Epistemophobia (Fear of Knowledge)


Epistemophobia is the irrational fear of knowledge. Someone suffering from this disorder will find the mere thought of knowledge to be very anxiety provoking. In some societies, knowledge of certain aspects of life or of the world may be deemed to be dangerous. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned three phobias are all something that most people deeply desire to have.

For example, such a fear of knowledge can clearly be seen by looking back at the creation myth of Adam and Eve in the Abrahamic religions. In the famous story, God commands them not to eat any of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for anyone who does will surely die (Genesis 2:17). In other words, ignorance was deemed to be a virtue, while knowledge and wisdom was clearly a vice. So, you can clearly see how a religious person may deem certain types of knowledge to be problematic.

However, epistemophobia is not limited to only those who subscribe to some sort of religious doctrine. Essentially, anyone with the proper genetics may be at risk for developing this very rare phobia.

However, it should be noted that someone merely having an aversion to learning certain things is not intimation of them having epistemophobia. Instead, this condition is a mental illness where the person suffering from it can expect a great deal of anxiety to the point to where their daily life is inhibited.

Symptoms of Epistemophobia

People suffering from full blown epistemophobia can expect to experience a large amount of anxiety when thinking about knowledge. For some, it may not be knowledge in general that they fear, but rather it may be obtaining knowledge from a specific subject that they deem to be anxiety provoking. Their intense fear of knowledge will likely motivate them to try to avoid it as best they can. Depending on what the subject is, abstaining from learning about it may have very abysmal consequences.

In some extreme cases, someone’s epistemophobia may be so intense and intrusive that they may even develop full blown panic attacks which may require them to be hospitalized. In such a situation, they can expect to experience an increased heart rate, an increased rate of breathing, as well as increased muscle tension and perspiration. Though this may not be a very common occurrence, it is still very plausible to happen insofar as their anxiety is more then they can handle in that particular moment.

Below, you will see some more common symptoms of this phobia:

  • Intense anxiety when thinking about knowledge
  • Anxiety when confronted with new ideas
  • Closed-minded/not open to new ideas
  • Unable to cope with their intense anxiety
  • Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
  • May experience panic attacks

Causes of Epistemophobia

There are no definitive causes of epistemophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant roles. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially of phobias, then they may have a higher chance of developing an irrational fear of knowledge. This may be due to them then having a genetic predisposition to developing mental illness in general.

If they were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown epistemophobia. For instance, someone becoming gravely harmed due to knowledge they obtained may instill a great amount fear in them to the point to where they may develop an irrational fear of knowledge in general, depending on how traumatizing the event was, as well as whether or not they have the proper genetic makeup.

Besides experiencing a single traumatic event, it is also possible for someone to develop epistemophobia due to them being conditioned over many years to withhold the conviction that certain knowledge or knowledge in general is something that is worthy of being feared and avoided.

Though we do not know the exact causes of why someone develops an irrational fear of knowledge, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and environmental factors play very pertinent roles in the development of virtually any given mental disorder. So, taking a closer look at these two different parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you may be at risk for developing epistemophobia or not.

Epistemophobia Treatments

Exposure therapy is one of the most common and effective forms of treatment for people suffering from epistemophobia. This form of treatment works by having the therapist gradually expose the patient to their fear of knowledge over a given period of time. Though doing so will inevitably give the patient an influx of unwanted anxiety, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear as well.

Besides exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be very effective for helping people suffering from epistemophobia. CBT works by having the patient learn new and productive ways to think about their fears, which in turn will help them to reduce the severity of their epistemophobia. Someone engaging in CBT can also expect to learn new ways to cope with their anxiety. Such skills may be very useful, especially during the onset of a full blown panic attack.

Anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may also be effective at improving the symptoms of epistemophobia. However, merely taking medication without the use of any form of therapy may not be very effective for long-term treatment as the patient will not be able to learn effective behavior changes by merely taking medication. Nevertheless, this is something that should first be discussed with you and your doctor.

Exposure Therapy for Epistemophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as epistemophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with epistemophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.

The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with epistemophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their epistemophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with epistemophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.

Working Out for Epistemophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including epistemophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.

According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of epistemophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.

There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of epistemophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with epistemophobia over time.

Yoga Sessions for Epistemophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from epistemophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with epistemophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.

There are many different types of yoga that someone with epistemophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with epistemophobia.

If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of epistemophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Epistemophobia

MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from epistemophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with epistemophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.

Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of epistemophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Psychiatric Medications for Epistemophobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe epistemophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.

These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their epistemophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.

Antidepressants

These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as epistemophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of epistemophobia.

These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of epistemophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Epistemophobia

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with epistemophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.

CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with epistemophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with epistemophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.

Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with epistemophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Epistemophobia

DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like epistemophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.

One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with epistemophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.

Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with epistemophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.

Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with epistemophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your epistemophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Meditation Practice for Epistemophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from epistemophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.

Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from epistemophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.

For someone with epistemophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.

To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of epistemophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.

Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with epistemophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Control Caffeine Consumption for Epistemophobia

It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with epistemophobia to experience panic attacks.

So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.

Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with epistemophobia.

If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.

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