Pogonophobia (Fear of Beards)
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What is pogonophobia?
Pogonophobia is an extreme fear of beards. “Pogon” comes from the Greek word for beards. Someone with pogonophobia may feel severe anxiety or panic around people with beards. They may also feel this way if they see a photo or video of someone with a beard. They might fear long, full beards, or any type of facial hair such as a mustache, goatee or “five o’clock shadow”. The condition can also make people scared of real beards or artificial beards that are part of costumes.
If you have pogonophobia, it’s impossible to predict when and where you might encounter someone with a beard. So, pogonophobia can make it difficult to function at work, in social situations or in public.
What is a phobia?
An overwhelming fear of an object, event or situation is a phobia. The fear might seem irrational or silly to others. You might think, “How can a beard be dangerous?” But to someone with pogonophobia or any other phobia, the focus of their fear presents a very real threat. Specific phobic disorders are a type of anxiety disorder.
How common is pogonophobia?
It’s not clear how many people have pogonophobia, but phobias as a whole are fairly common. Studies show that about 12% of adults and 19% of teenagers in the U.S. experience a specific phobic disorder at some point. Phobias are about twice as common in women as they are in men.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes pogonophobia?
A fear of beards can have a variety of causes, including:
- Associations: Some people associate beards with homelessness, poverty or illness. Or it may seem like someone is growing a beard to hide their face, suggesting mysterious or criminal behavior. Sometimes, beards also bring to mind certain religions or ethnicities. These are all stereotypes. You may not even realize that your fear stems from these types of generalizations about beards.
- Family history: Genetics may play a role in phobias. The genes you inherit from your parents can increase your risk for anxiety and other mental health disorders. Studies suggest that between 25% and 65% of phobias have a genetic component. Researchers haven’t identified a single “phobia gene,” so it’s likely that multiple genes play a role in these conditions.
- Other phobias: Sometimes phobias overlap. For instance, if you have mysophobia (fear of dirt and germs) you may also be scared of beards because you feel they’re filthy or unhygienic. People with Santaphobia (fear of Santa Claus) might get anxiety around beards, especially near the holidays. Trichophobia (fear of hair) can trigger a fear of beards, mustaches and all facial hair.
- Trauma: Abuse from someone with a beard can make you scared of beards. Or maybe you saw a scary movie where the villain had a beard. Even if these traumatic experiences occurred in the distant past, you may still connect them with beards in your mind. As a result, beards remind you of pain, fear, danger or helplessness.
What are the symptoms of pogonophobia?
People with pogonophobia avoid any situation where they may encounter people with beards. This could include barbershops or hair salons. They might not go into shopping malls around the holidays in case someone is wearing a Santa Claus costume with an artificial beard. If someone has a friend, colleague or family member with a beard, they might feel scared to go to work or attend social gatherings where that person will be present.
Severe anxiety related to pogonophobia can lead to panic attacks. Symptoms may include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
- Heart palpitations.
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
- Trembling or shaking.
- Upset stomach or indigestion (dyspepsia).
Diagnosis and Tests
How is pogonophobia diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider evaluates the frequency, severity and duration of your symptoms. They may ask:
- How long have you been scared of beards?
- How often does your fear of beards affect your daily life?
- What happens when you see or think about beards?
They may diagnose you with pogonophobia if you:
- Can’t function at work, school or in social situations due to your fear of beards.
- Go out of your way to avoid beards in any situation.
- Have been scared of beards for six months or longer.
- Have panic attacks about beards.
Your healthcare provider will also determine if other mental health disorders may be making your phobia worse, such as:
- Avoidant personality disorder.
- Illness anxiety disorder (hypochondria).
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Other phobic disorders.
- Panic disorder.
- Paranoid personality disorder.
Management and Treatment
How is pogonophobia managed or treated?
Treatments for pogonophobia may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy (talk therapy). It helps you change negative or false thinking about the object of your fear. You identify specific triggers, such as whether you’re scared of all-natural facial hair or only when beards are part of a costume. You also learn techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, to cope with the symptoms of a phobia.
- Exposure therapy: Your healthcare provider may suggest combining CBT and exposure therapy. During exposure therapy, you might look at pictures of beards or touch an artificial beard. Over time, you can practice encountering beards in public situations. This might mean going to a barbershop or hair salon, or attending a movie where one of the actors has a beard. Exposure therapy gradually desensitizes you to the object of your fear.
- Medication: Medication hasn’t proven very effective for the long-term management of phobias. It doesn’t treat the underlying source of your fear. But if you have to be around beards, such as going to a party where some guests may have beards, anti-anxiety drugs can help you manage symptoms.
Is there a way to prevent pogonophobia?
You can’t entirely prevent specific phobic disorders such as pogonophobia, but you can reduce their negative effects by:
- Avoiding things that make anxiety worse, such as caffeine, drugs or alcohol.
- Exercising and eating a healthy diet, which can help reduce anxiety and stress.
- Getting help from your healthcare provider when symptoms affect your quality of life.
- Sharing your fears with friends, family members or a support group.
Outlook / Prognosis
What’s the prognosis (outlook) for people with pogonophobia?
Psychotherapy is very effective at helping people manage phobias such as pogonophobia. About 9 out of 10 people with specific phobic disorders can overcome their fear with exposure therapy. In some cases, phobias may return after months or years of not having symptoms. You may need additional treatment if there’s a reoccurrence.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Difficulty functioning in your daily life due to a fear of beards.
- Symptoms of a panic attack.
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Can other treatments, such as hypnotherapy, help me get to the root of my fear?
- How can I get over pogonophobia?
- How long will I need psychotherapy?
- Why am I scared of beards?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pogonophobia is an overwhelming fear or worry about beards. Someone with the condition might be scared to encounter people with beards, mustaches, goatees or any type of facial hair. The fear can focus on natural beards or beards that are part of costumes. If this phobia is negatively affecting your quality of life, talk to your healthcare provider. Most people can overcome pogonophobia with psychotherapy.
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