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What is Chromophobia?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
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Chromophobia, or chromatophobia, is an irrational and unreasonable fear of colors. In severe cases, chromophobia can interfere with daily life and prove debilitating. It can occur when a person experiences an incredibly negative event associated with a particular color, or colors in general. Like other phobias, chromophobia is typically treated with exposure therapy, which can help desensitize a patient to the feared object.

Chromophobia is not considered one of the most common phobias. Persons with chromophobia may associate a negative past experience with a color. Color-blind individuals may experience chromophobia due to career setbacks caused by their condition, or by the difficulties that can arise in daily life for those with a limited ability to see colors.

A phobia is fear that can produce intense nervousness and anxiety, even though the thing feared normally poses almost no danger. Many phobias develop early in life, while others can develop in adulthood. Most phobias develop after the patient suffers a negative experience associated with the object of fear. For instance, a child bitten by a dog may grow up to develop a phobia of dogs.

Sometimes, phobias are a normal part of the developmental process. It's considered normal, for instance, when young children express a phobia of the dark. Phobias that occur during the developmental process of a child are generally less debilitating than other phobias, and usually go away on their own as the child matures.

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There are a wide range of documented phobias in existence. People have been known to experience irrational, abnormal fears of just about everything. Common phobias include fear of snakes, spiders, heights, needles, and germs.

People who have phobias may experience powerful symptoms of anxiety when confronted with feared objects or situations, ranging from slight nervousness to full-blown panic attacks. A person may feel shortness of breath, nausea, trembling, and heart palpitations when confronted with the object of his phobia. Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting can occur. Symptoms can be so powerful that many patients may believe, erroneously, that they are actually dying.

Treatment for phobias, including chromophobia, generally involves a technique known as exposure therapy, or systematic desensitization. Exposure therapy allows the patient to become gradually accustomed to object of fear, in a supportive, therapeutic setting. For instance, a patient suffering from a fear of snakes might be asked by a therapist to begin by looking at pictures of snakes while practicing relaxation and cognitive behavioral techniques to control fear. As the patient gains more control over their fear, they might be asked to watch video footage of snakes, and may finally move on to looking at a real snake, or even to physically touching a snake. Through this process, the patient can learn to control fear, and can gradually learn that the object of fear is not as dangerous as once believed.

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