Fear Of Colors (chromophobia): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

We explain the characteristics, symptoms and causes of this rare phobia.


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

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

In this article we will talk about a curious but rare phobia: agoraphobia or fear of colors (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 who suffers from this condition.

Phobic disorders are included within anxiety disorders, and there are different types as we explained in our article “Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders.” These pathologies are classified as complex phobias and simple phobias. Among the former 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 characterized by the fact that the person who suffers from it feels an irrational fear of colors. It varies from person to person, as each individual feels great discomfort in the presence of a specific color or several of them, to the point where viewing that color in question makes them feel intense discomfort.

The most common types of chromophobia are usually 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 can be behind this phobia.


Phobias develop by learning, specifically by a type of associative learning called classical conditioning, which was initially investigated 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 caused 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. In other words, it is not necessary for the person to experience the traumatic event on their own skin, but rather that the observation of an emotionally painful situation in another person can cause an individual to develop this pathology.

Experts in phobias also argue that these disorders are common because human beings are biologically prepared to feel fear, since it is a highly adaptive emotional one, which has served for the survival of the human species throughout the 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 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 talk about arachnophobia, we are not referring to the fact that it is the spiders that cause fear. In the case of aerophobia, it is the act of flying in an airplane that causes the discomfort. Now, the symptoms are common regardless of the type of phobia.

These symptoms are usually classified as cognitive, behavioral and physical. Cognitive symptoms include fear, anguish, poor concentration, or catastrophic thoughts. Regarding behavioral symptoms, avoidance and escape behaviors 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, hyper-sweating, headache, nausea, among other symptoms.

Treatment and therapy

Although phobias are frequent disorders, the prognosis in recovery is very positive. There are many investigations that have been carried out to find out what is the best treatment in these cases.

Based on scientific data, cognitive behavioral therapy appears to be the most effective. This form of therapy aims to modify those habits, behaviors and thoughts that lead a person to suffer from a mental disorder. To do this, different techniques are used, 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 previous two and consists of gradually exposing the patient to the feared stimulus. The patient also learns different coping strategies that help him not to avoid or escape from the feared stimulus.

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

You can know more in our articles:

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

Bibliographic references:

  • EB, Foa; Blau, JS, Prout, M., & Latimer, P. (1977). Is horror a necessary component of flooding (implosion) ?. Behavior Research and Therapy (15).
  • Nardone, Giorgio. (1997). Fear, panic, phobias: short therapy Barcelona: Empresa Editorial Herder SA

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