Ostraconophobia (Fear of Shellfish)

Ostraconophobia is the irrational fear of shellfish. Someone experiencing this disorder my experience a great deal of anxiety when in the presence of a shellfish. They may find them to be extremely repulsive and grotesque. Depending on the severity of their condition, they may even experience full-blown panic attacks as a result of their ostraconophobia.

Their intense fear of shellfish will typically involve all sorts of shellfish such as lobsters, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, etc. Their anxiety may even be so severe that they may find it virtually impossible to even be near someone else eating shellfish.

Even though some people suffering from ostraconophobia may be able to recognize that shellfish themselves pose little to no threat to them, the intensity of anxiety they experience will often supersede their ability to think logically. This is especially true when they are in the presence of one.

People who suffer from this condition may even make major life decisions based solely on their ostraconophobia, such as choosing to live more inland as opposed to living near or on the coast. This is all done in an attempt to limit the chances of them seeing a shellfish, thus limiting their anxiety in the short term.

Though such efforts may allot them with a moment of relief, taking such an action will most likely only worsen their ostraconophobia by reinforcing the deep fears they commonly withhold. Due to it feeling counter-intuitive for them to face their fear head on, they will often resort to avoiding it instead.

Symptoms of Ostraconophobia

There are many different symptoms of ostraconophobia that can bring forth a large amount of distress and anxiety. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, as well as whether or not there are any other relevant mental disorders that may be exacerbating their symptoms (e.g. OCD, GAD, etc.), they may experience full-blown panic attacks. If this were to occur then they can expect to experience a significantly increased heart rate, an increased rate of breathing, perspiration, and shakiness, among other things.

They may find that they are unable or at least very inept at controlling their emotions when they are triggered by their fear in some capacity. This ineptness may significantly lower their self-esteem and hinder their confidence. They may also experience some sort of embarrassment, which will only exacerbate their other symptoms. Depending on how severe their feelings of shame and anxiety are from their ostraconophobia, they may develop full-blown generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

However, this will vary from person to person and will depend on many different factors, such as genetics and the severity of their ostraconophobia, among other things. Most people who suffer from this condition will more than likely not develop additional disorders as a result of it, but it is not implausible nonetheless.

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

  • Intense anxiety around shellfish
  • Anxiety when thinking of shellfish
  • Unable to eat shellfish
  • Muscle tension and shakiness
  • Shame and self-pity

Causes of Ostraconophobia

There are no known causes of ostraconophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play a significant role. Someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders or of phobias may have an increased chance of developing ostraconophobia. If this were to be the case then this may mean that they have a genetic predisposition for developing mental illness. Such a genetic predisposition may then only require that some sort of traumatic experience should occur for them to develop full-blown ostraconophobia.

Such a traumatic experience may be that they were attacked or injured by a shellfish once before and they were deeply impacted by the incident. Other possible reasons as to why someone may develop ostraconophobia may be due to religious reasons. Certain religions prohibit eating shellfish. So, someone may be highly motivated from a religious standpoint to abstain from consuming shellfish. This stance alone does not mean that they have ostraconophobia, but if they have irrationally emotional reactions when seeing shellfish, then it may be more plausible.

Other potential causes of this phobia are that perhaps they already suffer from a different anxiety disorder. For instance, someone suffering from OCD may already spend a great deal of their day obsessing and worrying about things. For reasons not entirely known, they may begin to obsess or fear shellfish. Such an obsession may evolve into full-blown ostraconophobia. Though this is merely one example of many more, it is definitely plausible that this could occur.

Ostraconophobia Treatments

There is no known treatment that is specifically designed for someone suffering from ostraconophobia. However, talk therapy, exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to help minimize the symptoms associated with this disorder. Talk therapy may be very advantageous for someone experiencing ostraconophobia by helping them to react differently toward their fears, as well as helping them to learn new and effective coping skills for when their anxiety flares up.

Exposure therapy is one of the most common types of therapy used to treat people who suffer from phobias. In the context of ostraconophobia, the therapist will try to slowly expose the patient to shellfish to the point to where the patient will become desensitized from their fear and it will have little to no affect on them in the future. Exposure therapy may not be for everybody and should be practiced by a mental health professional who has experience with treating phobias.

Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication may be able to significantly reduce the intensity of symptoms experienced from ostraconophobia. However, taking medication alone may not be enough to truly treat all of the symptoms in the long term. As with virtually all anxiety disorders, therapy is almost always recommended as the patient will most likely need to learn how to adopt more productive, healthier behaviors.

Psychiatric Medications for Ostraconophobia

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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia 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.


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 ostraconophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of ostraconophobia.

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 ostraconophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Ostraconophobia

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 ostraconophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Meditation for Ostraconophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from ostraconophobia. 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia, 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 ostraconophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Ostraconophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as ostraconophobia. 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their ostraconophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with ostraconophobia 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.

Yoga for Ostraconophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from ostraconophobia. 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia.

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 ostraconophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Exercise for Ostraconophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including ostraconophobia. 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia, 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 ostraconophobia over time.

Caffeine Reduction for Ostraconophobia

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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Ostraconophobia

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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia. 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 ostraconophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Ostraconophobia

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 ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with ostraconophobia 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 ostraconophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

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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