Fear of mirrors (catoptrophobia): causes, symptoms and therapy

There are many types of phobia that we have talked about Psychology and the mindSome very rare or strange as is the case with trypophobia. And do phobias share many symptoms in common and are quite common anxiety disorders.

All human beings can experience fear, which is an adaptive emotion that has enabled the human species to survive over the centuries. However, this adaptive emotion can become a situation that produces great discomfort and even irrational terror in the face of certain stimuli that are not at all dangerous.

In fact, one of these phobias is catoptrophobia or eisoptrophobia. The irrational fear of something as everyday as looking in the mirror.

Fear of mirrors, what is it?

Fear of mirrors or catoptrophobia it is a specific phobia that belongs to the group of anxiety disorders, Because its characteristic symptom is the discomfort and great anxiety suffered by people with phobia. Within phobic disorders, there are three groups: social phobia, agoraphobia or specific phobias. Concerning the latter case. they appear in the presence of certain objects or specific situations, such as spiders (arachnophobia), the fact of flying in an airplane (aerophobia) or, in this case, the presence of mirrors or the fact of looking at them.

Phobias cause the person suffering from them to try to avoid the feared situation or object and, for example, not to go to places where they may encounter phobic stimuli, which can alter their normal life. Perhaps in the case of fear of mirrors, this pathology rarely affects a person’s life in a very negative way except for the discomfort it causes, unlike other phobias such as claustrophobia, which makes the patient unable to get on transport. , thus hampering their work and social life.

however, it may happen that these people avoid, for example, visiting their friends so as not to have to face fear. It should be remembered that mirrors are quite common objects, and that discomfort can arise at any time, unlike other phobias in which the person rarely comes into contact with the phobic stimulus, such as snakes.

Catoptrophobia can sometimes be confused with spectrophobia, which is the fear of the existence or appearance of ghosts or spirits, as people with this phobic disorder may be afraid to see their own reflection in the mirror and think that the figure can come out of this object. .

What causes catoptrophobia?

Phobias can have different causes; But, most experts agree that irrational fears are learned. Until just a few decades ago, the belief was that phobias were genetically inherited, but this view has changed as a result of research into classical conditioning, a type of associative learning originally discovered. by a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov.

This character intended to experiment with the saliva of dogs and thus brought them food. Well, dogs salivate when they go to eat to aid the digestion process. Pavlov realized that at first the dogs salivated with the presence of food, but that after several tries, the mere presence of the researcher made the dogs salivate even in the absence of food. This meant that the dogs associated Pavlov’s presence with food, and so the scientist elicited the response that originally caused him to eat alone.

Learn about fear in humans

Pavlov’s experiments were the start of a new paradigm in psychology: behavioralism. But this current only became popular when John B. Watson popularized it in the United States and, therefore, around the world. Watson experimented with a young child so that he was afraid of certain stimuli, that is, he caused a phobia.

In addition to this theory, another hypothesis studied around the origin of phobias is that certain stimuli are more likely to be learned because we are biologically prepared for them to prevent the extinction of our species. Therefore, when we learn something, mechanisms occur that have little to do with reason and logic, and that is why it is difficult to overcome a phobia even if we are aware that the fear is irrational.

On the other hand, this phobia can develop from superstitions or false beliefs, as there is the popular belief that breaking a mirror means that bad luck has been with us for seven years.

Symptoms of catoptrophobia

Symptoms of different types of phobias, whether specific or complex (social phobia and agoraphobia), are common among these. Anxiety is undoubtedly the most characteristic feature, which is accompanied by great discomfort and an attempt to avoid mirrors. The person may feel phobia when they see mirrors or in front of their image in mirrors.

There are generally three types of catoptrophobia:

  • cognitive symptoms: Experience of fear, great anxiety or distress. Thoughts of avoidance.
  • behavioral symptoms: Adopt behaviors of escape or avoidance of stimuli.
  • physical symptoms: Rapid heartbeat, tachycardia, headache, upset stomach, etc.

How to overcome this phobia

Fortunately, phobias are taken care of and psychological treatment works very well for this type of disorder. Since its origin is learned, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective and the prognosis for patient recovery is very good.

In this type of therapy, it is common to use certain methods such as relaxation techniques or exposure techniques. One widely used type of exposure technique is systematic desensitization, which involves gradually exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus while learning more adaptive coping strategies. For example, it is possible to first show the patient images of certain mirrors, and at the end of therapy he is able to take a mirror with his own hands and look at himself without any fear.

However, this type of therapy, which works so well, belongs to the second generation therapies, but the newer third generation therapies have also been shown to be effective for any anxiety disorder. These include: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and acceptance and engagement therapy.

In extreme cases, drug therapy should also be considered as a therapeutic action, but it should always be combined with psychotherapy for symptoms to persist over time.

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