What is Papaphobia? (An Overview)

In this blog we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments for Papaphobia.

Papaphobia is an irrational fear of the Pope. Either seeing the Pope on TV or in real life, or even thinking about him may leave the person in anxiety.

It is a rare phobia and also related to 

Papaphobia may sometimes be closely related to  Ecclesiophobia-the fear of church. 

People suffering from Papaphobia will be afraid of even entering the Church or attending religious ceremonies.

Church itself being under the command of the Pope becomes a place that brings the onset of a full-blown panic attack in the person.

Papaphobia is derived from the Greek word ‘pappa’ meaning father or Pope and ‘phobos’ meaning ‘fear.’

It hinders the person from engaging in the very essential religious acts and also makes him the reason for much debate amongst his family and friends.

He is oftentimes considered to be possessed by demons .

Symptoms of Papaphobia

To avoid the experience of anxiety itself the individual may develop Papaphobia, 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 Papaphobia 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
  • Bizarre behavior

The Psychological Symptoms

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

  • fear of being in a Church
  • feelings of dread
  • fear of being ridiculed 
  • Socially withdrawn
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of self harm
  • fear of being possessed
  • self-blame
  • feeling of hopelessness
  • feeling of disconnect
  • confusion
  • lack of concentration
  • anger
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • afraid of rejection
  • incapacitated to enjoy religious ceremonies
  • Anxiety on attending sermons
  • Anxiety on attending funerals and weddings

Causes of Papaphobia 

As is common in specific phobias, the cause Papaphobia 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 Papaphobia.

The papacy is a very importantly significant institution playing a vital role in moulding history.

There are immense powers vested in the Pope.

He being the supreme power has always held an authoritative position, therefore, people who are afraid of authority figures may develop Papaphobia.

The honorable gowns and the headgear of the Pope may also seem overwhelming to some children and this might lead on to develop Papaphobia.

Either as a child they were overpowered by authoritative fathers and were not allowed to speak their mind or do as they wished in their lives.

This fear that was developed could have been conditioning by association, where fear of one’s dominating father led onto fear of the father of the religion, the Pope.

The most common explanation is a childhood traumatic episode where a child may have experienced a parent or a loved one suffering from a mental illness, thus contributing to the onset of Papaphobia. 

It could also be that if a person had committed a crime or a sin, the guilt that eats him away may give rise to Papaphobia, for he fears punishment from the highest religious authority.

Person suffering from Papaphobia may suffer from low self-esteem and thus, at the time he is suffering from the symptoms of Papaphobia, he/she feels totally helpless, aggravating their already hiked anxiety.

Scientists believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and other biological and environmental factors could cause such fears to develop. 

Other causes can be as follow:

• Learned behavior

• Traumatic experiences

Etiological Models of Papaphobia

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 that have detailed negative accounts of misuse of Papal power, also anecdotes of unwarranted changes that altered the lives of these people, 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 Papaphobia

Papaphobia can be treated through different treatments.

These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, 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 Papaphobia, the therapist separates the problem into parts.

These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions. 

  1. What thought is invoked at the thought of seeing the Pope?
  2. How do you feel when you see the Pope?
  3. What do you do when you attend the Church? 

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) Exposure Therapy 

It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Papaphobia.

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.

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 that makes him anxious.

During this process of imagery, one actually feels being 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 real life situations.

While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli 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/anxiety causing situation.

This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the 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. 

3) 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.

4) 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 Papaphobia 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. 

5) 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. 

6) 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.

7) 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. 

8) Psychiatric Medication 

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

Antidepressants 

These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Papaphobia 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. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

9)  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

What is Papaphobia?

Papaphobia is a fear of the Pope or the Church

What is the salary of the Pope?

The pope emeritus will receive a monthly pension of 2,500 euros, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Who is the Pope right now?

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the Pope right now.

What powers does the Pope have?

Papal supremacy is the doctrine of the Catholic Church and the Pope has all the rights unhindered.

Why does the Pope wear red shoes?

The indoor Papal Slippers were made of red velvet or silk and were heavily decorated in gold braid, with a gold cross in the middle.

The color red has been deliberately chosen to represent the blood of Catholic martyrs spilt through the centuries following in the footsteps of Christ.

Examples of other interesting phobias

Enetophobia
Hobophobia
Kolpophobia
Kopophobia
Kosmikophobia
Negrophobia
Zelophobia

Titles to Read 

  • The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne PhD | May 1, 2020
  • Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic by Reneau Peurifoy | Feb 1, 2005
  • Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia by Barbara G. Markway, C. Alec Pollard, et al. | Oct 1, 1992
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry by Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D  | May 22, 2018
  • The CBT Deck: 101 Practices to Improve Thoughts, Be in the Moment & Take Action in Your Life by Seth Gillihan | Jun 11, 2019

What we recommend for Phobias

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.

Panic Courses

  • Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand and in the end they result in Panic. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night

Citations 

  • www.psychtimes.com
  • www.fearof.net
  • www.amazon.com
  • www.exploringyourmind.com
  • www.albertellis.com

Was this post helpful?