What Is Cacophobia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Cacophobia is a fear of ugliness or an unpleasant appearance. It is a type of anxiety disorder that may lead a patient to avoid some settings or experiences to reduce the risk of encounters with the object of the fear. Treatment is available for phobias to help patients address this fear. In some cases, it may be possible to resolve it so patients can engage in ordinary social activities without stress, while in others, it can be controlled to allow patients to live more normal lives.

This is a highly unusual phobia. Like other members of this family of anxiety disorders, it may be triggered by a variety of events. A patient may have been exposed to media images of people with unusual facial expressions in association with violent crimes or other traumatic events, for example. Parents and other family members might have expressed distaste for unattractive people, or a patient might have had a personal unpleasant experience like a kidnapping that involved a person with unpleasant facial features. Over time, patients can build up an anxiety about the object of the fear that may become so intense that just thinking about it causes symptoms.


Responses to phobias can include racing heart, sweating, nausea, and dizziness. Someone with cacophobia might have a hard time with news reports featuring people who look unpleasant, for example. Specific associations with particular facial features like scarring might occur because of their connection with an upsetting event. The patient might also have trouble in public spaces due to fear about cacophobia triggers.

Psychotherapy can help a patient get to the root of cacophobia to understand how and why it developed, which can sometimes be helpful. A mental health provider can also provide advice on handling the condition. This might include systematic desensitization, where patient and care provider work together in a controlled environment to make the object of the phobia less scary. Some patients benefit from antianxiety medications to control fear responses, or ongoing therapy to address the issue.

Support from friends and family can be helpful for cacophobia patients. While phobias are irrational, patients experience very real fear and distress when they are around the objects of their fears. Some patients may recognize that their fears are not logical, but may not be able to overcome them with this awareness alone. Supportive treatment can help patients address their fears and develop a plan for dealing with them calmly in the future.


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