Anthophobia is an irrational, overwhelming and persistent fear of flowers. Symptoms can include breathlessness, dry mouth, heart palpitations, sweating and nausea, and are triggered by seeing flowers, even in pictures or on TV, touching flowers and in some cases by just thinking about flowers. Any kind of flower, or parts of a flower like the stamen or petals, can be the object of this phobia. Sufferers of anthophobia often understand intellectually that there is no danger from the object of their phobia, but are still unable to overcome their fearful emotional response. Treatments can involve medication, relaxation techniques or various kinds of therapy, such as psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.
The word anthophobia is derived from the Greek word anthos for flowers and phobia for fear. As with many phobias, sufferers of anthophobia can be severely hampered in their daily lives, not just by the terror and anxiety they experience when their condition is triggered, but also by the extreme avoidance measures many take to avoid the object of their phobia. When a phobia involves an everyday item such as flowers, it can commonly lead to other problems such as social isolation and depression. The social stigma of this kind of phobia, and the fear of ridicule, can also make people unwilling to talk about their condition or seek treatment.
It is not fully understood what causes phobias like anthophobia. Past traumatic experiences are thought to be one possible contributing factor, even in cases where the phobic person is not able to remember such an experience. In the case of this phobia, for example, the abnormal fear of flowers could have been caused by a frightening or unpleasant event early in their life that somehow involved flowers or the presence of flowers.
There are treatments available for anthophobia. Anti-anxiety medications can be helpful, and relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing can help ease symptoms. Other options include psychotherapy, involving verbal communication with a therapist to treat the condition; cognitive-behavioral therapy, usually focusing on systematically changing unwanted habits as well as unwanted thinking patterns; and behavioral therapy, typically involving reinforcement of wanted behaviors and discouragement of unwanted behaviors. Scientific studies have shown that many phobias can be successfully treated using exposure therapy, a form of behavioral therapy that exposes the phobic person to the object of the phobia in a controlled setting to gradually reduce the associated anxiety.