Hamartophobia (fear of sin): symptoms, causes and treatment

In this article we will talk about a phobia that is very little known in the clinic, and not very widespread, although very curious: hamartophobia. It is the phobia of sin or of mistakes that is considered “unforgivable” for the person.

Let’s see how it manifests itself, the causes it can cause, and some treatment options for its treatment.

    Hamartophobia: what is it?

    Hamartophobia is a fairly unknown type of phobia: sin phobia. It is a specific phobia, because the object or situation that produces the phobia can be determined (in this case, the act of sinning or making “unforgivable” mistakes).

    So, as such, it is defined as persistent, abnormal and unjustified fear to commit sins.

    Hamartophobia as a specific phobia could be included in the group of phobias with “other” stimuli, within the DSM classification.

    People who suffer from hamartophobia are afraid of making unforgivable mistakes or sins. The fear of sin often arises from the fact that the so-called “divine laws” are written in human language, and therefore are subject to a constant need for interpretation.

    This brings us to think about hermeneutics, art or the theory of interpretation of texts, especially sacred scriptures and philosophical and artistic texts. This tradition as a whole is supported by the lack of concrete and objective evidence that God or the gods do have a plan for human beings, or that the gods thought of the world for moral and just reasons.

      The seven deadly sins

      According to the earliest teachings of Christianity, there are seven deadly sins considered to be “vices” and transmitted to educate disciples on Christian morality. Thus, hamartogobia may well include the fear of committing one or more of these seven sins.

      Let’s see what they are and what they consist of:

      1. Lust

      It is the excessive presence of thoughts of a sexual type as well as possessive thoughts related to another person, whether close or not.

      2. Gula

      These are destructive behaviors based on abuse, anxiety and gluttony. involved consuming excess food or drink, And can include selfishness that affects interpersonal relationships.

      3. Greed

      It is the height of selfishness; consists in the desire to obtain wealth, generally material, in order to save it without sharing anything with the others. Greed can also involve spending all of your wealth all the time without considering anyone.

      4. Laziness

      This sin reflects a person’s inability to do or accept something. It is based on immaturity and often harms others.

      5. Ira

      It concerns anger and hatred towards others; it is an aggressive and dangerous feeling, Which can cause irreversible damage such as homicide or murder. It also includes discrimination and sexual abuse.

      6. Envy

      Envy involves feeling the continual desire to possess what another has in their power. Sometimes this urge, if intensified, can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

      7. Pride

      The seventh deadly sin is based on this uncontrollable desire to always try to be or present oneself better than others. This involves believing yourself to be superior on a physical and / or intellectual level, overestimating yourself in an “excessive” or dysfunctional way.


      The symptoms of hamartophobia correspond to the symptoms of a specific phobia (defined in DSM-5), i.e. it is a phobia of a specific stimulus or situation (in this case, the fear of sinning). These symptoms are as follows:

      • Blessed and persistent fear of sin: this fear is excessive or irrational.
      • anxiety: Exposure to the stimulus or phobic situation (sin) causes marked anxiety.
      • Avoidance: Situations that can lead to sin are avoided or endured with great discomfort.
      • Interference in normal routine.
      • Duration of symptoms minimum of 6 months.

      the causes

      The causes of hamartophobia can be various. This may appear as a result of a rigid religious or moral education, Or for feelings of guilt associated with “unclean” acts depending on the type of religion, such as extramarital sex, lying, envy, laziness, pride, anger, etc.

      On the other hand, hamartophobia can also result from classical or operative conditioning (by associating sinful behavior with aversive consequences, such as social rejection), or by the emergence of traumatic experiences (Direct packaging).

      Other possible causes of hamartophobia are observation (vicarious conditioning) (for example, seeing someone sin with very negative consequences, or feeling extremely guilty, etc.). too much it can come from the information conditioning process (Listen to cases of serious “sins” in other people, for example).


      The psychological treatment of hamartophobia should focus on the treatment of a specific phobia; as therapeutic options, we find live exhibition (In this case, to situations which can lead to “sin”, for example, lying, sticking, stealing, etc.). It is about exposing the patient to the situation without performing avoidance behaviors. It can be accompanied by relaxation techniques or cognitive-behavioral techniques (eg Self-learning).

      On the other hand, the exhibition can also be applied in the imagination or through virtual reality.

      Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used through cognitive restructuring, with the aim of eliminating the cognitive distortions associated with the phobia, as well as dysfunctional beliefs and the meaning attributed to the act of sinning; that is to say, review with the patient “what it means to sin (for him)”, “what is considered a sin and what is not”, etc.

      Once cognitive distortions are identified, exercises can be used to replace these beliefs with more realistic alternative thoughts.

      At the pharmacological level, anxiolytics can be used (To reduce anxiety) and / or antidepressants to treat symptoms associated with hamartophobia (depression, malaise, somatic symptoms, etc.), although always in consultation and under the direction of a specialist (in this case , a psychiatrist or a specialist doctor).

      Bibliographical references:

      • Horse (2002). Manual for the cognitive-behavioral treatment of psychological disorders. Flight. 1 and 2. Madrid. 21st century (chapters 1-8, 16-18).
      • Belloch, A .; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volumes I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
      • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-5. Masson, Barcelona.

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