Spectrophobia: The Fear of Mirrors

Spectrophobia refers to the fear of mirrors. This fear is not limited just to the mirrors themselves, but what people see reflected back at them. Spectrophobia is classified as a specific phobia, a category of anxiety disorders in which people experience irrational fear in response to certain objects and situations.

man looking away from mirror

Many times, this fear can be tied to religious beliefs or superstitions. In many urban legends, the mirror serves as a portal for souls. It’s been said that ghosts or demons can appear from them. The thought of seeing these images can trigger anxiety.

While people with spectrophobia are afraid of what they see in the mirror, this condition should not be confused with eisoptrophobia, which is the fear of one’s reflection. In the case of spectrophobia, the person is not afraid of their own reflection but rather another image being reflected in the mirror, possibly due to a superstition.

Causes of Spectrophobia

Phobias are often caused by a traumatic event. The impact of the event remains inside the person’s mind, and they live with the constant fear of being exposed to it again. Every time they’re exposed to something remotely close, their flight or fight response kicks in, and they start having symptoms of extreme fear or panic attacks.

The fear is individualized and may depend on many factors. A person’s cultural background can have a large impact on what they fear or like. Some people fear mirrors because of their culture. They may fear the undead or ghosts accessing them through the mirrors. Some people are more afraid of the unknown. Mirrors do have large possibilities, so certain people fear there are too many unknowns by looking at a mirror. If they’re afraid of their reflections, it may be due to self-esteem issues. Some people hate mirrors because they fear that they reflect their souls. If they dislike themselves and believe their souls to be evil or ugly, the thought of seeing their souls can be terrifying.

Some studies suggest that there may be a genetic factor. The gene will not dictate the phobia that the person will develop. However, this gene may make a person generally more susceptible to phobias. The gene can be inherited. It may not pass on the same phobia because it will depend on what traumatic event triggers it.

However, they will be more likely to develop a phobia than most other people. In other cases, the phobia is gained by environmental factors. Some people learn phobias from their friends and family. If you spend too much time with someone that suffers from a specific phobia, you may find yourself developing it, too, especially if you were exposed to the person at a young age.

Symptoms of Spectrophobia

People with spectrophobia will avoid mirrors and other reflective objects at all costs. This condition may negatively impact their social lives. One can avoid mirrors in their own home, but once you’re out, you have to go through extreme tactics to avoid seeing one. These people may experience symptoms simply upon the mention of a mirror. Some will not use any items made of glass out of fear that they might see something reflected off that item.

When they find themselves in a room with a mirror, or they see what appears like a reflection from a mirror, they will experience symptoms of anxiety such as:

  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

Treatment Options

The main treatment offered for spectrophobia by mental health professionals is psychotherapy. Most therapists recommend exposure therapy. In this modality, the person is exposed to their phobia in a controlled and safe environment. The exposure happens gradually and with the consent of the patient so that they eventually conquer their fear.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of therapy that focuses on helping people change negative thought patterns, is also commonly used in the treatment of spectrophobia and other specific phobias. 

In extreme cases, some therapists prescribe medication to lower anxiety levels and decrease the severity of symptoms, though this is typically limited to instances in which the patient’s daily functioning is completely disrupted due to the condition. These medications typically include benzodiazepines and SSRI antidepressants.

It’s important to note that many people suffer from specific phobias like spectrophobia, and it is treatable. So if you feel that your life is being held back by your fear of mirrors, it’s recommended that you consult a mental health professional.


Theresa Smith

Theresa Smith is a relationship expert with over 20 years of experience. She has worked in different areas including clinical work, and more recently a writer. She has a passion for happy relationships and feels that it’s an attainable goal for everyone.

Theresa has several professional credentials centered around mental health, psychology, dating, relationships, and addiction treatment. She has written thousands of articles and many e-books on many facets of dating and relationships.

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