Scelerophobia (Fear Of Crime)

Scelerophobia (Fear of Crime) is the fear or belief that criminal activity will happen to you. Those affected by this fear believe that they are the target of all varieties from the criminal element. They believe they will be robbed, murdered, raped or suffer something tragic as the result of crime. Scelerophobia is related to another phobia called Harpaxophobia, which is the fear of robbers, thieves or being robbed.


The fear of crime is not uncommon. Today, crime is increasingly prevalent and happening to people across all age groups. The extent a person fears crime is dependent on several factors that will be mentioned later. It is normal to have a fear of crime because people naturally have a need for self-preservation, but where things go wrong is when the natural fear is taken over by an irrational, all-consuming one.

Scelerophobia Symptoms

The symptoms of Scelerophobia include:

  • Extreme anxiety, dread
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Crying
  • Trembling
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Fear or feelings of losing control
  • Confusion/inability to articulate clearly
  • Obsession with the subject of the phobia

Those affected by Scelerophobia typically take unusual measures to protect themselves from crime. They avoid going out at night when crime is more likely to happen. They would prefer to travel in groups, purchase state-of-the-art security systems and thoroughly research a destination and its surroundings before travelling there.

Scelerophobia Causes

Trauma: Typically, this specific or more commonly known as an “isolated” phobia exists in a person based on previous trauma. When a phobia occurs without other ones at the same time, chances are there is an event that occurred to precipitate this fear. A comparable example of this is a child or adult afraid of spiders based on being bitten by one in the past.

Upbringing: A second cause of this fear may originate from parental upbringing. If the person’s parents trained them to be afraid of crime based on their own traumatic experiences with it, the child will take on that belief system. Many years ago, families lived in neighborhoods where they were comfortable enough to leave their doors unlocked. But as time passed and the wealth gap between classes grew, criminality rose generating the need for greater security.

Learned Behavior: A third cause of this phobia comes from experiences. Being inundated with too much crime has a negative effect on the brain. Media in the form of television, movies, music and more, that is heavy laden with criminal elements will make the consumer more fearful. Conversely, a person who only watches and listens to things of a good nature will believe that the world is a good place and they will feel safe.

Gender: This tends to be the greatest predictor of crime. Women fear crime at a greater rate than men based on the higher likelihood of sexual assault. Also, women that become the victims of a crime, unfortunately, tend to be blamed for bringing it on themselves. This, in turn, causes a cycle of fear to spread to other women that aren’t victims, to fear the same treatment.

Transference: This happens when someone the person knows has experienced a criminal event in their life. The person feels the effects in such a deep-rooted way, that they take on the feelings the person they know has experienced.

Age: As a person ages, they become may become more concerned about being the victim of a crime. As their strength fades and their ability to defend from attacks becomes diminished, this can increase their feelings of fear regarding criminals. Elderly people are at higher risk of being victims of crimes for these same reasons.

Environment: The environment a person lives in is either a primary source of comfort or fear. Those who live in safe communities have little reason to fear because of the lack of danger around them. However, those who live in violent, crime-ridden areas, they have more reason to fear because danger is virtually at their doorstep at all times.

How is Scelerophobia Treated?

There are a variety of treatments for Scelerophobia. They include:

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – This is therapy designed for short-term, goal-focused treatments aimed at achieving practical results. This type of therapy tends to last only five to 10 months.
  • Habit strategies to Relax – Some helpful things to do in order to relax include: finding a private place of relaxation, focus on calming your breathing, write down everything that is bothering you and also to get outside for some fresh air.
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT) – This therapy is focused on changing negative thought patterns about yourself and the world around you with the goal of stopping undesirable behavior patterns.
  • In Vivo Exposure – This therapy is based on direct exposure to the things that cause you to be afraid. There are two types of exposure: flooding and systematic desensitization. Flooding consists of rapid exposure to situations that cause a person fear, while systematic desensitization consists of gradual exposure to fearful situations with breaks when the fear becomes too great.
  • Response Prevention – Involves choosing a behavior that is different from the person’s normal response to fearful situations.
  • Hypnotherapy – Using hypnosis to overcome fear
  • Group Therapy – Talking about fears in a safe setting with others who experience the same responses
  • Psychotherapy – Involves treating fear by using psychological methods as opposed to medical treatment
  • Energy Psychology – Involves using a mind and body approach to understand and improve human functioning. This treatment focuses on changing how a person responds biologically to fear.
  • Medication – A doctor can prescribe the appropriate medication to help a person manage their fear of crime. Some of these include Beta blockers, antidepressants and benzodiazepine.
  • Meditation – Breathing exercises coupled with practicing scenarios dealing with the fear of crime and not being afraid can help lead to overcoming it.

Scelerophobia Prevention

The first step to preventing fear is to understand the circumstances that created it in the first place. Fear is created out of a person’s natural need for self-preservation. However, when the concern for self-preservation is taken too far, scelerophobia is created. There is a particularly effective method for treating scelerophobia known as anchoring.

Anchoring is the process of using a person’s ability to link feelings to their experiences. One example of this is experiencing a very happy moment in life. A person during this experience may also remember something else in great detail about the day like, the temperature or if there was a specific song playing on the radio. This link causes that person to become anchored to that experience every time they hear that song or are reminded of anything related to that moment in their life.

Last Reviewed:
June 22, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018