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What is Bibliophobia?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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Bibliophobia is an unusual fear that might be defined as fear of books or hatred of books. Generally the former definition is more accurate. This phobia can be confined to certain books; for instance those fearing witchcraft might view the Harry Potter series in a bibliophobic sense, or it can be more specific to things like reading aloud, which for a person with bibliophobia may be an extraordinarily painful exercise.

Symptoms of bibliophobia may progress to full panic. They could include sweating, rapid breathing or heart rate and panic attacks. More often, the bibliophobic person, especially when asked to read aloud, would be unable to do so, or would express extreme emotion like crying.

There are a number of conditions in early childhood that could create bibliophobia. These would include learning disabilities, especially undiagnosed ones, which could make reading silently or aloud very difficult. Conditions like dyslexia come to mind. Others things like hidden illiteracy could make people express a profound distaste for reading, and they might fear discovery of their inability to read. Fear of discovery doesn’t always mean a person is bibliophobic, but shame about illiteracy could very well make these people hate books.

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Most phobias are irrational fears, meaning they are not based on rational thought. In this, bibliophobia is no exception. It is a pronounced fear that may have no logical justification, though it could spring from early incidents in childhood. However, some cases can’t be directly connected to fear of reading aloud in school or at work.

As with most fears, this condition can create serious problems. Most people are required to read at some point, whether in books, on the Internet or even the newspaper, and bibliophobia, when defined as fear of reading, could mean leaving a world of information unavailable to the phobic person. On the other hand, different sources of reading material, such as Internet or magazines might be the way a bibliophobic gets information without ever having to turn to books.

There are ways to treat this condition, and they usually involve a process called desensitization therapy. In this therapy, people who suffer from this fear are gradually invited to overcome it by brief exposure to books. As therapy progresses, patients might touch books, view pictures of them, and eventually handle them, all at a pace comfortable for the person with the fear. Ultimately, patients could read from books, and once they have established a regular pattern of being able to do so, they may have conquered their fear. Along the way though, they learn coping strategies to help them when confronted with needing to read or with large amounts of books as might be present in a bookstore or library.

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