The term pogonophobia (fear of beards) is derived from the Greek words pogon and phobos, meaning “beard” and “fear” respectively. This irrational fear of facial hair can cause people to avoid talking to friends and relatives, or to fail to co-operate with bearded colleagues.
Pogonophobia can be a complex and varied condition where it is hard to identify the root cause.
People of working age who suffer from pogonophobia can be severely financially affected because of the condition. The fact that they cannot live with the constant fear of bearded people means that they are often unable to perform to the best of their abilities career-wise. Pogonophobia sufferers find it very difficult to concentrate around bearded colleagues, bosses or employees and as a result, they may find themselves passing up work opportunities or promotion. They may even suffer from poor performance (or school grades, if they are currently in education). It is estimated that untreated pogonophobia can cost the individual tens of thousands of dollars in missed opportunities over the course of a lifetime.
People who live with pogonophobia have a heavy price to pay in terms of how their careers, social lives, and overall health are affected. The condition can significantly impact on the quality of life of the patient.
Symptoms can vary in severity depending on how acute the patient’s condition is. One of the most common pogonophobia symptoms is the experiencing of a panic attack. This occurs when the body enters its “fight or flight” mode, whereby an adrenalin rush causes the body to react in one or more of the following ways:
It is not uncommon for pogonophobes to show signs of avoidance behavior. This could involve refusing to sit next to a bearded person on public transport, avoiding using the goods and services of bearded store proprietors, or becoming anxious when approached by a bearded person in public.
While no two cases of pogonophobia (fear of beards) are alike, healthcare professionals agree that the likelihood of the root of the condition can be linked to traumatic or negative events in the patient’s past which involved a man or men with beards. As a result, the unconscious mind creates a phobia as a mechanism of protection. One example of this could be a woman who had a frightening experience when visiting Santa Claus at the mall at Christmas time. The fear of being detached from her mother and placed in the hands of a stranger with a large beard could have been the catalyst for a lifetime fear of beards.
In some cultures, and in the opinions of some people, facial hair is often regarded as a sign of being rugged. Unshaven men are sometimes associated with being unclean or down-and-out, and the look is often equated with homelessness, addiction and or/serious illness. Some pogonophobes tend to think of bearded men as being unhygienic or otherwise not having access to materials for shaving, grooming and personal care.
A stereotype that bearded men are untrustworthy has been propagated for years in TV shows, movies and books which depict trauma, evil and wrongdoing being perpetrated by bearded individuals. It is a popular culture trope for “bad guys” to have facial hair, and this could be linked to pogonophobia triggers in some individuals.
In the aftermath of numerous terrorist atrocities starting with 9/11, the fear of beards increased in the Western world. The perpetrators of such attacks were almost exclusively religious fanatics who had facial hair, and the fear of terror attacks associated with such fanatics may have contributed to the development of the condition in some patients.
Some doctrines and religious cultures have rules which force men to keep facial hair. People who have escaped fundamentalist cultures may have post-traumatic stress disorder associated with oppression they faced prior to escaping a strict regime, and this has been known on occasion to manifest itself as pogonophobia.
While a fear of beards can affect persons of all ages and genders, it is typically women who develop the condition and become uncomfortable around men with beards. Surveys suggest that stubble is not too much of an issue for pogonophobic people, and it is usually fully-grown beards which create a negative reaction in sufferers of this condition.
Because beards are associated with masculinity and machismo, some psychologists speculate that a fear of beards in women could be subconsciously linked to a fear of violence and aggression, as well as being a signifier of lower romantic attachment. There is no evidence which supports the idea that bearded men are more likely to be aggressive or romantically less attached, and this fear can thereby be classed as irrational.
There are several treatment options to assist patients who suffer from pogonophobia (fear of beards). In some instances, a patient may benefit from more than one type of treatment. Combined treatments are considered the best way to combat pogonophobia, however, one course of treatment can also be effective depending on the severity of the condition.
Healthcare professionals agree that the best form of treatment for specific phobias is a type of psychotherapy known as exposure therapy. This method focuses on changing the response of the patient to certain objects or situations which cause them fear and anxiety. For example, a patient suffering from pogonophobia might be encouraged to look at pictures of bearded men, before gradually building up the confidence to have a conversation with a person with a beard.
CBT involves a combination of exposure and other techniques designed to help the patient develop new ways to cope with their fears, and to view situations differently than before. It has an emphasis on developing confidence and mastering control of feelings, helping the patient to confront their fears instead of becoming overwhelmed by them.
Hypnosis can be useful in identifying the root cause of the patient’s pogonophobia and can even help individuals to react to their fears in a calmer manner than before. It is particularly useful in displacing irrational fears and can help the patient to regress to the point where the phobia began. In turn, this helps the patient to understand their issues, and creates a clearer means for them to deal with their problems.
Medication can be useful in reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks experienced by the patient. Sometimes medications are used for specific short-term use (for example, during an infrequently encountered situation such as visiting a dentist who has a beard). In other cases, medication can be useful in the long-term while the patient undergoes psychotherapy to help get to the root of their phobia. While medicines will mask the symptoms of a phobia, they won’t cure it. Therapy with a specialist is the best way to overcome a phobia.
While professional therapy is the best course of action for patients suffering from severe pogonophobia, there are several activities the patient can undertake in the home to compliment their course of treatment, including the following:
Because pogonophobia is an irrational fear, there is no course for prevention. The best course of action is to for the patient to receive treatment which addresses the root cause of the phobia, while optionally undergoing treatment with medication designed for anxiety and depression. Many of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and depression are shared with phobic conditions, and as a result the same medicines are usually beneficial in treating any overlap between the conditions.