What is Epistemophobia? (A Summary)

In this blog we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments of Epistemophobia.

Epistemophobia is an irrational fear of knowledge. It is quite a rare phobia and may exist with Phronemophobia (fear of knowledge). 

It is famously said that ‘too much knowledge is harmful’. Studying and gaining knowledge thus becomes a problem for these people and they may undergo a full blown panic attack if the thought of learning something new at school or university comes to their mind.

Epistemophobia is also called Gnosiophobia related to Sophophobia (fear of knowledge or learning). Many people refute that knowledge and education opens doors. They consider limited information as a key to happiness. 

This shows the intensity of their fear of finding out what they might know from out of the unknown.

Epistemophobia is an intense aversion to anything that helps the person gain new information or knowledge to the extent that he/she may avoid all sources of information such as the media and the like. 

Causes of Epistemophobia

To avoid the experience of anxiety itself the individual may develop Epistemophobia, so as to avoid the very cause of the uncomfortable condition. 

Physical Symptoms

These are intense and can begin without any prior warning. The person suffering from Epistemophobia experiences the full physical intensity of either all of these or some of these in combination with others.

  • hot flashes or chills
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath a choking sensation
  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • numbness 
  • dry mouth
  • ringing in ears
  • confusion 
  • hyperventilation
  • raised blood pressure
  • Promiscuous behavior

The Psychological Symptoms

During panic attack the person suffering from Epistemophobia may experience the following

  • fear of fainting
  • feelings of dread
  • fear of dying
  • guilt
  • shame
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of harm
  • fear of illness
  • self-blame
  • withdrawn
  • feeling Of hopelessness
  • feeling of disconnect
  • confusion
  • lack of concentration
  • anger
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • afraid of rejection
  • Incapacitated to enjoy the company of their partner
  • False happiness facade

Causes of Epistemophobia

As with most phobias and anxieties, there is no clear consensus about what causes Epistemophobia, but still a very plausible cause could be a fear of finding out about things that makes the person anxious.

The most common explanation is a childhood traumatic episode where a child may have experienced an event at school or a classroom where he would have faced the brunt of giving more information out than was required. 

This usually happens in strict educational places and households where the children are always not given a chance to display their worth or their knowledge. The person who suffers from Epistemophobia just wants to be free of all anxiety related to gaining knowledge, lest it be from school or from someone who is wise.

There are many religious and cultural societies in the world that discourage the attainment of knowledge and consider learning a sin.

Epistemophobia may also be due to negative emotional experiences that are faced by the sufferer earlier. People may also be afraid of losing control because this is something that is not in their hands and not controlled by them, no matter how powerful a person is.

Thus, at the time he is suffering from the symptoms of Epistemophobia, he/she feels totally helpless, aggravating their already hiked anxiety.

There are plenty of people with Epistemophobia who cannot even recall the traumatic incident that would have developed this fear. Scientists believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and other biological and environmental factors could cause such fears to develop. 

As is common in specific phobias, the cause of Epistemophobia may lie deep in the person’s childhood or its onset may be due to an environmental factor. Genetics also plays a pivotal role in the cause of developing Epistemophobia

Other causes can be as follow:

• Learned behavior

• Traumatic experiences

Etiological Models of Epistemophobia

1. Biological (Genetic) Model

Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families. The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted states can cause anxiety like symptoms.

2. Psychodiagnostics Model

If a person has suffered from a traumatic experience in early childhood it can have a severe dire impact on his later life. 

A childhood traumatic experience could be where children experienced a negative impact of events due to a change in their life. This may leave a long lasting impression. Reading books and  movies that show the negative use of power gained by knowledge can add to the fears.

3. Behavioral Model          

According to this model, irrational fears  may be caused through behaviors that are learned by replication. Children often replicate unique behaviors of their adults, parents or a favorite aunt or uncle.

If a family member is already suffering from anxiety or is scared of one or another thing, then chances are higher that only by observing this, the child may develop fears.

Treatments of Epistemophobia

These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.

1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved. This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to changes in life. This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels. CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations. Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior. Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

For the treatment of Epistemophobia, the therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions. 

  1. What thought is invoked when you think of knowledge?
  2. How do you feel when you think about gaining knowledge?
  3. What do you do when you wake up from a dream? 

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is. 

2) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)

In this therapy the client is asked to 

  1. Access the phobia in a safe environment.
  2. Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
  3. Disassociate from the phobia.

3) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment. We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. 

We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!

In Epistemophobia treatment, the client is made conscious to pay attention to his thoughts when he is thinking of what he is afraid of. Awareness helps to alleviate the stress symptoms. 

4) Meditation

For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts. The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought. The client will meditate during the thoughts of death and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus. 

5) Self-Help Groups

Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer. These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies. This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.

6) Changing Lifestyle

Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well. 

• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:

Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.

• Indulging in an exercise regime:

Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better. This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.

• Altering eating and drinking habits:

Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem. This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.

• Improving the sleep cycle:

When we get proper rest, our concentration improves. 

7) Psychiatric Medication 

There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Epistemophobia are severe.

Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.


These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Epistemophobia as well as other phobias. Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

8)  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions. A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind. Apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.

Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.

We are always here to answer if you have any queries.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Epistemophobia?

Epistemophobia is the fear of knowledge. The origin of the word epistemo is Greek (meaning knowledge) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear). Epistemophobia is also called Gnosiophobia related to Sophophobia (fear of knowledge or learning).

2. What’s the fear of knowledge called?

The fear of knowledge is called Epistemophobia.

3. Why is knowledge power?

Knowledge is called power because it gives us information and helps us learn and develop. 

4. Can therapy treat phobias?

Yes. therapies like cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy and mindfulness treat phobias.


  • www.apa.org
  • www.psychologytoday.com
  • www.brain.org
  • www.psychtimes.com

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