Papyrophobia (Fear of Paper)

Papyrophobia causes a fear of paper. You may panic when you see paper or have to touch or write on paper. You may also be afraid of getting a paper cut. This phobia can negatively affect your quality of life, as many everyday items are made of paper. Exposure therapy or other psychotherapies can help you overcome a fear of paper.


What is papyrophobia?

People who have papyrophobia have an illogical fear of paper. The Greek word “papyro” and the Egyptian word “papyrus” mean paper. “Phobos” is the Greek word for fear. A person with papyrophobia may be afraid to touch paper or write on it. They may also worry about getting a paper cut.


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What is a phobia?

Phobias cause anxiety or fear about something that’s not harmful. Fear of paper is a specific phobic disorder. You fear a particular object: paper. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder.

What do people with papyrophobia fear?

Someone with papyrophobia may fear:

  • Any type of paper, including wallpaper, newspaper and wrapping paper.
  • Seeing or touching paper.
  • Writing on paper.
  • Paper cuts.
  • The sound of someone crumpling paper.
  • Extra-large pieces of paper.
  • Currency bills or money.
  • Touching bills or receipts.


How common is papyrophobia?

It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like papyrophobia, but it’s rare. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.

People who are fearful about germs may also have a fear of touching paper. This fear could be more common these days due to concerns about catching SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. There’s no evidence of anyone getting sick with the coronavirus from handling paper or money but we should always follow disease-prevention guidelines. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after contact with money or receipts.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes papyrophobia?

People designated females at birth (DFAB) are more likely than those designated male at birth (DMAB) to experience a phobia disorder. Risk factors include:

  • Family history: Witnessing a parent or loved one struggle with a phobia or anxiety disorder may make you more likely to have the same fears.
  • Genetics: Some research suggests that some people have gene change that makes them more prone to anxiety disorders and phobias.
  • Other phobias: It’s common to have more than one phobia.


What is a phobia?

Phobias cause anxiety or fear about something that’s not harmful. Fear of paper is a specific phobic disorder. You fear a particular object: paper. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder.

What other phobias are associated with fear of paper?

Many people have several phobias. These fears often are interrelated. For instance, someone who has a fear of paper may also have:

  • Chrometophobia (fear of money), especially paper money.
  • Cogombophobia (fear of cardboard boxes).
  • Hemophobia (fear of blood, which a paper cut can cause).
  • Mysophobia or germophobia (fear of germs).
  • Dendrophobia (fear of trees).

What are the symptoms of papyrophobia?

People with phobias may realize that they have an extreme fear. But they still have physical symptoms when they encounter the phobia trigger — in this case, paper.

These symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Extreme feeling of dread or terror.
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Shortness of breath.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is papyrophobia diagnosed?

The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recognize fear of paper as a phobic disorder in its diagnostic manual (the DSM-5). However, a psychologist or another healthcare provider can evaluate your symptoms to diagnose this phobia.

Criteria for a specific phobic disorder diagnosis include:

  • Severe fear or anxiety when you think about or touch paper.
  • Ongoing fear of paper that lasts for at least six months.
  • Symptoms that arise anytime you touch or think about paper.
  • Taking steps to avoid coming into contact with or seeing paper.
  • Reduced quality of life due to phobia symptoms.

Management and Treatment

What is papyrophobia treatment?

There are several ways that a mental health professional can help you overcome a fear of paper, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that helps you process why you have fears about paper. Your healthcare provider uses this knowledge to help you change your perceptions and responses.
  • Exposure therapy: This psychotherapy makes you less afraid of the feared object (paper). Therapy gradually exposes you to images and situations involving paper. You may start by looking at paper and progress to holding and writing on paper. This is desensitization, and it works for most people with specific phobias.
  • Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT): This approach teaches you coping skills and relaxation techniques like meditation that can help you manage phobia symptoms. You work one-on-one with a therapist to learn these skills. You may also practice your new skills in supportive group therapy sessions.
  • Hypnotherapy: This therapy induces a hypnotic, trance-like state to help you uncover the root cause of the phobia. Most healthcare providers combine hypnotherapy with psychotherapy to help you address and overcome the fear.
  • Medications: Anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants can ease symptoms. These medicines can help you get through day-to-day activities that often involve contact with paper. You may not need the medicine once other therapies start showing results.

What are the complications of papyrophobia?

An extreme fear of paper may cause a panic attack. You may feel like you’re having a heart attack and are at risk of dying. What you’re experiencing is a severe physical response to the phobia trigger. Repeated panic attacks can lead to panic disorder. Anti-anxiety medicines and other therapies can help.

A fear of paper can make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to function in society or hold down a job. An extreme fear of paper may make you afraid to leave your home or other places that you consider safe. You may develop another phobia called agoraphobia that causes you to avoid going places where you might see or have contact with paper.

Your loved ones may have a difficult time understanding this fear. As a result, you may be at risk for:

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.
  • Signs of depression or problems with substances.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What’s causing this phobia?
  • What’s the best treatment for me?
  • Should I try exposure therapy?
  • How long will I need therapy?
  • Can medications help?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Many things are made of paper: money, mail, tickets, receipts and more. Going through life without having to see or touch paper at some point isn’t realistic or healthy. A fear of paper, or papyrophobia, can affect your ability to work and enjoy life. If you develop this rare specific phobic disorder, a mental health specialist can help you overcome the fear.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/15/2022.

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