Leukophobia (Fear of the Color White)

Overview

What is leukophobia?

Leukophobia is an intense fear of the color white. It’s a specific phobia, which occurs when you face or think of a particular situation.

Leukophobia may stem from other mental health issues, including:

  • Repetitive thoughts and urges: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Perfectionism: An expectation of flawlessness that, when not met, causes severe self-criticism.

The source of the fear is often in what the color white represents:

  • Commitment: Seeing white can remind you of brides and marriage. It can cause you to fear commitment (gamophobia).
  • Death: In some cultures, people wear white when they’re mourning. You may also have thanatophobia, a fear of death.
  • Perfection: Seeing the color white can reinforce an abnormal need for perfection. You may have atelophobia, which is the fear of being imperfect.
  • Purity: You may feel shameful about not being pure, which can occur in survivors of sexual abuse and rape.
  • Snow: White may remind you of a bad experience with snow causing chinonophobia.

What are phobias?

It’s natural to fear things that seem dangerous or uncomfortable. You may also get anxious about things that remind you of a bad experience, like food that made you sick. But these situations rarely disrupt daily activities.

Phobias cause more intense feelings. They bring challenges that affect your everyday life. You may experience fear that makes you go out of your way to avoid certain normal situations. This can lead to abnormal thoughts and behaviors that are difficult to control.

What does it feel like to have leukophobia?

With leukophobia, seeing or thinking of the color white causes extreme fear and anxiety. In some people, these feelings become overwhelming, leading to panic attacks.

If the color white makes you feel this way, there’s no reason to feel self-conscious. Many people have phobias. Talk to your healthcare provider so you can learn how to lessen the impact the color white has on your life.

Symptoms and Causes

What are leukophobia causes?

Genetics and your environment raise the risk of specific phobias:

  • Genetics: A family history of mood disorders increases the likelihood of phobias. It’s also possible for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder to run in families. But not everyone with a family history ends up with these issues.
  • Environment: Emotional trauma related to the color white often causes leukophobia. For example, you or a loved one may have been injured in a car accident due to snowy conditions.

What are leukophobia symptoms?

Leukophobia symptoms include behavioral changes and physical responses.

Behaviors

Behaviors that can affect your daily life include:

  • Not wanting to leave your house in fear of seeing something white.
  • Working in professions where you feel you have more control over the exposure to the color white.
  • Avoiding people who might not understand how this color makes you feel.

Physical symptoms

Leukophobia can also make you unwell, including:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is leukophobia diagnosed?

Healthcare providers typically diagnose leukophobia in an office visit. The evaluation includes asking you about symptoms and negative behaviors.

They may ask:

  • How often do you think about the color white?
  • How does the color white make you feel?
  • What is it about this color that makes you fearful?
  • Is this fear causing you to make abnormal changes in your daily routine?
  • Do you have a personal or family history of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder?
  • Are you avoiding people or places you used to enjoy because of leukophobia?

Management and Treatment

What is leukophobia treatment like?

A common leukophobia treatment is exposure therapy. Your mental health provider helps you explore the reasons behind your fear of the color white. They then enable you to overcome these issues by exposing you to white-colored objects.

Therapy starts with low-risk exposures, such as thinking of the color white. As treatment progresses, exposures gradually become more significant. You may touch white-colored objects or briefly go to places where white is present. Over time, with successful treatment, you learn how to manage negative feelings about this color.

Can other treatments help me cope with leukophobia?

Additional treatments may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Undergoing CBT helps you address why white makes you fearful. You also learn techniques for managing negative thoughts.
  • Medications: Drugs don’t cure leukophobia. But antidepressants can help reduce symptoms of a mood disorder, and anti-anxiety medications can help you decrease your emotional distress and anxiety.
  • Stress reduction: Yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques quiet an overactive mind. This makes it easier to face things you find uncomfortable.

Prevention

Is there anything I can do to prevent leukophobia?

If you face a higher risk of phobias, you can learn how to manage worrisome thoughts and your reactions to them. Doing so may lower the risk of these issues escalating into phobias.

You may be able to lower your risk of leukophobia by:

  • Limiting alcohol and recreational drug consumption.
  • Lowering stress during everyday activities, like working.
  • Quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco use.
  • Spending time with loved ones.
  • Taking up a new hobby to take your mind off the phobia.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for people with leukophobia?

Exposure therapy and other treatments help you overcome the fear of the color white. And when fears are under control, you can feel more comfortable going about your daily life. The color white may still occasionally cause anxiety. But knowing how to calm your mind can prevent these feelings from taking over.

Living With

What else is important to know about leukophobia?

When you have leukophobia, fear of the color white and attempts to avoid it take over your life. It’s important to remember, even though it might be difficult, that the fear is often greater than the actual risk to your well-being. This is why it’s essential to seek treatment.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Leukophobia is an intense fear of the color white. In many people, the phobia stems from worries about what the color represents. You may associate white with death, purity or commitment. Going out of your way to avoid the color white can worsen the fear’s grip on your life. With successful treatment, you learn how to manage negative feelings and behaviors. This can give you the confidence to go about your daily life without worrying about the color white.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/15/2022.

References

  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Phobic Disorders (Phobias). (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/quick-facts-mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/phobic-disorders-phobias) Accessed 2/14/2022.
  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Specific Phobic Disorders. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders) Accessed 2/14/2022.
  • National Health Service (United Kingdom). Phobias. (https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/) Accessed 2/14/2022.

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