Chaetophobia (Fear Of Hair)

Chaetophobia (Fear Of Hair) is a psychological condition which causes people to exhibit an extreme fear response when they are exposed to hair.

What is Chaetophobia?

Chaetophobia is a fairly rare phobia and is associated with the intense fear of hair. Unlike Trichnopathophobia, Chaetophobia is not concerned with the fear of hair disease, but is identified as a fear of the hair itself.

Whilst Trichnophobia is defined as the fear of loose hairs, such as discarded hair on the floor, Chaetophobia is the fear of hair in any location. This includes the hair on one’s own body and can also extend to animal hair or fur.

For some people, the symptoms of Chaetophobia are exacerbated by certain types of hair. Curly or thick hair may trigger Chaetophobia in some patients, for example. Similarly, some individuals with Chaetophobia (Fear Of Hair), are more phobic about their own hair than other peoples, or vice versa.

Whilst some patients are unable to explain their fear of hair, others perceive hair as being harmful or threatening in some way. Due to the irrational nature of Chaetophobia, the patient’s fear is out of proportion to the threat posed by hair. In many cases, the patient is aware that their fear is irrational but this knowledge does not alleviate or reduce the fear in any way.

What are the symptoms of Chaetophobia?

Depending on the severity of the phobia, individuals with Chaetophobia may take steps to avoid interacting with hair. They may refuse to pet animals due to their fur or, in some cases, they may refuse to be around animals at all.

Similarly, patients with Chaetophobia are generally unwilling to touch anyone else’s hair and do not let other people touch their hair. In extreme cases, patients feel unable to touch their own hair and experience panic attacks and anxiety if they do so.

People with Chaetophobia commonly avoid certain environments, such as the hairdresser or the barber. However, people with severe Chaetophobia may try and avoid seeing people with certain types of hair in a bid to prevent the fear response from being triggered.

In addition to this, Chaetophobia may cause people to remove all the hair from their body. Due to their fear of the hair, they may embark on an intensive regime of epilation, laser treatment, waxing and shaving in order to reduce the amount of hair on their body. If patients feel unable to carry out this task alone, they may arrange regular appointments with beauty therapists in order to have the hair removed.

Although Chaetophobia refers to the fear of hair, every individual is different and the phobia may present in different ways. Whilst patients with Chaetophobia may have various different types of triggers, they will all experience increased anxiety when their phobic response is elicited. In many instances, this increased anxiety will become a full-blown panic attack, particularly if the phobic patient is unable to remove themselves from the situation.

Once the phobic response has begun and the patient is experiencing a panic attack, they may exhibit a number of physical symptoms, including:

  • Trembling
  • Fast pulse or heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gasping for breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • Feelings of doom
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Faintness
  • Dry mouth
  • Tightness of the chest

What causes Chaetophobia?

The causes of Chaetophobia can be characterized into three main areas:

  • Previous traumatic incident involving hair
  • Perception of hair as dirty
  • Association of hair with pain or discomfort

If a person has experienced a traumatic event which involved hair in some way, they may develop Chaetophobia as a result. Although the distressing incident may not have been caused by hair or had a direct correlation to hair, if the person’s subconscious mind linked the incident to hair, it may cause them to develop the phobia.

In the patient’s unconscious mind, avoiding hair will also result in them avoiding a similar traumatic event and, therefore, the phobia effectively protects them. If, for example, someone was hurt by someone who was excessively hairy or suffered an injury due to their hair catching in machinery, it would not be unusual for them to develop some form of Chaetophobia.

Alternatively, people may develop Chaetophobia because they perceive hair as being dirty or unclean. Whilst hair can sometimes be dirty or contain lice, most people do not feel a constant sense of revulsion when they see or think about hair. For patients with Chaetophobia, however, the mere thought of hair or fur can elicit a sense of disgust, as well as anxiety and panic.

If patients have suffered with painful scalp or skin conditions, the discomfort associated with their illness may have been the precursor to Chaetophobia. If they associate hair with pain, itching or discomfort, their mind may try and protect the individual by causing an intense fear, and subsequent avoidance, of hair.

Although these three causes of Chaetophobia are believed to be the most common reasons for developing this phobia, there may be other reasons for patients to develop a fear of hair. In some instances, patients are unable to recall any particular event which caused their fear and may not be able to explain exactly why they experience such a strong fear of hair.

Whilst knowing the cause of the fear can be helpful when treating the condition, a patient can be diagnosed with Chaetophobia even if the cause of the phobia is unknown.

How is Chaetophobia treated?

If patients are aware of a traumatic event which triggered their fear of hair, they may work with a therapist in order to overcome the emotions caused by the incident itself. Once the patient is able to dissociate themselves from the traumatic event, their fear of hair often resolves on its own, without the need for further intervention.

In other cases, a mix of anti-anxiety medications and therapies, such as counseling, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, can be used to reduce the patient’s fear and phobic response. Although Chaetophobia is not a particularly common phobia, it has been deemed ‘highly treatable’. Patients with this condition should, therefore, obtain relief from Chaetophobia if the appropriate treatments are available to them.

Preventing Chaetophobia (Fear Of Hair)

Phobias may not be diagnosed until they are already affecting the patient so it can be difficult to prevent them. If the individual associates hair with dirt, they may be treated for germ-related Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and, if treatment begins early enough, this could prevent them from developing Chaetophobia.

Alternatively, negative experiences involving hair should be dealt with as quickly as possible, in order to prevent them from becoming traumatic and precursors to Chaetophobia. As these are common causes of Chaetophobia, early intervention may prevent a fear or dislike from transitioning into a phobia.