Spectrophobia: Irrational fear of mirrors

Spectrophobia, a type of anxiety disorder classified as a  specific phobia , is the fear of mirrors and / or the fear of what may be reflected in them. This irrational fear can also be called eisophobia or catophobia.

What is spectrophobia?

People with spectrophobia can be very afraid of their own reflection, of the mirror itself, or of ghosts that appear in mirrors.

Like other phobias, spectrophobia can disrupt all aspects of an individual’s life and lead to avoidance behaviors. Experiencing spectrophobia symptoms can be incredibly debilitating and can affect your overall quality of life.

Symptoms of  spectrophobia

Symptoms of spectrophobia will vary from person to person, but may include the following:

  • A person may experience symptoms of anxiety and / or fear (such as shaking, sweating, increased heart rate, and panic) when encountering or thinking in mirrors or reflections.
  • The fear is disproportionate given the sociocultural context.
  • The person may have avoidance behaviors.
  • An individual may experience significant distress and disruption in their life due to fear of mirrors or reflections.

For a specific phobia diagnosis, symptoms must be present for at least six months and cannot be better explained by another medical condition or mental health disorder.

It is important to note that people who experience spectrophobia may also have a diagnosis of comorbidity, which can include panic disorder.

Both specific phobias and panic disorder are classified as anxiety disorders, and despite some overlapping symptoms, they are clearly different diagnoses.

When to seek help

Experiencing spectrophobia can be incredibly scary. If you are having trouble leading a normal, healthy life, consider the help of a mental health professional for ongoing treatment and support.

Diagnosis of eisophobia or catophobia

A specific phobia can be diagnosed by your doctor or a mental health professional using the current edition  of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) .

The DSM-5 outlines the specific diagnostic criteria that must be met in order for you to receive a diagnosis. Your treating physician may ask you to describe your symptoms, their intensity, and their frequency. They may also ask you to rate your fear or anxiety level on a scale to better understand your experience.

Related conditions

During the diagnostic process, your treating physician will rule out other conditions and may diagnose you with a concurrent condition. By taking the time to fully understand the extent of your symptoms, your doctor can offer you the best possible treatment and / or referrals.

Your treating physician can rule out:

  • Phasmophobia
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Thanatophobia
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

Comorbidities (several disorders in the same person) with spectrophobia

Research indicates that having a specific phobia is strongly correlated with an individual experiencing a later onset of other mental health disorder, the most common disorders of mood, anxiety disorders and disorders use substance addiction .

Causes of Spectrophobia

Specific  phobias  can be caused by a traumatic event, but that is not the case for everyone who experiences them. Research indicates that genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in the development of a specific phobia.

The  espectrofobia can take various forms depending on the individual and his experience and unique genetic.

  • Children and adults with over-activated tonsils (a part of the brain involved in emotions and behavior) may be more likely to develop specific phobias.
  • Children and adults who experience problems with habituation processing may be more prone to developing phobias. In other words, objects or situations that would otherwise be considered non-threatening to the brain over time continue to trigger the fear response.
  • The underlying fears can be exacerbated by genetic, environmental, and / or traumatic experiences. People with spectrophobia may fear ghosts, reflections, death, and / or criticism.

Trauma-induced spectrophobia

A person who has experienced a traumatic event with a mirror may develop spectrophobia. For example, a child who was startled by someone in the mirror one or more times may eventually develop spectrophobia.

Types of Spectrophobia

Spectrophobia can be used to describe several different types of mirror-related phobias. Note that these subtypes are not official diagnoses.

Fear of mirrors and body image

If you experience problems related to body image, the idea of ​​mirrors or reflections can trigger a phobic response. You may also simultaneously experience symptoms of spectrophobia, along with an eating and / or body dysmorphic disorder.

Fear of reflections

The fear of mirrors may be related to a more general fear of reflections. Besides mirrors, you may be afraid of any reflective materials, such as a highly polished car or some types of sunglasses.

Reflections inherently distort reflected items, making them appear a bit unreal, which can be disturbing to some.

Supernatural fears

Mirrors have long been linked to religious rituals, customs, and superstitions. Some believe that a mirror reflects the soul of a person.

In some cultures, people cover the mirrors in the home of a recently deceased person to avoid trapping their soul.

The link between a mirror and the soul has given rise to a wide range of urban legends that can contribute to people’s fear of death and / or ghosts.

Treatment of phobia

Treatment for spectrophobia will depend on your specific needs. Treatment can include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. While seeking treatment for spectrophobia can be overwhelming or scary, it’s important to prioritize your well-being.

Know that you don’t have to experience this alone and that there are resources and trained doctors available to help you learn to overcome your fears.

Exposure therapy and anti-anxiety treatments are the most widely used methods to treat specific phobias; however, there are many other alternative options available.


Research has found that medications work best to treat specific phobias when used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

The  medication options may include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • beta blockers
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Benzodiazepines


Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment option for those who experience symptoms of spectrophobia. Psychotherapy can be used in conjunction with medications or alone.

Therapeutic techniques will vary based on your unique needs, as well as your therapist’s style of treatment.

Some common techniques used to treat specific phobias include:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy  4
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy


Experiencing spectrophobia can be incredibly overwhelming and can significantly decrease your quality of life.

Whether you are seeking treatment for spectrophobia or not, finding healthy ways to cope with it can lessen some of your symptoms.

  • Offer yourself words of affirmation daily. What you are experiencing can be scary, exhausting, and debilitating. Be sure to support yourself with kind words.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
  • Connect with supportive friends and family.
  • Take the time to assess how spectrophobia is affecting your life.
  • Take time to keep a journal to help process your experience with spectrophobia.

If you are supporting a loved one with spectrophobia, be sure to take care of yourself as well. Watching a loved one experience something life-changing can be heartbreaking, so make it a priority to communicate with yourself and seek therapeutic support if needed.

Regardless of the underlying cause of your spectrophobia, know that there are many effective treatment options available.

If you experience a decrease in your overall quality of life due to spectrophobia or have difficulty with the acts of daily living, it is important to contact a mental health professional as soon as possible.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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