Pteridophobia (Fear of Ferns)

Pteridophobia is an extreme fear of ferns. Someone with this condition might be scared of any place that could contain ferns, such as parks or forests. It can lead to anxiety and panic attacks. Psychotherapy can help you manage this fear.

Overview

What is pteridophobia?

Pteridophobia (pronounced “ter-i-doh-foh-bee-uh”) is a fear of ferns. Someone with pteridophobia may have extreme worry if they see a fern, either in person or in a picture or video. They may also develop anxiety at the thought or mention of ferns. It’s a type of botanophobia, which is a fear of plants.

Like other phobias, pteridophobia can vary in severity. The condition may not have a huge effect on someone’s life if it’s easy for them to avoid ferns on a daily basis. But if they’re exposed to ferns, such as working in an environment with potted indoor ferns, their fear can be disruptive and debilitating.

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What is a phobia?

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder called specific phobic disorders. They cause an overwhelming fear or worry about certain activities, objects or situations. How common is pteridophobia?

Pteridophobia isn’t very common. Phobic disorders as a whole affect about 12% of adults and 19% of adolescents in the U.S. They’re approximately twice as common in people assigned female at birth (AFAB) than in people assigned male at birth (AMAB). Examples of more common phobias include claustrophobia (fear of crowded, confined spaces) and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes).

Symptoms and Causes

What causes pteridophobia?

Pteridophobia, like other phobic disorders, can have a variety of triggers. This fear may be related to:

  • Genetics: It’s possible to inherit genes from your parents that make you more likely to have a phobia, anxiety disorder or other mental health disorder.
  • Misinformation: Some ferns may be poisonous to people or animals. You may know this and think that all ferns are poisonous or dangerous.
  • Other phobias or anxiety disorders: Some fears can make others worse. You might be scared of ferns if you have botanophobia or hylophobia (fear of forests). A condition such as hypochondriasis can make you scared of getting ill or having an allergic reaction to ferns.
  • Trauma: Trauma related to ferns may condition your fear of this plant. For example, you might have had a bad allergic reaction to a fern or seen ferns depicted as scary or threatening in the media.
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What are the symptoms of pteridophobia?

Someone who’s afraid of ferns may avoid places where there could be ferns, such as forests, gardens, parks or office buildings. They avoid looking at pictures of ferns or mentioning ferns. They might see real ferns, artificial ferns or both as threatening. Pteridophobia may prevent someone from doing their job effectively, participating in family activities or going to social events.

Pteridophobia can also cause panic attacks, which may lead to:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is pteridophobia diagnosed?

There isn’t a blood test or exam that can detect pteridophobia. Like other phobias, it can be difficult to diagnose because it can overlap with other mental health disorders such as:

If you think you have pteridophobia, tell your healthcare provider. They’ll review your symptoms and ask you detailed questions about your fear of ferns. Try to answer as honestly as possible; the information will help your healthcare provider build the most effective treatment plan.

Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with pteridophobia if you:

  • Avoid any situation where you think there could be a fern.
  • Experience a fear of ferns for six months or longer.
  • Have a lower quality of life or difficulty functioning on a daily basis due to your fear.
  • Have severe anxiety at the thought or sight of ferns.
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Management and Treatment

How is pteridophobia managed or treated?

There’s a variety of ways to manage a fear of ferns, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on helping you change the way you think about ferns. Your therapist may provide facts about ferns, such as which types are poisonous and where they’re found. You also learn to identify what triggers your anxiety. For example, perhaps you’re only scared of indoor ferns or ferns that are near water.
  • Exposure therapy: CBT and exposure therapy often go hand in hand. You gradually expose yourself to fear triggers so you can learn how to manage your anxiety. You may look at pictures of ferns or take a walk through a park that contains ferns. Your therapist can give you strategies for keeping panic at bay, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Medication: Your healthcare provider may recommend anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives or beta-blockers if you have frequent panic attacks about ferns. Medication doesn’t treat the source of your fear, but it may help.

Prevention

Is there a way to prevent pteridophobia?

There isn’t a way to prevent pteridophobia, but you can take steps to reduce the negative effects it has on your life. You may benefit from:

  • Avoiding caffeine, drugs or alcohol, which can make anxiety worse.
  • Connecting with a therapist or other healthcare providers to manage the condition.
  • Talking about your fear with friends and family members.

Outlook / Prognosis

What’s the prognosis (outlook) for people with pteridophobia?

Most people respond well to treatments such as CBT and exposure therapy. Therapy may last for months or years, depending on the severity of your fear. You may be able to stop treatment once your symptoms improve.

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Difficulty functioning in your daily life due to fear of ferns.
  • Symptoms of a panic attack.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long will I need treatment?
  • Will I be scared of ferns my entire life?
  • What changes can I make in my life to better cope with pteridophobia?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Pteridophobia is a fear of ferns. It isn’t that common, but for people who suffer from the condition, the fear can be debilitating and disruptive to their lives. Most people with pteridophobia respond well to treatment. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider so you can find safe, healthy ways to manage the condition.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/11/2022.

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