Bibliophobia is a condition characterized by the fear of books. It also refers to the fear of reading or reading out loud or in public. These fears often arise from fear of the effect books can have on society or culture.
What Is Bibliophobia?
Bibliophobia 1 is a phobia defined as the fear of books. It is the response of exaggerated and irrational fear of books or to reading specifying texts. The word comes from the Greek word “biblion” or “biblio” meaning books. A phobia is an overwhelming and irrational fear of an object, situation, or animal leading to marked distress. When some people develop a fear of textbooks, historical novels, or children’s stories, they generally develop only a subset of this phobia, rather than a dread of all books. Mythophobia or a “fear of legends” is also considered a subtype of bibliophobia.
People with bibliophobia often experience difficulty when forced or encouraged to read. They even fear the stories or even the simple act of reading, holding a book, or being in a library. It is worth mentioning that they even tend to experience symptoms of anxiety as well. If an individual has learning disabilities or difficulty with reading, it is natural to be nervous particularly when reading out loud. However, in certain cases, it may be a cause of developing this phobia. Surveys suggest that at least 5% to 20% of children and adolescents are afflicted with some type of phobia.
The fear of books is usually associated with a lack of control over reading material which has created an aversion to reading and developed anxiety around reading books. A person suffering from this condition can even experience full-blown panic attacks due to their intense fear of books. Such panic attacks may even result in them getting hospitalized which requires supervision. However, it is important to keep in mind that such experiences can vary from person to person. Bibliophobia can make the sufferer shake, sweat, or cry when having to read. They even go out of their way to avoid reading by sitting in the back of a classroom or even skipping classes altogether. This enables them to convince others to read information to them instead of reading it themselves.
A person with this phobia may even find ways to get out of any interaction with books or reading environments such as libraries, museums, and other places that involve books and reading. It is important to note that someone with this condition does not have epistemophobia (the fear of knowledge) by default. The person suffering from a fear of books doesn’t necessarily suffer from a fear of knowledge but rather the books that such knowledge is encapsulated in. However, it is possible for someone to have additional phobias along with bibliophobia as well.
It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any associated symptoms. A doctor or mental health professional will devise a treatment plan depending on the severity of the condition.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Bibliophobia
This condition can have both physical and psychological symptoms. They might be mild, moderate, severe, or even incapacitating. The physical and psychological symptoms of bibliophobia are as follows:
1. Physical Symptoms
The physical symptoms can include:
- Chest tightness or feeling like you can’t catch your breath
- Feeling lightheaded
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes or chills
- Feeling choked
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or pins and needles
- Need to go to the toilet
- Ringing sound in the ears
- Confusion or disorientation
- Rise in blood pressure
2. Physiological Symptoms
The physiological symptoms of this condition include:
- Irrational fear of books
- Feelings of panic
- Feelings of terror
- Feelings of dread about reading or being around books
- Avoidance of books
- Being aware that the fear of books is irrational
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about your dread of books
- Being unable to control or overcome the fear of books
- Strong desire to flee at the sight of books
- Fear of dying
- Fear of harm or illness
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Mood swings
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Causes Of Bibliophobia
The precise aetiology of this condition is uncertain. There can be a combination of genetic and environmental influences among others that can be a cause of developing this phobia. Some of the probable factors leading to the development of this condition may include:
1. Environmental Influences
People with this condition often may have experiences in their past that are associated with the fear of books such as an embarrassing situation reading out loud in front of an audience. In such cases, the fear involves an area of the brain called the amygdala. This region is responsible for reactions and experiences. When an individual tends to have a similar kind of experience the amygdala reminds them of how they felt in that situation.
2. Genetic Influences
Some people don’t relate to any particular experience with their fear of books. In such cases, it may be due to genetic influences. Studies 2 suggest that sometimes personality and temperament are inherited traits that may contribute to this condition. People also tend to learn reactions and behaviors from their families and relatives. Hence, genetic influences can be a contributing cause of this disorder.
3. Traumatic Experiences
Sometimes this condition is associated with traumatic childhood experiences such as mistreatment or bad experiences with a literary genre. Other experiences may include some suspense stories or books that produce anxiety and fear in the child and generate irritational terror.
Sometimes illiteracy can also act as a trigger of this phobia. Studies 3 found that some people who do not know how to read often fear books and avoid them for shame or rejection in society.
5. Individual Interests
Sometimes it can also depend on an individual’s interest and understanding of texts. If a child is forced to read books that are not at their level of knowledge or their interest it can trigger the symptoms of this phobia. The child is likely to develop an aversion to such texts as compared to others of the same genre.
6. Historical Causes
The fear of books was believed to have originated from multiple factors such as restrictions, lack of reading, superstitions, prudery, jealous apprentices, pedantry, and political fears. Even though it was caused by the absence of experience with books, it was also discovered that children who had been exposed to the books also presented this condition. In addition to this, it was also believed that this phobia originated from a lack of freedom to choose a book. This is because in olden times they were not allowed to read all kinds of text. There were also banned books because the contents of these were against society or culture.
