What is Hobophobia? (An Overview)

In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Hobophobia. 

Fear of beggars is called Hobophobia. Beggars or bums are poor people, suffering from poverty.

They beg and earn a living. Some of them are beggars who beg, really just to earn money but some do so in order to loot from people. 

Most of the beggars don’t do this job wholeheartedly, but because they are helpless, either due to lack of education or a body deformity which leads to unemployment.

Because, not everyone’s the same, there is a certain sect of beggars who beg for money just to fulfill their bad needs (such as buying drugs or alcohol). 

Generally, people don’t fear them unless and until they think the beggar is a potential threat to them.

If they feel they’re unsafe around them because one might rob them or they just don’t like the site of these extremely poor people, they may avoid them.

However, unlike in Hobophobia, people don’t get terrified or anxious when they see beggars. 

Hobophobia is a part of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V. It is a type of specific phobia in which one feels extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli, beggars.

At times, not just an exposure but the mere thought of them can trigger high levels of unpleasant feelings. 

The anxiety one suffers from in Hobophobia derives an individual to avoid getting exposed to their fear.

The urge to avoid beggars affects one’s social and occupational functioning.

For example, someone will avoid going to shabby areas where they feel they might encounter beggars. 

A sufferer will restrict himself into his house so he doesn’t encounter beggars on the streets or roads.

One will avoid stepping out of the house even if he has to go to school or office. 

An individual will prefer living in a more well developed area or city rather than an underdeveloped one in order to escape the sight of beggars. 

All these actions lead to one repeating them to lower his anxiety. Repetition changes repetitive acts into compulsions and one may develop OCD in the future. 

Avoiding beggars might not always be possible.

Therefore, if someone suffering from Hobophobia is unable to do so, he will suffer from excessive anxiety which will give rise to full-blown panic attacks. 

Hobophobia is an irrational fear of beggars. It is a type of specific phobia which causes one to suffer from extremely high levels of anxiety when exposed to his fear stimuli.

Symptoms of Hobophobia 

All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, have anxiety as their pivotal symptom.

Therefore, someone suffering from Hobophobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli, beggars.  

Fear of beggars is not wholly irrational because some beggars are drunk or drug addicts that might cause one harm.

And not all are needy. Though, someone suffering from this phobia is unable to rationalise his fear and ends up getting anxious. 

As mentioned earlier, one tries to avoid his fear stimuli. This avoidance is repetitive thus, one’s fear is maintained.

Because of the feelings of security avoidance produces, sufferers’ phobia intensifies as it assures them that beggars are to be feared of. 

According to the DSM-V, to be diagnosed with Hobophobia, one needs to experience anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and at least 3-5 symptoms (from the list mentioned below). 

  • Excessive anxiety when exposed to beggars 
  • Excessive anxiety when thinking about beggars 
  • Inability to manage anxiety
  • Full-blown panic attacks 
  • Avoiding beggars 
  • Increased heart beat 
  • Hyperventilation 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Nausea 
  • Fear of an impending doom 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Tremors 
  • Hot/cold flashes 
  • Butterflies in the stomach 
  • Migraine 
  • Drying up of mouth 

Causes of Hobophobia 

All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias have no real/definite cause.

They are caused by either a genetic predisposition and or environmental factors. 

According to the genetic/biological model, specific phobias are developed due to a genetic predisposition.

Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders has a higher chance of developing Hobophobia.

This is because any alteration in the genes of his parents will be transferred to him. 

An imbalance in the neurotransmitter levels of the brain can also be one of the many reasons as to why one develops Hobophobia.

These alterations are low dopamine levels and high serotonin levels.

This genetic tendency to develop a specific phobia is further explained by the Diathesis-stress relationship.

This suggests that someone with a genetic predisposition will develop Hobophobia only in the presence of the correct environmental trigger event.

Hobophobia can be a result of other phobias such as, someone who is fearful of getting germs (Myophobia) will fear them because beggars are dirty and unclean.

They live in such adverse conditions that one will be afraid of coming in contact with them. 

Fear of robbery (Kleptophobia) and or fear of poverty (Peniaphobia) can also be the reason for one to suffer from this irrational fear.

Someone Kleptophobia will be fearful of getting robbed by a beggar because of his desperation to have more money.

And someone who fears verty won’t be comfortable in seeing people living and suffering from it so closely. 

Additionally, an individual who has had a first hand negative experience with a beggar can develop Hobophobia.

If one was robbed by or hurt by a beggar can fear them. 

Thus, Hobophobia is caused by both genetics and environmental factors. 

Treatment of Hobophobia 

Hobophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.

Like all the other specific phobias, Hobophobia is treated by a number of different methods: Psychological treatment and Biological treatment. 

  • Psychological Treatment 

• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.

Hobophobia is defined as the irrational fear of beggars. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones. 

The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about their fear stimuli.

Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts. 

The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation.

The ABCD stands for: 

i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.

ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.

iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought 

iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to        dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.

This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.  

• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 

MBSR is a meditation therapy, used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions.

Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions. Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.

In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example, focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process.

This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing. 

For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.

• Exposure Therapy

It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Hobophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia).

In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.

To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of a beggar for example.

As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.

In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is encountering a beggar.

During this process of imagery, one actually feels that he’s in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.

 Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious, clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to a real beggar. 

While the patient is being exposed to different levels of fear during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.

These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear causing situation.

This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to their fear stimuli.

Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.

However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of beggars, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.

• Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This another form of treatment used with patients suffering from specific phobia or anxiety disorders.  It is used with patients who know the cause of their phobia. 

First, the therapist collects the patients’ history of different fears. They then identify the real cause of the particular fear/phobia the patient has. 

They then discuss any new/latest event that triggered their anxiety and fear in the past few weeks.

People coming with specific phobias are told to imagine their distress causing stimuli. 

The therapist then works with the individual in order for them to overcome their fear. In the case of Hobophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of beggars.

They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.

• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) 

This is another effective therapy used to treat Hobophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of animal specific phobia.

Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group). 

            i.Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts.

The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling.

Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.

          ii.Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts.

Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment.

This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then. 

For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the wind around them, making use of their auditory sense. 

         iii.The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed.

Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse.

Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem.

• Yoga/Meditation 

They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Hobophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people.

Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while the person is in a particular yoga posture.

Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.

Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga.

The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about their fear stimuli. 

  • Biological Treatment 

• Drug Therapy 

Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Hobophobia.

Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken. 

This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic.

However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation. 

Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:

                      i.  Antidepressant Drugs

These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias.

Medicines like Paxil reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm.

They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.

                      ii.Anti-anxiety Drugs

Medicines like Klonopin are anti-anxiety drugs.

They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.

Whether the cause of Hobophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, environmental or both, the best and the most effective way of treating them is by using a combination of both biological treatments (drugs) with cognitive treatment (for example CBT/exposure therapy).

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) How do you overcome the fear of beggars?

One should consult a psychologist/psychiatrist in order to get help in overcoming his fear of beggars. 

Q2) What is meant by poverty?

It is a condition in which one lacks the basic financial resources to live a standard life. 

Q3)What is the fear of spending money called?

Chrometophobia is an irrational fear of money. 


  • https://psychtimes.com/hobophobia-fear-of-bums/
  • www.commonphobias.com
  • www.psychologytoday.com
  • www.apa.org 

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