Hoplophobia (fear of weapons): symptoms, causes and treatment

Experiencing a certain fear in the presence of a gun is a natural reaction from the point of view of reason. In addition, the amount of accidents, misfortunes or catastrophes associated with them does not help this change.

However, leaving aside their reputation or the personal opinion that each has of them, a number of cases have been reported in which people express an irrational and extreme fear of these artifacts, this fear is known as hoplophobia.

What is hoplophobia?

Hoplophobia is a specific phobia in which the person experiences an unusual, heightened and unfounded fear of guns in general or guns in particular.

If we consider the origin of the term, it derives from the Greek expression “hoplon” which means weapon and “phobos” which can be translated as fear. So it is logical to think that this phobia includes any type of weapon like pistols, guns, rifles or any other type of firearm.

Sometimes this phobia is also manifested as an irrational and excessive fear of people carrying or using weapons, or even he may even exhibit a great rejection or aversion to toy guns.

Like all other existing phobias, a person with hoplophobia will experience a series of emotions and physical manifestations associated with a very high state of anxiety.

History of the term hoplophobia

In 1962, Colonel Jeff Cooper, an instructor and gun specialist, coined the term to refer to a phenomenon he had witnessed on a recurring basis. This phenomenon consisted of a kind of mental disorder which was distinguished by irrational aversion or terror towards weapons.

Another feature that sets Cooper apart is that people with hoplophobia have a number of recurring thoughts that guns can have their own will..

Hoplophobia is currently being studied from a psychological point of view, which attempts to understand the internal devices involved in the development of a phobic fear. Although there is not a large volume of research on hoplophobia, it fits perfectly with the requirements that a phobic fear must meet. It must be:

  • disproportionate
  • irrational
  • Be outside the domain or control of the person
  • persevering

Due to all of these characteristics, it is common for the person suffering from hoplophobia to avoid contact with any type of firearm by all means. He will also make all kinds of escape routes whenever he discovers the presence of a gun.


Since hoplophobia falls under the classification of specific phobias, its symptoms are similar to those of any other such anxiety disorder.

These anxious manifestations appear whenever the person is in front of a gun, even when it is not clearly visible.. In other words, a person with hoplophobia can only begin to experience symptoms when they see a police officer with a gun hanging from their belt.

Like other phobias, this symptomatology can be divided into physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms.

1. Physical symptoms

The feelings of fear in the presence or the observation of a firearm generate hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system of the brain. This intensification of the functioning of the nervous system generates all kinds of changes and transformations in the body.

During the anxiety episode, the person may experience many physical symptoms. These include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • tachycardias
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Feeling of suffocation
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Headache

  • An upset stomach
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • fear of heights
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • dry mouth

2. Cognitive symptoms

Hoplophobia is associated with a number of beliefs and speculations compared to the fear of guns.

These distorted thoughts lead to the development of this phobia and stand out because the person incorporates a series of illogical beliefs about guns and their attributes or qualities.

3. Behavioral symptoms

As expected given the nature of this fear, hoplophobia has a number of behavioral symptoms. This behavioral symptomatology manifests itself in avoidance and evasion behaviors.

Avoidance behaviors refer to all acts or behaviors that the person performs with the intention of avoiding encountering the phobic stimulus.. In this way, they manage to avoid the anguish and anxiety generated by the situation.

As for the behavior or acts of escape, if the person cannot avoid meeting the object of his phobia, in this case the weapons, will do everything necessary to escape the situation in which he is involved.

the causes

As mentioned above, there is not a large volume of study on hoplophobia, so its causes are still fully established. However, it is speculated that its etiology has the same basis as other specific phobias.

Considering the theories on the development of phobias, people with traumatic experiences related to weapons or in education proclaiming an intense rejection of them would be much more likely to develop this type of phobia.


In most of the cases hoplophobia is not very disabling because the number of situations in which a person has to witness or have to deal with a weapon is generally not high.

Therefore, since hoplophobia usually does not interfere with a person’s daily life, very few people turn to professional help to treat this anxiety disorder.

However, there are a number of specific situations or contexts in which it is possible for this phobia to interfere with a person’s daily routine. These exceptions include people living in countries where possession of firearms is legal, or people working in contexts where it is common to use them; as with security guards or police forces.

In these cases, psychotherapy interventions that include cognitive behavioral treatment are very effective. This treatment can lead the person to overcome their phobic fear by gradually exposing them to the stimulus accompanied by training in relaxation techniques.

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