An intense fear of demons is called as Demonophobia. It is a specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-5.
Someone with Demonophobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear of demons. Not just the exposure, but people suffering from specific phobias can also feel excessive anxiety by just thinking about the object/situation they fear. This excessive anxiety can lead one to have full-blown panic attacks, in severe conditions.
Demonophobia is very subjective. One doesn’t necessarily need to be exposed to demons, as they are not to be found physically. An individual can make up situations in their minds which will lead them to suffer from anxiety. They might perceive demons to be at a specific place, avoiding to go there. In worst scenarios, they might even feel the presence of demons around them all the time.
Therefore, the physical presence or site of demons is not mandatory for someone to experience extreme anxiety in Demonophobia.
People suffering from a specific phobia combat their anxiety by avoiding the fear causing stimulus. Their avoidance of a fear/anxiety causing situation does help them feel good and calm. However, these feelings are short term. The sufferer starts to develop a habit of avoidance which later stems into the development of OCD.
As the DSM-5 suggests, avoidance of the fear stimulating situation/object affects ones’ social and occupational functioning. Such as, one might not be able to go to a certain place or area because of the fear that the place has demons. One may lose contact with friends or family because of the sufferers unusual behavior or actions.
Someone suffering from Demonophobia can also lose his job because of his inability to go to work. Individuals will confine themselves to their homes, to avoid going to places where demons might be present. Sufferers, at times are also fearful of being surrounded by demons even when in their own homes. This fear might be because they are afraid of being attacked by one.
This constant fear of being surrounded by demons or being confined to their houses and losing social contacts causes one to develop depression in the future.
Demonophobia is the irrational, abnormal and tenacious fear of evil supernatural being (demons). Sufferers believe these demons to be real and are fearful of being harmed by them.
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Demonophobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom. Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of demons suffer from extreme anxiety which, as mentioned earlier, can result in one having panic attacks.
When one undergoes extreme anxiety, the body experiences other physiological symptoms as well. Such as increased heartrate or palpitations.
Because this fear of demons is about something which is not physically present or seen and is highly subjective, sufferers of Demonophobia experience symptoms in different ways. One might have more severe symptoms than the other, based on their past experiences and intensity of the phobia. Though, as the DSM-5 suggest, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months.
Symptoms one experiences in Demonophobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to demons
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about demons
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding places or situations where one might encounter demons
- Increased heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness
- Feeling depressed
- Fear of an impending danger or harm
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flushes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
For one to diagnosed with Demonophobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Like every other specific phobia, Demonophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Demonophobia than someone who doesn’t. This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship. According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Demonophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of demons.
This triggering event can be for example, experiencing some paranormal activity in childhood. The sufferer might have developed this fear since then because of the traumatizing effect it might have left on the person’s mind.
Another example of an environmental cause can be, learning to be afraid of demons by looking at ones’ parents. It is possible that someone whose parents are afraid of demons or who believe in their existence can transfer their fear into their child. The child will then imitate his parents fear or acts of avoidance.
Demonophobia can also be a result of hearing about an unpleasant experience of someone’s encounter with demons or stories of the damage they can cause to one or how horrifying they are. This can induce fear in the person. Sufferers are mostly afraid of being attacked or possessed by a demon because of the supernatural stories they’ve heard from their ancestors or in story books/movies.
Demonophobia can also be a result of the fear of dark (Nyctophobia). One who suffers from an intense fear of the dark might also be afraid of encountering or being surrounded by supernatural beings (demons), when in dark or at night.
Therefore, it is evident that there is no one cause for specific phobias to develop. Genetics with environmental factors, together will cause one to have Demonophobia.
Demonophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Demonophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and or yoga, which lowers down the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Demonophobia is defined as the irrational fear of demons. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about being exposed to demons. Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Demonophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobia. Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i. Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts. The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling. Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii. Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts. Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment. This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then. For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the blowing wind, making use of their auditory sense.
iii. The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse. Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem/fearful aspects to it.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, is used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions, lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process. This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation, 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15minutes a day.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Demonophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people. Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while a person is in a particular yoga posture. Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga. The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about demons.
These different types of therapies are very effective in treating people with specific phobias. If one feels that they are developing Demonophobia (or any type of specific phobia), they need to consult a doctor (psychologist/psychiatrist) in order for them to plan the person’s future treatment strategies, before the phobia intensifies.
Titles to read
- Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations for Finding Peace in the Everyday
by Matthew Sockolov, Daniel Henning, et al.
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai, et al.
- When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life
by David D. Burns
- Anxiety & Panic Attacks: Their Cause and Cure
by Robert Handly and Pauline Neff
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What are the symptoms of Demonophobia?
Demonophobia is the fear of demons. Someone suffering from this type of specific phobia experiences extreme anxiety, panic attacks or other physiological symptoms, such as hyperventilation, palpitations or nausea.
Q2) How is Demonophobia caused?
Demonophobia is caused either due to some genetic predisposition, or due to some past traumatic event (environmental factors). One might be more prone to have this phobia if they have a family history of specific phobias or if they experienced a traumatizing event in childhood, associated with demons.
Q3) Is Demonophobia treatable?
Yes. Demonophobia is treated by a number of cognitive therapies such as, CBT, Dialectical behavior Therapy or yoga.
Q4) Are demons real?
No. There is no scientific proof for demons to be real. They are said to exist based on myths and perceptions of people of the ancient times. However, one might not believe in their existence or feel threatened by them. But, sufferers of Demonophobia perceive them to be real and harmful. They experience anxiety because they feel a demon might possess or harm them, if they encounter them.