Peniaphobia is the irrational fear of poverty. This is likely to be one of the more common phobias on the list as most people desire a better life for themselves. With poverty comes less resources such as transportation and medical care, among other things. People in poverty are typically less educated than those who aren’t and will often find good schools very difficult to come by. Everyday-people have good reason to fear poverty.

However, when it’s taken to an extreme to the point to where someone becomes so frugal and fearful of losing money that they are unable to enjoy life in the present moment and instead are stricken with intense anxiety on a daily basis, then they may have peniaphobia. It is important to note that merely being opposed to poverty or feeling anxiety when thinking about the possibility of you yourself becoming impoverished does not mean you have peniaphobia.

Peniaphobia is a mental disorder that is characterized by intense feelings of anxiety to the point to where day to day life is a struggle. Someone suffering from peniaphobia may find simple things such as going out to eat or purchasing a new shirt to be a very anxiety provoking endeavor. They will likely talk themselves out of doing such things and instead avoid them altogether.

It may be much more difficult for someone suffering with peniaphobia to be convinced that their fear is irrational than for those suffering with sanguivoriphobia (fear of vampires), pupaphobia (fear of puppets), hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (fear of the number 666), and triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13), as these things are merely based in fantasy and superstition. Poverty, on the other hand, is a real thing that millions of people experience every day.

Symptoms of Peniaphobia

Intense feelings of dread at the mere thought of becoming poor will likely be at the forefront of their daily thoughts. Their intense fear will fuel them to take action to ensure or to at least limit the risk of them becoming impoverished. Such actions may be living ridiculously below their means. For example, someone with peniaphobia who earns a salary of $150,000 per year from their job may also refuse to enjoy their money and may only spend what is absolutely necessary to survive, and sometimes not even that.

Peniaphobia can easily be mistaken for greed. While the disorder itself does bring with it greedy behavior, the motive they have to save rigorously and to not spend money is not to grow their wealth, but instead to ensure they never lose it.

It may also be very difficult for someone suffering with peniaphobia to develop and maintain healthy relationships with others. To other people, they may come off as being very selfish and acting in ways that only benefit themselves first, monetarily that is. This may cause a great deal of discord in their personal relationships.

Below, you will see some more common symptoms of peniaphobia:

  • Anxiety when thinking of poverty
  • Being extremely frugal
  • Unable to cope with their fear
  • Muscle tension and shakiness
  • May experience panic attacks

Causes of Peniaphobia

There is no known cause of peniaphobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant roles. For example, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders, they may then have an increased risk of developing peniaphobia. This will likely be due to them also having an increased risk of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.

Such a genetic predisposition may then only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown peniaphobia. Such a traumatizing experience for someone to develop this condition may be that they themselves once filed for bankruptcy before or perhaps they got their home repossessed after many months of failing to pay their mortgage.

Such experiences can indefinitely cause someone to develop peniaphobia insofar as they had the right genetic makeup. Though we do not definitively know what causes this disorder to develop, what we do know is that most mental health professionals agree that both genetics and one’s environment are significant factors in someone developing virtually any given mental illness.

Peniaphobia Treatments (abridged)

Treatments for peniaphobia are exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), among others. Exposure therapy is one of the most common and effective forms of therapy for people suffering from phobias. However, when it comes to treating peniaphobia, it may be difficult to expose the patient to poverty as it would obviously be highly illogical for the individual to purposely make poor financial decisions. With that being said, exposure therapy can still be very beneficial as long as it is implemented wisely.

For example, the therapist may ask the patient to start going out to eat once a week insofar as they can realistically afford to do so. The therapist may request things such as that or they may ask them to buy an inexpensive gift for someone they care about. Though doing these things will give the patient a high amount of anxiety, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear. Theoretically, the more someone is exposed to their fear, the less it will bother them overtime.

Anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants may also be advantageous for someone suffering from peniaphobia as it may be able to help  them reduce some of the symptoms associated with this condition. However, merely taking medication to treat the symptoms of this disorder may not be enough as it may be much more beneficial to also embark in some sort of therapy (i.e. exposure therapy, CBT, etc.).

If you think you may have peniaphobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms associated with this disorder, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon doing so, he may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further treatment. In either case, it may be very beneficial for you to have questions ready to ask them so you can be better informed.

Treatments (expanded)

Yoga Poses for Peniaphobia

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

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

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Peniaphobia

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

Meditation for Peniaphobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from peniaphobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous 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 peniaphobia 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 peniaphobia 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 peniaphobia, 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 peniaphobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Peniaphobia

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

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Peniaphobia

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

Psychiatric Medications for Peniaphobia

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

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

Exercise for Peniaphobia

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

Limiting Caffeine for Peniaphobia

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 peniaphobia 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 peniaphobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Peniaphobia

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