Decoding Hierophobia: Fear Of Saints Or Holy Objects
What most people believe to be atheism may not be true for everyone.
Have you ever come across someone who despises holy and sacred objects?
Perhaps they loathe the Bible and refuse to engage someone who’s carrying one. Or they simply go berserk when they see a priest walk toward them.
This isn’t merely bad behavior or someone who believes in logic and science. Instead, it is a type of phobia known as Hierophobia or Hagiophobia. Etymologically speaking, both ‘Hiero’ and ‘Hagios’ mean sacred or holy in Greek.
Everything You Need to Know About Hierophobia
Hierophobia is the irrational fear of saints or holy objects. It may seem absurd since most of us look toward God or a higher power to manage and overcome our fears and insecurities.
So what specific things are we afraid of? This fear can be triggered by sacred objects such as the Holy Bible or a rosary. It even extends to religious clergymen such as priests or the Pope, and finally, sacred places like a church or temple, and rituals performed at such holy places.
If you feel you have Hierophobia then chances are that when faced with anything sacred or religious, you may experience intense anxiety and discomfort. Your response to the fear stimulus can often come off as offensive to people around you and they may make you feel shame and guilt for it. But don’t be disheartened. Your feelings and anxiety around the issue are valid and in this article, we’ll not only go over the reasons behind it but also share ways to combat it successfully.
Do I Have Hierophobia?
If you can’t bear being in the same room as a priest, a religious ritual, sacred items, or even if the room is in a sacred place, you may have Hierophobia.
This isn’t just a normal aversion, it’s a morbid fear that grips you and prevents you from dealing with circumstances involving the stimuli, particularly if your family and friends are religious.
Before we discuss ways to overcome it, let’s take a closer look at the cause of Hierophobia.
What Causes Hierophobia?
The main cause of Hierophobia is usually a terrible event that sparked the phobia, such as:
If someone has a morbid fear of priests, the truth may well be that they were physically assaulted in a sacred space or by a religious figure. What this means is that the issue isn’t the robe or church but that someone wearing those robes made this individual feel unsafe and violated. As a result, they may never recover from this experience unless they seek professional help.
Another cause of Hierophobia could be genetics. Research shows that — “If a family member has a phobia, you are at an increased risk for a phobia as well. Similarly, when one twin has a specific phobia, the other twin has a 30% chance of having one as well.”
This is possible in the case of family members such as parents and siblings. So if you know of a family member who suffers from a morbid fear of any specific stimulus or even Hierophobia then you may be experiencing it as well.
Environment & Upbringing
The environment and upbringing of a person can sometimes have a major impact on the development of phobias. Perhaps they were raised in a hostile environment toward religious items and priests. As a result, they may acquire this particular phobia.
In some cases, a person can acquire a phobia over time if they were overexposed or compelled by society to participate in violent rituals involving sacred items.
Symptoms Of Hierophobia
Do you think that you or someone you know suffers from Hierophobia? To know for sure, refer to this list of symptoms below but do keep in mind that Hierophobia symptoms can appear in different ways for different people, both psychologically and physically.
● Sweaty palms and feet
● Hot or Cold flashes
● Muscle Tension
● Headaches and migraines
● Nausea Or Diarrhea
● Dry mouth
● Panic Attacks
● Anger, irritability & mood swings around holy things
● Social Withdrawal
● Obsessive and anxious thoughts about sacred things and priests
● Feeling detached around sacred holidays
● Inability to sleep because of preoccupied thoughts
● Avoiding all things that are considered holy
Treatment – How Do You Deal With Hierophobia?
It may be difficult to find dedicated treatment options for Hierophobia as experts are still trying to understand the root cause of the problem. However, like any other type of phobia, there are a few effective treatment options that will soothe your anxiety and minimize triggers.
Meditation and Yoga
Yoga helps in promoting physical and mental well-being. It helps with reducing stress levels, and in managing anxiety and depression. It also helps improve sleep quality and is supposed to be a wonderful grounding exercise for the body and mind.
Similarly, meditation cuts out the mental chatter and roots you to the present moment. It is also a wonderful tool to lean into parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable and hard to deal with. Start with meditating for about ten minutes a day and you can either focus on your breath or bodily sensations to give yourself something to work with.
Self-Help Groups and Social Therapy
Both online and offline, there are several self-help groups for people with phobias so they can understand themselves better. It also allows them to share their experiences with others in a safe space without judgment or criticism.
How we lead our lives can have a huge impact on our mood, energy levels, and overall disposition. For instance, sleeping less than seven hours a day can lead to irritability, anxiety, and sluggishness.
Another lifestyle adjustment we can make is to check our diet and if we’re getting enough nutrients. Our immune system and mental health suffer as a result of bad dietary habits. Other habits to include would be cutting out (or minimizing) caffeine and alcohol intake.
While self-help may not be enough for everyone, visiting a medical expert to aid with Hierophobia is always a welcome choice.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Psychotherapists frequently recommend CBT to assist people to cope with phobias like Hierophobia. CBT assists patients with Hierophobia in determining why they behave or react the way they do in response to their fear stimulus, in this case, priests or sacred objects.
This form of therapy is conducted under medical guidance by exposing the patient to the fear stimulus in small, safe doses.
With Hierophobia, a therapist may simulate an environment similar to a church or temple to induce a reaction from the client. They will progressively be exposed to the stimulus in a controlled environment until the severity of the symptoms reduces and the client is fairly comfortable being in such places.
Don’t fight the impulse to seek medical care, even if you know that doing so would expose you to your worst fears. If your phobia affects you and keeps you from living a fulfilling life, it’s worth going to therapy and overcoming your fears in a safe space instead of choosing to run away from them. Remember — “Don’t let the fear of what could happen, make nothing happen.”