The world of psychopathology is a complex one, and there are many disorders that human beings can experience . Personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders… the latter are some of the most frequent reasons for psychological consultation.

Among the different types of anxiety disorders are phobias, which are irrational fears that cause great discomfort and can seriously affect the life of the person who suffers it.

In this article we will talk about a curious but rare phobia: agoraphobia or fear of colours (chromophobia). In the following lines we explain its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is chromophobia

Phobias are irrational and persistent fears that are characterized by an anxious symptomatology that leads the person to experience the need to avoid or escape from the feared stimulus. Phobias cause great discomfort, and can negatively affect the life of the person suffering from this condition.

Phobic disorders fall under the heading of anxiety disorders, and there are different types as we explain in our article “Types of Phobias: Exploring Fear Disorders”. These pathologies are classified as complex phobias and simple phobias. Within the first ones we find social phobias and agoraphobia, and simple phobias are called specific phobias, in which the phobic stimulus is an object, situation or animal.

Chromophobia or fear of colors is a specific phobia that is characterized because the person who suffers it feels an irrational fear of colors . It varies from person to person, because each individual feels a great discomfort when faced with the presence of a specific color or several of them, to the point that visualizing that color in question makes them feel an intense discomfort.

The most common types of chromophobia are xanthophobia, which is an irrational fear of the color yellow, or melanophobia or an irrational fear of the color black. In many cases, superstitious ideas may be behind this phobia.


Phobias are developed by learning, specifically by a type of associative learning called classical conditioning, which was initially researched by Ivan Pavlov and popularized by John Watson, an American psychologist. This occurs after a traumatic experience, and the person associates this painful event with a stimulus that was originally neutral , which ends up provoking the same response that provoked the traumatic event. That is, extreme fear.

  • If you want to know more about this type of learning, you can read our article “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”

Other causes of fear of colors

But phobias can originate in different ways . Another type of learning that is linked to the development of phobias is vicarious conditioning. That is, the person does not need to experience the traumatic event in his own skin, but rather the observation of an emotionally painful situation in another person can cause an individual to develop this pathology.

Experts on phobias also argue that these disorders are common because humans are biologically prepared to feel fear, as it is a highly adaptive emotional one, which has served the survival of the human species for centuries. In this sense, fear originates from primitive associations in the primitive brain, and not from cognitive associations in the neocortex, which explains why phobics have serious difficulties in overcoming the disorder despite knowing that they suffer from it. Phobias do not respond to logical arguments.

Symptoms of phobias

The types of phobia vary depending on the phobic stimulus that elicits it. When we speak of arachnophobia, we are not referring to the fact that it is the spiders that provoke fear. In the case of aerophobia, it is the fact of flying in an airplane that causes the discomfort. However, symptoms are common regardless of the type of phobia.

These symptoms are usually classified into cognitive, behavioral, and physical. Cognitive symptoms include fear, distress, lack of concentration or catastrophic thoughts . As for behavioural symptoms, avoidance and escape behaviours are common. Avoidance refers to not being exposed to the stimulus, which is not yet present. When we speak of escape, we refer to the fact of leaving the situation in which the stimulus is present. The physical symptoms are varied: hyperventilation, hypersudation, headache, nausea, among others.

Treatment and therapy

Although phobias are common disorders, the prognosis for recovery is very positive. Much research has been done to find the best treatment for phobias.

According to scientific data, cognitive behavioral therapy seems to be the most effective. This form of therapy aims to modify those habits, behaviours and thoughts that lead a person to suffer from a mental disorder. Different techniques are used for this purpose, and for the treatment of phobias, two of the most common are relaxation techniques and exposure techniques.

However, the technique par excellence is systematic desensitization, which combines the two previous ones and consists of exposing the patient to the feared stimulus gradually. The patient also learns different coping strategies that help him/her not to avoid or escape the feared stimulus.

In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, there are other types of therapy that have proven to be effective in treating phobias. The best known are Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.

You can find out more in our articles:

  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: what is it?
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): principles and characteristics

Bibliographic references:

  • E. B., Foa; Blau, J. S., Prout, M., & Latimer, P. (1977). Is horror a necessary component of flooding (implosion)? Behaviour Research and Therapy (15).
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  • Nardone, Giorgio. (1997). Fear, panic, phobias: the short therapy Barcelona: Empresa Editorial Herder S.A.