Papyrophobia (Fear of Paper)

Papyrophobia is the irrational fear of paper. Someone suffering from this phobia may find that they are extremely anxious at the mere thought of paper. Someone who has a deep fear of paper may in fact be able to realize that their fear is very irrational, but when in the midst of heightened anxiety, they may be unable to think logically enough to realize this. So, they will often be left feeling extremely anxious.

People suffering from papyrophobia may find it extremely difficult to be near paper or to see other people writing on paper. Their fear is so irrational that simply thinking of paper may be so intrusive that they may experience full blown panic attacks that may require them to be hospitalized. Though this is not always the case, it is still very possible for such an extreme event to occur.

Besides experiencing intense anxiety that is out of touch with reality, someone with papyrophobia may also find it extremely difficult to cope with strong emotions. Their inability to do this may only exacerbate their anxiety, thus worsening their papyrophobia. It may also not be uncommon for them to develop other mental disorders as a result of their intense fear of paper.

For instance, someone experiencing papyrophobia may find themselves obsessing over their fear. If they were to obsess over their fear of paper to an extreme extent, then it is not implausible to conceive that they may develop full blown obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) insofar as they had the proper genetics.

Symptoms of Papyrophobia

Someone who is experiencing papyrophobia will likely find themselves experiencing very intrusive anxiety that will greatly impact their day to day life. In much of the civilized world, paper is all around us and avoiding it may be quite difficult to do. This fact may make it very difficult for someone suffering with papyrophobia.

Avoidance is one of the most common tools used for people suffering with any sort of anxiety disorder. Typically, people who suffer from anxiety disorders will often try to avoid that which they fear. Though avoiding their fear may give them immediate relief from their anxiety, it will likely worsen their anxiety in the long run. This has to do with the fact that by avoiding that which they fear, they are reassuring themselves that it is in fact something that deserves to be feared.

Nevertheless, someone who has never acquired the necessary coping skills that can be learned in therapy may falsely believe that avoiding paper is the “best” way for them to reduce their intense anxiety. It may also not be uncommon for them to be very fearful of objects that remind them of paper, such as with pencils or binders. They may also be fearful of objects that contain paper such as notebooks or printers.

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

  • Intense anxiety when near paper
  • Anxiety when thinking of paper
  • Unable to control strong emotions
  • May experience panic attacks

Causes of Papyrophobia

There is no known cause of papyrophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant roles. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness may have a higher chance of developing papyrophobia. This may be due to them having a higher chance of having a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness. If they were to have such a genetic predisposition then it may only require that they endure some sort of traumatic experience for them to develop full blown papyrophobia.

Such a traumatic event that may cause someone to develop an irrational fear of paper may be that they suffered from a severe paper cut once before or some other analogously severe situation. Essentially, if they were to endure a traumatic experience that involved paper in some capacity, then it may be enough for them to develop full blown papyrophobia insofar as they have the genetics to do so.

Though we do not know the exact causes of papyrophobia, analyzing someone’s family history, as well as their current and/or past environment may shed some light as to why someone may or may not develop this condition.

It is also plausible to conceive that someone may develop this illness due to them already suffering from an anxiety disorder such as OCD or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for example. If this were to be the case, then it is plausible to conceive that they may have simply concentrated their anxiety onto a specific area, such as fearing paper for instance.

Papyrophobia Treatments

There is no treatment method that is specifically designed for papyrophobia. Nevertheless, exposure therapy may be very beneficial. Just as the name implies, exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to that which they fear. Theoretically, the more they are exposed to their fear, the less their fear will bother them. So, if implemented by an experienced therapist, the patient may be able to greatly reduce their overall anxiety of their fear of paper.

So, a typical exposure therapy session for someone suffering from papyrophobia may entail having the therapist show the patient paper or even have them touch paper. This may give the patient very high amounts of anxiety. Nevertheless, the goal would be to try and desensitize the patient to their fear of paper by slowly exposing them to paper over time.

Anti-anxiety medication may also be able to help with reducing some of the symptoms associated with papyrophobia. However, merely taking medication alone may not be enough to truly improve someone’s papyrophobia in the long term as they may need to learn how to change their behavior and how to implement healthier thinking patterns.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Papyrophobia

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

Yoga for Papyrophobia

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

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

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Papyrophobia

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

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Papyrophobia

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

Exposure Therapy for Papyrophobia

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

Reducing Caffeine for Papyrophobia

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 papyrophobia 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 papyrophobia.

Psychiatric Drugs for Papyrophobia

Antidepressant Drugs

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

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

Anti-anxiety Drugs

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe papyrophobia 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 papyrophobia 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.

Exercise for Papyrophobia

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

Meditation for Papyrophobia

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

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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