Fear of Colors – Chromophobia

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We live in a very vibrant world. The sky alone paints itself in an array of colors during sunrise and sunset. The homes and communities we live in can be the same, painted in a number of shades surrounded by several equally colorful objects like cars, trees, decorations, and even store fronts. Our world is full of color, and in a way and can be difficult to escape so imagine living with the fear of color. 

For some, colors can create an unpleasant reaction. Perhaps the colors are too vibrant or maybe they are associated with a few negative experiences/emotions. While each individual is unique in their reasons for having a fear of color, at its core colors for these individuals do not bring a happy and positive experience like a majority of people. 

Chromophobia is the fear of all colors. Coming from the Greek word “chromos” meaning color and the Greek word “phobos” meaning fear or deep aversion chromophobia, also known as chromatophobia, is the fear of colors.

This phobia is not just a phobia of specific colors or certain shades, but all colors although there are phobias related to specific colors. For example, xanthophobia is the fear of the color yellow and cyanophobia is the fear of the color blue. If you are curious about those particular colors, a quick google search can provide you with this info, but for this particular article we will only be discussing the fear of all colors – Chromophobia. 

What are the symptoms of Chromophobia?

If you are familiar with phobias, and even if you are not, many symptoms experienced by individuals with Chromophobia are similar to those experienced by individuals with anxiety or incredibly stressful experiences. Symptoms typically include panic attacks, shortness of breath, increase heart rate and sweating to name a few. 

Additionally, behavioral changes or symptoms can also occur with individuals who have a fear of color. Like many things that bring us fear a typical response is avoidance in any way possible. While this may be difficult, it is not exactly impossible. For many individuals, one’s personal home is a comforting and safe space and for individuals with phobias this is the case as well. In order to avoid color and the possibility of exposure to an array of colors is to simply stay home. As you may guess this can lead to isolation and even other symptoms related to this.  

Finally, psychological symptoms can also be experienced with this phobia such as anxiety, which we have mentioned in abundance, as well as depression or self-hate. While anxiety may be easily understood as a symptom, you may be wondering why depression can also be seen. In most instances with this phobia, depression is seen due to behaviors of the individual such as self-isolation which was mentioned previously. In turn, self-isolation can create feelings of self-hate which can then develop further into depression. 

What are the causes?

Although there are factors that can play a part in developing a psychological disorder such as Chromophobia, there is no single cause. Instead, the development of a phobia or any psychological disorder is due to a number of factors that increase the likelihood of development. 

With this particular type of phobia, traumatic experiences are one of the main factors of the development of Chromophobia. An incredibly stressful and traumatic experience can create lasting impacts on an individual in a few ways. For example, effects of a traumatic experience can result in anxiety towards a specific stimuli or changes in cognition and behaviors to avoid the perceived negative stimuli or experience again. Through these types of experiences, not only is anxiety typically developed but in some instances, fear is also developed. Unfortunately, in extreme cases a general fear or anxiety can grow and morph into a phobia if not addressed early on. 

In addition to traumatic experiences, a person’s genes can also have a small influence on the formation of this phobia. Specifically, genes related to anxiety increase the likelihood of developing anxiety and a sort of predisposition to being nervous or overly cautious which in turn increase the likelihood of developing a phobia like Chromophobia. 

How to cope and treat Chromophobia?

Exposure Therapy

A form of treatment that could be effective for some individuals is exposure treatment. While not the best for all individuals, exposure therapy simply is incremental exposure to the triggering stimuli or a certain situation. If you are concerned with how an individual would react by being thrown into exposure to colors in a therapy session, do not worry, this process occurs in stages. 

Typically, before beginning exposure, the individual and the licensed therapist create a game plan, or simply, create the different stages together with each stage increasing in intensity of stimuli representation. Perhaps, the individual decides that the first stage would be exposure to colors via images. Once they do not react so intensely to the image or picture, they then can move on to the next stage and so on until the individual with the therapist reach and successfully overcome the final stage.

Throughout this process it is critical that communication is constantly occurring between the therapist and individual because it is an incredibly stressful process for any individual being exposed to negative stimuli. In addition to general awareness of where the individual is emotionally, communication is also important for understanding the cognitions behind the reactions and behaviors of fearing colors. Through this understanding, adjustments can be made to move the treatment further along and make it more effective. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Another treatment used for phobias as well as other psychological disorders includes Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or CBT. Similar to exposure therapy, CBT is a treatment done with a licensed therapist which works on identifying an individual’s negative thought patterns and altering those negative thought patterns to more neutral or positive ones. With the help of the therapist, an individual will work on understanding these unconscious thoughts and how they lead to certain behaviors such as avoidant ones. 

The identification of these thoughts can be done in a few ways and the process can vary depending on the individual. Like exposure therapy, CBT can be adjusted and tailored to each client making the treatment more effective. A few techniques used in this process include journaling, role-playing, and relaxation. A highly used technique is journaling as many clients find that writing allows an individual to freely make note of their thoughts, both conscious and unconscious ones. Additionally, relaxation and meditation techniques are valuable and highly used in this stage to create a neutral space void of any negative emotions or stressful feelings. 

Following the identification and general understanding of the thought patterns, work can begin on changing negative thoughts and behaviors to neutral or positive ones. Sessions may begin to look a little different, rather than making note of the why and what is occurring the individual and therapist focus their attention on constructing plans of action when individuals are exposed to the negative stimuli. Like in the identification stage, role-playing is a highly used technique for problem solving and is in a controlled enough environment where the individual can build confidence to do this successfully in the real world.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, May). Fear of Colors - Chromophobia. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/fear-of-colors-chromophobia/.

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