Theophobia (Fear Of God)

Theophobia (fear of God) can affect people of any age and usually causes an extreme fear of God as an entity and may also cause a fear of religions or being punished.

What is Theophobia?

Whilst some people find comfort in God and religion, the notion can be fear-inducing for others. Theophobia (fear of God) is a well-known condition which causes the individual to suffer from an intense fear of God or religion. Although some people fear God as an entity, other individuals with Theophobia also fear the punishment of God.

Religion and the belief in God is a contentious issue. Although some people base their lives on religion and have a strong faith in God, others are ambivalent towards the existence of God, whilst some people reject the notion of God altogether. For people with Theophobia, however, the idea of God is surrounded by negativity and extreme fear.

By definition, phobias are irrational and Theophobia is no different in this respect. Sufferers of Theophobia have a fear which overrides rational or logical thinking. Whilst the individual may be aware that their level of fear is irrational, they feel unable to overcome or ignore it.

In fact, people with Theophobia often become preoccupied with the thought of God and are unable to separate their fear from their everyday lives. Every action can become intertwined with their fear and they may exhibit avoidance behaviors in a bid to avoid anxiety-inducing thoughts or imagery.

People may avoid visiting a place of worship, for example, even if a friend or family member is getting married. In more serious cases of Theophobia, even seeing a holy book or depictions of religious figures can be enough to trigger their phobia.

What causes Theophobia?

Currently, experts believe there can be many causes of Theophobia (fear of God). These may include:

  • Strict religious upbringing
  • Learned behavior
  • Existing difficulties in life
  • Negative events

If an individual is exposed to religion at a young age, it can have a long-lasting impression on them. If parents, caregivers, teachers or ministers focus on the perceived negative aspects of religion, such as punishments, this can cause a person to develop Theophobia.

If typical childhood behavior is discouraged due to the possibility of punishments from God, for example, the child may begin to associate God and religion with fear, which can lead to Theophobia. Similarly, if a young person is continually advised to avoid God’s wrath, they may become preoccupied with avoiding God’s punishment, which could lead to Theophobia.

Similarly, children tend to learn behavior from those around them. If a friend, family member or caregiver exhibits a fear of God or religion, the child may mimic this behavior and learn to fear God. If they are unable to rationalize these thoughts, Theophobia may occur.

In some instances, difficulties in a person’s life can lead to them questioning the existence of God or wondering if they are being punished by God. For example, a string of bad events, such as the loss of loved ones, professional failures or on-going illness, may be perceived as a punishment. If the individual believes God is punishing them for a past indiscretion, they may begin to fear God’s wrath and they could develop Theophobia.

Witnessing negative events can also lead to Theophobia (fear of God). Whilst the individual may not witness the event directly, seeing it being reported in the media can provoke their fears. This is particularly relevant in the case of natural disasters or unavoidable accidents. In addition to questioning why God ‘allows’ these incidents to occur, individuals may become preoccupied with attempting to please God, as well as fearing wrath and punishment.

What are the symptoms of Theophobia?

Like most phobias, Theophobia can cause patients to suffer from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. If a person with Theophobia is exposed to a trigger, such as a holy building, they may begin to feel uncomfortable. This is quickly followed by a desire to escape the situation and increased anxiety. If the individual is unable to flee the situation quickly enough, a panic attack is likely to occur. During a panic attack, people may experience the following physical symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Shakiness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Hypervigilance
  • Nausea

Although panic attacks do not usually have any harmful, long-term consequences, they are so distressing that the individual will seek to avoid them in the future. Effectively, their fear of God is reinforced by the severity of the panic attack. This leads to further avoidance behavior and may exacerbate their fear even more.

Whilst some people with Theophobia will turn away from God and religion, others may focus on trying to please God. By doing so, they often believe that they can try to escape God’s wrath and prevent punishments from being meted out.

Due to this, Theophobia can drastically affect a person’s behavior. It is not only big life decisions which are dependent on the person’s condition. Instead, every decision the individual makes is affected by their fear of God.

Can Theophobia be treated?

Theophobia is not particularly uncommon and can be treated in the same way as other phobias. Common treatments for Theophobia may include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Hypnotherapy

Psychotherapy enables the individual to discuss their fears in a safe environment, with a trained professional. The treatment enables the patient to identify and challenge their fears, thus leading to a reduced anxiety response when a feared stimulus is encountered.

Alternatively, hypnotherapy involves accessing the subconscious mind and alleviating fears at this level. As fears are often rooted in the subconscious, hypnotherapy may enable patients to recover from Theophobia more quickly.

Although medication cannot be used to target Theophobia specifically, it may be prescribed in order to reduce the patient’s general level of anxiety. If necessary, medication can be used in conjunction with other treatments.

For some patients, guidance from a spiritual counselor or trusted religious leader can also help them to overcome their fear of God. Providing the person is able to provide impartial and objective guidance regarding the irrational fear of God, this can be helpful to patients with Theophobia. In order to ensure an objective and positive method is being delivered, religious leaders may work alongside independent therapists in order to assist the patient.

Preventing Theophobia (fear of God)

Although the cause of Theophobia cannot always be established, there is documentation of traumatic experiences, religious indoctrination and stressful life events causing a fear of God. If these issues can be addressed before an individual associates them with God and/or punishment, it may be possible to prevent Theophobia from occurring.

If a young person has a traumatic experience involving religion, for example, dealing with the incident at the time can help to prevent any psychological conditions from emerging in later life. Similarly, parents should be mindful not to focus on the negative aspects of religion or to threaten punishment from God as a consequence of wrongdoing.

When people attribute stressful life events to God’s punishment, this can often lead to Theophobia. By seeking professional help in order to deal with these life events, individuals may be able to identify other, more direct causes of their misfortune. As a result, they will not associate particular events with God and/or punishment and Theophobia may be prevented.