia (fear of a specific object or situation) and social phobia (fear of social situations or public performance).

      Algophobia would be included as a specific kind of phobia, as in it we are afraid of a stimulus or a specific situation; in this case, pain (or the subjective experience of pain).

      Bibliographical references:

      • Gratacós, M. Algophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments. Lifeder
      • Belloch, A .; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volume II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill
      • APA (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid. Panamericana.
      • Aguilar, B. (2016). Pain and suffering in medicine. Rev Urug Car diol, 31, 10-14.

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