What is Soteriophobia? (A Summary)

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

An intense fear of being dependent on others is called Soteriophobia.

It is a type of specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.

Someone suffering from it will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to a situation where one gets dependent on others. 

Even the thought of dependency on others can trigger extreme anxiety. If the condition worsens, full-blown panic attacks can follow. 

Normally, people who like autonomy and independence  feel worried upon the idea of getting dependent on others.

They want to practice free will, therefore, dislike dependency.

However, someone suffering from Soteriophobia will get terrified and feel threatened when thinking about getting dependent on others.    

To evade these intrusive thoughts, one avoids getting into a situation where they need to be dependent on others.

Avoidance is repetitive because of the pleasant feelings it produces. Thus, one keeps on avoiding their fear stimuli in an attempt to eliminate anxiety. 

These recurrent acts of avoidance can lead to OCD in the future. 

According to the DSM-V, avoidance and anxiety in Soteriophobia affect one’s social and occupational functioning.

For example, someone will try to do everything themselves, even if they require help, they’ll try not ask for one.

Additionally, a sufferer will refrain from meeting people. 

Soteriophobia is an irrational fear of being dependent on others. It is a type of social phobia. 

Symptoms of Soteriophobia 

Similar to all other specific phobias, Soteriophobia’s main symptom is extreme anxiety.

Sufferers experience high levels of anxiety when dependent on others.  This anxiety can also lead to full-blown panic attacks.

As the DSM-V suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months to be diagnosed with Soteriophobia.

Other than anxiety, one also experiences a number of other physiological symptoms.

The severity of these symptoms depends upon the intensity of one’s fear, depending on how they perceive a certain situation to be, based on their personal experiences (or the cause of the phobia).

The symptoms that one endures in Soteriophobia are:

  • Extreme anxiety when dependent on others 
  • Extreme anxiety by just thinking about being dependent on others 
  • Avoiding being dependent on others 
  • Full-blown panic attacks
  • Inability to handle anxiety
  • Muscle tension/tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inability to breathe properly/increased breathing rate
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Hot/cold flashes when in a flight or fight mode (A hot flash refers to the temporary heating up of the body when in a state of fear. And a cold flash means when the body suddenly starts to shiver or cool down, when encountered by a fear stimulus).
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Butterflies in the stomach

Out of these, one should have at least 3-5 symptoms (including anxiety) to be diagnosed with Soteriophobia.

Additionally, this fear of dependency can also be a part of other mental disorders such as PTSD, delusional disorder or social anxiety disorder. 

Causes of Soteriophobia 

Like every other specific phobia, Soteriophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.

Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Soteriophobia than someone who doesn’t.

This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it. 

This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship.

According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Soteriophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of dependency.

A person suffering from the autism spectrum, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are also at a higher risk of developing Soteriophobia, if not treated properly.

This type of phobia is more common amongst children who are between the ages of 13-18 years.

Any incident they might’ve gone through or heard about can lead to the formation of Soteriophobia. 

This trigger event can be for example, having a bad experience in the past. Someone who may have suffered, physically or mentaly by showing dependency on others can develop Soteriophobia.

This is because they fear being dependent and then getting exploited by the hands of other people.

One who loves self-control and autonomy, but lacked it in childhood (when they were dependent on parents) will fear losing this power again.  

Hearing stories of how people exploit other people can lead to Soteriophobia too.

This phobia is more commonly found in old people who spend their entire life being independent and strong, but at a certain age are forced to seek help and dependency.

They fear being dependent on others.

Therefore, Soteriophobia is developed due to genetics and environmental factors. 

Treatment of Soteriophobia 

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

Like all the other specific phobias, Soteriophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or NLP that lowers the anxiety or other physical symptoms.

• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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

Soteriophobia is defined as the irrational fear of being dependent on others.

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:

·         A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.

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

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

·          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. 

·  Neuro-Linguistic programming (NLP)

It is a psychological approach that includes ways of trying to reach a personal goal. It links language, thoughts and patterns of behavior learned through experience.

The key elements of NLP are action, modeling and effective communication. It suggests that everyone has different ways of how they see the world.

By understanding a number of perspectives of others, patients who use NLP see the world through a combination of their personal views and that of others.

NLP therapists treat patients with Soteriophobia by making them understand their thoughts, behaviors and emotional state.

By having an insight of the patient’s own ‘personal’ view of reality, they assist them in forming new, positive thoughts.

NLP helps the patient in improving his state of thoughts about other people by understanding their cognitive-behavioral patterns.

Like CBT, this form of therapy is also very effective.


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 Soteriophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of dependency.

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

 • 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, to 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, 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 1 5minutes a day.

• Drug Therapy

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

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. Anti-anxiety Drugs

Medicines like Diazepam 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.

                   ii. Antidepressant Drugs

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

Medicines like Lexapro 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.

Whether the cause of Soteriophobia, 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) What causes Soteriophobia?

Soteriophobia is caused either by a genetic predisposition or an environmental factor. 

Q2) What are the symptoms of Soteriophobia?

Symptoms of Soteriophobia include extreme anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, breathlessness etc.

Q3) Are medicines the only way one can treat Soteriophobia? 

No. Medicines are one of the many possible, effective ways of treating this specific phobia.

Therapies like CBT, NLP or exposure therapy are used with patients to help them overcome their fear.

However, one can also be prescribed with medicines in order to maximize their progress and reduce the physical symptoms of the phobia.  


  • https://psychtimes.com/soteriophobia-fear-of-dependence-on-others/
  • https://fearof.org/soteriophobia/
  • www.commonphobias.com
  • www.apa.org


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