Few sensations are as distressing and make you feel as bad as fear, which can manifest itself by the presence of a real or imagined danger. Fear occurs when a stressful stimulus causes the release of a series of substances that cause the heart to race, breathing to increase, and the body to prepare for the fight-or-flight response.

Although fear is an adaptive response, it can sometimes cause a lot of suffering for the person who has it. Especially when the fear is not real and manifests itself over and over again.

In this article we will talk about a phobic disorder called amatophobia . That is, an irrational fear of dust and dirt.

What are phobias

Phobias are irrational and pathological fears that cause great suffering to the person who suffers them. They are included in anxiety attacks, because their main symptom, besides the fear, is the anxiety and distress that the person experiences. Phobias cause the phobic individual to avoid the stimulus that causes him or her discomfort.

When we talk about phobic disorders there are three types . Agoraphobia, which is an irrational fear characterized by the fact that the person who suffers it is afraid of finding himself in situations where he will not be able to receive help in a crisis. Social phobia is a disorder (or disorders) that appears in social interaction with other people, for example, erythrophobia or the fear of blushing. Finally, specific phobias are those that develop in front of a specific object or being. For example, arachnophobia or fear of spiders, coulrophobia or fear of clowns, or amatophobia or fear of dust, which we will discuss in more detail in the following lines.

Causes of Amatophobia

Amatophobia is the persistent and irrational fear of dust and dirt. Like any phobia, causes avoidance of the feared stimulus and high levels of anxiety . It can affect the normality of an individual’s life since dust can appear anywhere. For example, in the home itself.

Among the most frequent causes we can find…

1. Traumatic Experience

Traumatic experiences can be the origin of a phobia. Due to classic conditioning, a person can learn to fear a harmless stimulus because of the association that occurs when two stimuli are presented simultaneously. Classical conditioning became popular through John Watson’s experiments. To learn more about classical conditioning, you can read our article: “Classical Conditioning and Its Most Important Experiments”.

Due to the intense emotions that people can experience, a single traumatic incident can cause a person to develop this pathology .

2. Learning by observation

But traumatic experiences are not the only cause of this disorder, and an individual does not have to experience classic conditioning in his or her own skin. It is enough to observe another person experiencing the traumatic event, by a phenomenon called vicarious conditioning. In the case of amatophobia, watching a movie in which a toxic dust appears can lead to the development of this disorder.

3. Biological predisposition

Experts on phobias claim that humans are biologically predisposed to experience irrational fears, since the emotion of fear is adaptive and does not usually respond to logical arguments. This happens because it has its origin in primitive and non-cognitive associations.

Symptoms of this disorder

Phobias belong to the group of anxiety disorders, since anxiety is one of the characteristic symptoms, as is fear.

When the phobia develops, the phobic subject experiences cognitive symptoms, such as distress, catastrophic thoughts, irrational fear or dizziness . Behavioral symptoms also appear. For example, the attempt to avoid the feared stimulus. Finally, physical and physiological symptoms such as hyperventilation, rapid pulse or chest tightness are also common.


Anxiety disorders, and phobias in particular, have been scientifically studied on multiple occasions. According to data from many investigations, psychological therapy seems to be very effective.

There are many types of therapy, but for the treatment of phobic disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy is often used, which applies different methods such as relaxation techniques or exposure techniques.

In fact, a technique that is ideal for treating phobias is systematic desensitization , which consists of exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus in a gradual manner while learning different coping strategies such as relaxation techniques.

  • If you want to know how this technique works, just read our article: “What is systematic desensitization and how does it work?”

New therapy for treating phobias

In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, in recent years other therapeutic models have also been employed that have proven to be effective . Two are particularly noteworthy, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy, both of which belong to what are known as third generation or contextual therapies.

In addition, thanks to new technologies, virtual reality therapies are being applied, which expose the patient to phobic stimuli without the need for them to be present. With the technological advance of smartphones, it is possible to find this tool in some apps.

  • If you want to go deeper into this topic, you can read our article: “8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone”