In this blog we will summarize the symptoms, causes and treatments of Eisoptrophobia.
What is Eisoptrophobia?
A fear of mirrors is called Eisoptrophobia. It is an intense anxiety related to mirrors, either in the presence of or just in imagination. This makes the person paralyzed with terror, where he can display the symptoms of a full-blown panic attack. This fear is also called catoptrophobia.
Eisoptrophobia originates from Greek ‘eis’ (into) and optikos (vision). It is a fear that goes out of proportion. It is an overwhelming and an unreasonable fear.
People suffering from Eisoptrophobia are not afraid of the actual mirrors but their reflection in it. It is a highly personalized fear that varies from person to person. Society has always set high standards for women, especially in terms of their physical appearance, thus giving rise to ideas of self-image.
This typical fear originates from early superstitious beliefs of mirrors and the famous fairytale of Snow White and Seven Dwarves with the famous quote, “mirror mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all”. This shows that the fairest or the beautiful ones can be visible in the mirror, otherwise no reflection can be seen.
Eisoptrophobia is a rare condition that is caused by genetic or other mental health disorders and trauma. In this phobia the person is irrationally afraid of either the mirrors or seeing oneself in the mirror.
Causes of Eisoptrophobia
There are numerous causes that can feed into this phobia.
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
is a disorder in which a person cannot stop thinking about one or more perceived flaws in his/her appearance. This flaw may even be invisible to others, but to this person it is the reason of embarrassment and shame. This leads to social isolation and they start avoiding going out.
For such people looking in the mirror is so anxiety provoking that they remove all mirrors from home and even cannot bear looking in the rear-view mirror while driving. They suffer from depression and inferiority complex.
- Fear of Reflections
People who have a fear of shiny surfaces and reflections might also develop a fear of mirrors.
There are many superstitions associated with mirrors. It has been famously known that mirrors reflect one’s soul and if broken there will be a bad luck for 7 years. These lead the people to think that mirrors are something to be scared of.
is a specific and intense fear of men. It can be irrational in some cases or very real in some, greatly affecting the quality of life. The symptoms of Eisoptrophobia are displayed vehemently and resemble those of a full-blown panic attack.
- Genetic Factor
Genetics play a pivotal role in enabling fears to be developed. People with a family history of mental illness or any other psychological problem may be more prone to develop Eisoptrophobia.
- Traumatic Event
A traumatic event happening to someone that involved mirrors either in the form of an accident that scarred or scared him for a long time. All traumatic events leave a long-lasting impact on the persons mind to an extent that therapeutic interventions are required.
Symptoms of Eisoptrophobia
- Forceful anxiety when around mirrors
- Anxiety at the mere thought of mirrors
- Unable to control intense emotions
- Avoiding mirrors and anything reflective
- Trying to flee from the place of mirror
- Unable to rationalize their fear
- Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
- Rapid heartbeat (Tachycardia)
- Dry mouth
- Fear of losing control
Treatments of Eisoptrophobia
Eisoptrophobia can be treated through different treatments. These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy (Systematic Desensitization), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.
Let’s take a look at these forms of treatments.
1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to alter 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.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
The goal of therapy is the application of the learnt strategies to everyday life. The duration of treatment is short and the effects are long lasting.
2) Systematic Desensitization (Exposure)
This is one of the most common therapy used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the patient.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the phobic situation or stimulus gradually with varying durations of time. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
In Eisoptrophobia the client is repeatedly exposed to memories of the traumatic event. The client is asked to imagine the actual event and also to recall the places that look the same as the actual place where the trauma occurred.
This therapy alleviates the stress.
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 is taken to the feared stimulus (mirror) in reality. He is shown the mirror or is asked to look at his/her image in the image.
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.
3. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness is our fundamental ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, what we’re doing, and not excessively sensitive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us.
Being mindful means being fully aware of what you are experiencing directly through our thoughts and emotions.
Research proves that when we train our brain to be mindful, we are actually remodeling the physical structure of our brain. The goal is to ‘wake up’ to the inner workings of our emotional, physical and mental processes.
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!
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “And then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”
Meditation is discovering our inner self and experiencing the sensations inside and outside our body. Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.
The client is taught to pay attention to his breathing – inhalation and exhalation.
For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts. The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought. The client will meditate during the exposure to men and with practice either in imagery first will be able to relieve himself of the symptoms.
Yoga includes a holistic approach and treats the mind, body, emotions and energetic systems as a whole. In phobias, the practices of asana, hatha yoga, meditation and work to balance the nervous system and the endocrines, brings emotional and mental calm.
6. Self-Help Groups
Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer. These groups are comprised of individuals who are afflicted with the Eisoptrophobia They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering. Thus, the chances of self-improvement and catering to own anxieties for alleviations becomes effective.
6. Changing Lifestyle
Breaking down the tedium of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well.
- Take up jogging or go for daily walks:
Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.
- Indulging in an exercise regime:
Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better. This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.
- Altering eating and drinking habits:
Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem. This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.
- Sleep Hygiene
Set up a relaxing bed time regimen and make your bedroom a sleep friendly space. Do not take caffeine or any other stimulants before going to bed.
7. Psychiatric Medication
There a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Eisoptrophobia are severe.
1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These are the ones that rid the patients from symptoms of anxiety and panic. The medicines include Xanax, Klonopin and others. 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 Eisoptrophobia 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.
8. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions. A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind. apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.
Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.
- What Causes Fear of mirrors?
A fear of mirrors may be caused by generalized fear of reflections. A fear of reflected surfaces like a polished car top or a glass shiny top might also be scary. Reflections characteristically garble the reflected items, causing them to appear slightly unreal.
- What does Spectrophobia mean?
In Spectrophobia (derived from Latin: spectrum) sufferers of Spectrophobia can fear the breaking of a mirror bringing bad luck. They also fear the thought of something frightening jumping out of the mirror or that they might see a disturbing image inside of it next to their own reflection.
- What is an Eisoptrophobic person afraid of?
An Eisotrophobic is actually afraid of a broken mirror bringing bad luck, or seeing their self-distorted, if they are suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.
- Is it bad to look in the mirror too much?
It is not at all bad to look too much at yourself in the mirror. You can look at yourself regularly to check how you look, but if it takes an extreme form of loathing what you see or recurrent thoughts of checking yourself out, then you might need help.
- What causes Eisoptrophobia?
Eisoptrophobia is caused either through a genetic predisposition or traumatic event in the past. Superstition, poor self-image are also vital causes.
Titles to Read from
- The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder
by Katharine A. Phillips M.D. | Jun 2, 2005
- Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder
by Katharine A. Phillips | Feb 20, 2009
- Reflections on Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Stories of Courage, Determination and Hope
by Nicole Schnackenberg Sergio Petro | Nov 22, 2016
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Book by Bessel van der Kolk
- Overcoming Fear: The Supernatural Strategy to Live in Freedom
by Dawna De Silva, Danny Silk – foreword, et al.