What is Wiccaphobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Wiccaphobia.
An intense fear of witches and witchcraft is called Wiccaphobia. It is a specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-5.
Someone with Wiccaphobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to witches or witchcraft.
Not just the exposure, but people suffering from specific phobias can also feel excessive anxiety by just thinking about the object/situation they fear.
This excessive anxiety can lead one to have full-blown panic attacks, in severe conditions.
Wiccaphobia is very subjective. One doesn’t necessarily need to be exposed to witches, as they are not to be found physically.
An individual can make up situations in their minds which will lead them to suffer from anxiety. They might perceive witches to be at a specific place, avoiding to go there.
In worst scenarios, they might even feel the presence of witches around them all the time.
Therefore, the physical presence or site of witches/witchcraft is not mandatory for someone to experience extreme anxiety in Wiccaphobia.
People suffering from a specific phobia combat their anxiety by avoiding the fear causing stimulus.
Their avoidance of a fear/anxiety causing situation does help them feel good and calm. However, these feelings are short term.
The sufferer starts to develop a habit of avoidance which later stems into the development of OCD.
As the DSM-5 suggests, avoidance of the fear stimulating situation/object affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
Such as, one might not be able to go to a certain place or area because of the fear that the place has witches.
One may lose contact with friends or family because the sufferers unusual behavior or actions.
Someone suffering from Wiccaphobia can also lose his job because of his inability to go to work. Individuals will confine themselves to their homes, to avoid going to places where witches might be present.
Sufferers, at times are also fearful of being surrounded by witches even when in their own homes. This fear might be because they are afraid of being attacked by one.
This constant fear of being surrounded by witches or being confined to their houses and losing social contacts causes one to develop depression in the future.
Wiccaphobia is an irrational fear of witches or witchcraft.
The name originates from an Old English word ‘wicca’ meaning male witch and a Greek word ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms of Wiccaphobia
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Wiccaphobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom.
Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of witches/witchcraft suffer from extreme anxiety which, as mentioned earlier, can result in one having panic attacks.
When one undergoes extreme anxiety, the body experiences other physiological symptoms as well. Such as increased heart rate or palpitations.
Because this fear of witches is about something which is not physically present or seen (at times) and is highly subjective, sufferers of Wiccaphobia experience symptoms in different ways.
One might have more severe symptoms than the other, based on their past experiences and intensity of the phobia.
Though, as the DSM-5 suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months.
Symptoms one experiences in Wiccaphobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to witches/witchcraft
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about witches/witchcraft
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding places or situations where one might encounter witches/witchcraft
- Increased heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness
- Feeling depressed
- Fear of an impending danger or harm
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
For one to be diagnosed with Wiccaphobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Causes of Wiccaphobia
Like every other specific phobia, Wiccaphobia 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 Wiccaphobia 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 Wiccaphobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of witches/witchcraft.
A triggering event can be learning to be afraid of witches by looking at ones’ parents.
It is possible that someone whose parents are afraid of witches or who believe in their existence can transfer their fear into their child.
The child will then imitate his parents fear or acts of avoidance.
Wiccaphobia can also develop because of the stories one hears or read about witches. For example, movies or story books show witches as powerful, evil beings.
They’re shown ugly or terrifying in terms of appearance. Therefore, when one reads or watches these stories about witches, they can develop a fear for them.
Also, in the historic times, many people used to believe in witches and witch magic.
Many myths and stories have been based on the perceptions of people in the olden times.
Someone who has read about these myths and or heard of them through family or friends are very likely to fear witches.
Wiccaphobia can also be a result of the fear of strangers (Xenophobia).
One who suffers from an intense fear of foreringe people/strangers might also be afraid of encountering or being surrounded by witches, who might take the form of these unknown people to spell magic on the sufferer.
Therefore, it is evident that there is no one cause for specific phobias to develop.
Genetics with environmental factors, together will cause one to have Wiccaphobia.
Treatment of Wiccaphobia
Wiccaphobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Wiccaphobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and or yoga, which lowers 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.
Wiccaphobia is defined as the irrational fear of witches/witchcraft. 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 being exposed to demons.
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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Wiccaphobia.
It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of 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 blowing wind, 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/fearful aspects to it.
• 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, 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15minutes a day.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Wiccaphobia, 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 a 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 witches/witchcraft.
These different types of therapies are very effective in treating people with specific phobias.
If one feels that they are developing Wiccaphobia (or any type of specific phobia), they need to consult a doctor (psychologist/psychiatrist) in order for them to plan the person’s future treatment strategies, before the phobia intensifies.
Titles to read
by Matthew Sockolov, Daniel Henning, et al.
by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai, et al.
by David D. Burns
- Anxiety & Panic Attacks: Their Cause and Cure
by Robert Handly and Pauline Neff
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What causes Wiccaphobia?
Wiccaphobia is caused either due to some genetic predisposition, or due to some past traumatic event (environmental factors).
One might be more prone to have this phobia if they have a family history of specific phobias or if they experienced a traumatizing event in childhood, associated with witches.
Q2) What are witches’ weaknesses?
There are two types of witches, a weak witch and a strong witch.
A weak witch is unable to cast string spells even if she learns more new ones.
Q3) What is Phasmophobia?
Phasmophobia is the irrational fear of ghosts.
Q4) What is the true meaning of witch?
A witch is usually a woman casting evil, black witchcraft magic with the help of some demon or other evil sources.
Examples of other interesting phobias