In this blog we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments for Atheophobia.
Atheophobia is an irrational fear of the atheists. Atheists are people belonging to Atheism. They will suffer from anxiety even at the thought of Atheists.
The people who suffer from Atheophobia are religious and have had a conservative upbringing.
They follow their religious values studiously and even the smallest diversion from the path of belief leaves them in a state of anxiety.
Atheism is the absence of belief. The people who follow this do not believe in the presence of deities.
Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. They do not shun other religions, but only that they do not believe.
The religions of the world and their Holy books have strict punishments and a negative attitude towards the non believers.
Atheophobia is an intense fear of the atheists, they hold their religious faith firm that all atheists will be punished by god.
This intensifies their fear of being exposed to them, that if they have some connection with the non-believers, they too might suffer the same fate as them.
They start avoiding anything that is related to the atheists, thus avoiding the stimuli that gives them anxiety.
Causes of Bufonophobia
Coming from a conservative background, the person suffering from Atheophobia may want to break free from the religious burden of following and abiding the strict rules of their respective religions.
They might undergo Reaction Formation; a defence mechanism of the mind.
When impulses or emotions bring on anxiety, the mind then to avoid anxiety, transforms these emotions into exactly the opposite emotions and impulses.
Therefore, the person suffering from Atheophobia may actually want to break free from the burdens of his religion and be liberal like the atheists.
But living in the society that he is raised in, he cannot openly participate in or nurture these thoughts.
The mind undergoes Reaction Formation and thus Atheophobia develops.
Apart from these Atheophobia may be caused due to the following factors:-
- Genetic Predisposition
Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness. This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations.
If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.
Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families. Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.
- Biological Cause
Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur.
Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Nervous demeanor
- Losing or gaining weight
Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety.
Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels.
Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness.
When the levels of Dopamine drop anxiety and a feeling of dread become a common forte.
Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response.
This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat. This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety.
This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobia fear. In the case of Atheophobia, this stimulus will be the atheists
- Behavioral Cause
Children learn behaviors and attitudes from people around them.
These people may be their parents, siblings, extended family members like uncles or aunts, grandparents or any significant others they are attached to.
In Atheophobia it is often found that if a member of the family or peer group has a strong aversion towards the atheists, then chances are higher that the child will also develop Atheophobia.
- Traumatic Incidence/s
Atheophobia may also be caused due to an incident or accident that was caused either in the presence of atheists or due to them.
The person or child may relate the incident and generalize the presence of atheists to every situation that might resemble the actual scenario.
- Media, Literature & Facts
There are news reports of religious groups who follow and indulge in mass rages. These groups have strong emotions and much stronger words for non-believers.
The religious groups have their own private channels and newspapers. These medium strongly condemn the atheists and instigate acts against them.
A person who suffers from Atheophobia will get his motivation from these sources.
These further consolidate fears that the atheists may harm him if such acts of violence are taken against them.
Symptoms of Atheophobia
Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity.
There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.
The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are felt by the sufferer.
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Sweating and trembling
- dry mouth
- raised blood pressure
The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior.
- feelings of dread at the thought of atheists
- fear of dying
- fear of losing control
- fear of harm
- fear of illness
- feeling of helplessness
- mood swings
Therapeutic Interventions for Atheophobia
Phobias can be treated through a variety of therapeutic interventions. a) Systematic Desensitization b) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP) d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) d) meditation e) medication
- Systematic Desensitization
This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from phobia.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time.
The degree of severity is hierarchical,ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).
The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’
Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client.
Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most.
The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:
a) In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine
b) In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality
The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.
This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought and behavior that follows.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.
CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation.
Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.
Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.
The therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis.
According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is.
c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)
In this therapy the client is asked to
- Access the phobia in a safe environment.
- Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
- Disassociate from the phobia.
d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.
We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.
We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
Meditation alters the emotional attachment one has to his/her thoughts. This attachment is actually the root cause of Atheophobia and other phobias as well.
Meditation helps to disconnect and is by far the quickest, most effective way to do this.
Meditation helps one to detach their thoughts from the emotional content of the phobia.
Meditation helps you to alleviate all irrational thoughts.
Relaxation and maintaining focus gives one the strength to press into the phobic fear and gain access so that it can be eroded, session by session.
e) Group Therapy
Group Therapy is one of the most effective treatments available for phobias. In this the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.
These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias or anxieties. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping mechanisms.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.
f) Routine Modification
The person suffering from Atheophobia is advised to alter his daily routine and bring about a change.
The change is always considered to be a healthy way of dealing with stress and phobias in particular.
- Adopt a walking regimen
- Induct exercise on a daily basis
- Alter eating and drinking habits
- Improving the sleep cycle
There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Bufonophobia are severe and hinder the daily activities of the sufferer.
- Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Atheophobia as well as other phobias.
Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fear of non-believers called?
The fear of non-believers is called Atheophobia.
Who are atheists?
Atheists are people who have a lack of belief in god.
Will deep breathing exercise to overcome anxiety?
Yes. Deep breathing exercises help the person to overcome symptoms of anxiety.
It helps to refocus on stimuli other than the ones that provoke anxiety.
Can we teach respect for all beliefs to the Atheophobes?
We should teach respect for all beliefs to everyone and not only Atheophobes.
It is a necessity for a peaceful community.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
Titles to Read
- For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan
- World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained
by John Bowker
- How To Treat Anxiety With Meditation, not Medication by Dan Coffey
- Overcoming Anxiety: How to Treat Anxiety Disorder and Overcome Anxiety for Life by Susan Belgwin
- 365 Ways to Reduce Stress: Everyday Tips to Help You Relax, Rejuvenate, and Refresh
by Eve Adamson
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai, et al.