Some experts also believe that this phobia was caused by superstitions since there were people who were sacrificed for their knowledge. For instance, Galileo during the Inquisition. The books also produced political fears, to experiment and observe how they set fire to libraries. This was done to let the public know that if they decided to read these books it can pose a threat to their life.
7. Neurodevelopmental Causes
Some children tend to develop this phobia due to their difficulty in reading. This may be caused due to neurodevelopmental causes such as specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, communication disorder, and intellectual disability. The fear can arise due to their inability to grasp the concept or read.
Bibliophobia can lead to complications if left untreated. There may be certain comorbidities associated with this disorder, such as:
- Other mood disorders
- Social isolation
- Problems with school, work, or social relationships
- Substance abuse
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Treatment Of Bibliophobia
Phobias are real disorders and it is important to understand that they are not signs of weakness or immaturity. Recognizing this condition is the first step towards recovery. Doctors recommend therapy when it tends to interfere with the normal day to day functioning of one’s life. This can include normal functioning in school, work, and personal relationships and situations. Therapy is the most successful form of treatment. The most effective forms of treatment are as follows:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This therapy involves identifying and evaluating negative thoughts and patterns that trigger unwanted behaviors. It is meant to identify and supervise emotions that govern their behavior. The therapist will help the patient to alter these thoughts and patterns with positive ones. They will help to learn new beliefs about their fear and build confidence around their phobias. The therapist will also help the patient with coping strategies so that it can ease the symptoms of this condition. Studies 4 report it as an effective method for treating phobias.
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2, Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is also known as desensitization therapy. This therapy 5 involves gradually and repeatedly exposing the patient to their fear of books. It involves exposing the patient to their phobias in a controlled environment. The therapist will teach techniques to manage their anxiety and fear around books. The therapy can start with just thinking about books. Once the patient is able to control their fear around the thought of books, the doctor moves on to looking or touching the books. The primary goal of this therapy is to master the fear and take control instead of giving in or avoiding fear.
3. Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Natural Language Processing 6 is based on the mental process of a child and on the use and value we give to the world. It is a way of reflecting on the internal representations of their problems. It involves reprogramming of beliefs, behaviors, thoughts, making the person aware of his words, gestures, and facial expressions that cause and detonate irrational fear.
Hypnotherapy is a relaxation based therapy that involves relaxation techniques, intense concentration, and focused attention on one or several topics. This therapy 7 allows the individual to understand the thoughts and emotions that are responsible for the phobia or to find the psychological cause of the disorder. A very high state of consciousness is known as trance. The therapist will guide the patient through their consciousness to determine their painful thoughts, emotions, and memories and find what triggers the symptoms. Hypnosis is a widely used technique to recover and understand the thoughts and memories that are in the unconscious.
5. Energy Psychology
Energy psychology 8 is a therapy that is based on the mind-body connection of an individual. Hence, it is focused on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and the individual’s bioenergetic system. It is an integration of the theory of meridian acupuncture, neurosciences, quantum mechanics, physics, biology, medicine, chiropractic, and psychology. It is used for anxiety disorders, phobias, or stress.
6. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior therapy 9, 3(9), 62–68. )) is often used for people with a borderline personality disorder. However, it has proven effective in treating patients with anxiety disorders such as bibliophobia. This can be beneficial due to the numerous coping strategies that are exchanged in the DBT group. These groups can last up to six months and can have from two people to several people joining the group.
One of the most effective skills that are used in DBT is half smiling 10 . This technique makes the person think about things they fear the most while slightly raising the corners of their mouth or lightly smiling or half smiling. This enables them to try and refrain from entertaining negative thoughts associated with books. Mindful meditation is also used in these groups as a coping strategy to practice meditation as a group.
7. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is an evidence based 8 week program that involves secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, or phobias. Mindfulness meditation 11 has proven effective with people who have intense phobias. This program offers a concrete structure of learning skills to manage phobias
Medication can also be prescribed to ease the symptoms of anxiety associated with this condition. Antidepressants or Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can be prescribed by the doctor to help manage the symptoms. It can help with phobias in temporary situations such as public speaking. Antidepressants 12 can include Paxil, Zoloft, or Lexapro. These drugs are used to prevent panic attacks and are normally taken on a regular basis.
Anti-anxiety drugs may also be prescribed in severe cases. Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin are examples of common anti-anxiety drugs.
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Recovery From Bibliophobia
Even though some people with this condition may experience anxiety and panic-like symptoms, it is possible to manage the symptoms and recover from this condition. It is important to remind yourself that the fear of books is something you can overcome with self-determination and practice. With therapy and medication, it’s possible to lead a phobia-free life.References:
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- Feinstein D. Energy psychology: Efficacy, speed, mechanisms. Explore (NY). 2019 Sep-Oct;15(5):340-351. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2018.11.003. Epub 2018 Nov 25. PMID: 30718189.
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