There are as many phobias as there are stimuli or things in the world. So, you can have a phobia about almost anything. In this article we will learn about a little known phobia, the algofobia, or pain phobia .

Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that involve a disproportionate or irrational fear of certain stimuli, objects, or situations, and that cause interference in a person’s life. Algofobia is considered a specific phobia because the feared stimulus or situation can become concrete (pain).

What is lgophobia?

In sapphobia, the fear that appears is abnormal and persistent, and goes beyond the “normal” fear of suffering pain. It is a phobia that is more common in older people. It can be treated through behavioural treatments and also with anxiolytic medication, as we will see later on.


Algofobia is characterized by a “phobic” fear of any kind of experience related to pain , not just “pain itself”. People with something-phobia can develop a great obsession with any situation, circumstance or stimulus that can produce sensations of pain. Thus, the phobic element in sycophancy is pain as an experience and/or sensation.

What a person with something-phobia fears, in reality, is the subjective perception of pain. This means that there are no specific mechanisms for detecting which stimuli (and which ones are not) may be phobic to the person. In other words, it cannot be established what type of pain or sensation will be high enough for the person to respond with phobic fear to it.

On the other hand, it is also not essential for the person to be exposed to health situations that cause him/her pain for the algofobia to affect his/her daily routine.

Having sapphobia can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, and interfere with normal functioning or behavior. This is why it is important to detect its characteristics well and design specific interventions to treat it.


The causes of phobia are the same as the causes for specific phobias, although depending on the type of phobia, they may vary.

In the case of something-phobia, this may have appeared due to classic conditioning (by associating the sensation of pain with some other negative stimulus, although in this case the pain itself is already aversive); it may also have appeared due to traumatic experiences (direct conditioning), if the person was subjected to uncontrollable or excessively intense pain situations.

On the other hand, phobias are also “inherited”, that is, can be acquired by observation (for example, that the person’s mother has also manifested this phobia, and the person ends up acquiring it), or by processes of vicarious or modeling conditioning (for example, that the person has seen another person suffering a lot from pain, and/or with a phobia of pain).

Finally, conditioning by transmission of information can also cause phobia; in this case, third parties would contribute to the development of phobia (that is, third parties would explain situations of pain and symptoms of their illnesses to the person, who would end up developing the phobia).


The psychological treatment of the phobia would be the same as for a specific phobia; thus, live exposure is used as the treatment par excellence (behavioral treatment), cognitive-behavioral therapy, with the aim of eliminating the cognitive distortions associated with the phobia, and finally we can also employ exposure through virtual reality (in the experimental phase).

On a pharmacological level, anxiolytics can be used (to reduce anxiety), although it is not recommended to use them in exposures in the case of behavioural treatment, since the therapeutic effect is reduced (the person does not face the situation “naturally”). However, they can be used as a complement to other psychological therapies.

Types of phobias

It is important to know that DSM-IV characterizes and encompasses 3 types of phobias. These three types are: agoraphobia (fear of several situations), specific phobia (fear of a specific object or situation), and social phobia (fear of social situations or public performances).

Algofobia would be included as a specific type of phobia, since it involves fear of a specific stimulus or situation ; in this case, pain (or the subjective experience of pain).

Bibliographic references:

  • Gratacós, M. Algofobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments Lifeder
  • Belloch, A.; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of Psychopathology. Volume II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill
  • APA (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Madrid. Panamericana.
  • Aguilar, B. (2016). Pain and suffering in medicine. Rev Urug Car diol, 31, 10-14.
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