fear of sneezing

Breaking Free from the Fear of Sneezing

What is Fear of Sneezing? Sneezing is a natural bodily response that occurs when the body is trying to expel irritants from the nose or throat. However, for some people, the act of sneezing can be a source of fear and anxiety. This condition is known as phonophobia, or the fear of sneezing.

Symptoms of Fear of Sneezing

Individuals with phonophobia may experience a range of symptoms when faced with the prospect of sneezing. These may include:

Physical Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of pleophobia is a physical reaction to the thought of sneezing. This can include sweating, shaking, palpitations, and shortness of breath. Some people may also experience chest tightness or a choking sensation. These physical symptoms can be triggered by a variety of things, such as a change in temperature, a strong smell, or even just the thought of sneezing.

Cognitive Symptoms

People with pleophobia may also experience cognitive symptoms such as racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating. They may also experience fear and anxiety about the possibility of sneezing in public, which can lead to social avoidance. This fear can be so intense that it can lead to panic attacks, which can be incredibly distressing for the person experiencing them.

Behavioral SymptomS

The fear of sneezing can also lead to behavioral symptoms such as avoiding certain situations or places where sneezing may occur. For example, a person with pleophobia may avoid going outside during allergy season or may avoid places where there are strong smells. They may also avoid certain foods or drinks that they know will make them sneeze.

Causes of Fear of Sneezing

There are several possible causes of phonophobia. Some possible causes include:

Medical Causes

Medical conditions can be a contributing factor to the development of a fear of sneezing. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as sinusitis, rhinitis, or allergies, may experience an excessive amount of sneezing. This can lead to an association between sneezing and discomfort, which can then develop into a fear of sneezing. Additionally, individuals with certain neurological conditions, such as trigeminal neuralgia, may experience intense pain when sneezing, leading to a fear of sneezing.


Trauma is another possible cause of fear of sneezing. Individuals who have experienced a traumatic event involving sneezing, such as a severe injury or accident, may develop a fear of sneezing. This fear may stem from the association of sneezing with the traumatic event and the fear of experiencing similar trauma in the future. Additionally, individuals who have a history of physical or emotional abuse may develop a fear of sneezing as a coping mechanism to avoid triggering memories of the abuse.


A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. In the case of fear of sneezing, it is known as phonophobia. This type of fear can develop as a result of a traumatic event, or it can develop for no apparent reason. Individuals with a phobia of sneezing may experience intense anxiety, panic attacks, and avoidance behaviors when faced with the possibility of sneezing.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by excessive fear and avoidance of social situations. Individuals with social anxiety may develop a fear of sneezing in public due to the embarrassment and shame they may feel. They may also fear being judged or rejected by others because of their sneezing. This fear can lead to social isolation and avoidance of social situations.

Treatment for Fear of Sneezing

There are several treatment options available for individuals with phonophobia. These may include:

Recognizing the Triggers

The first step in overcoming the fear of sneezing is to recognize the triggers that cause the fear. Common triggers include:

  • Exposure to allergens or irritants
  • Feeling of pressure in the nose
  • Seeing or hearing someone else sneeze
  • Anticipation of a sneeze

Once you have identified your triggers, you can begin to develop strategies to manage them.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can help to reduce anxiety and stress associated with the fear of sneezing. These techniques can also help to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that can help individuals to change the way they think and behave. A therapist can work with you to identify and challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that are causing your fear of sneezing. Additionally, a therapist can teach you coping strategies to manage your fear, such as deep breathing or visualization techniques.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that involves gradually exposing the individual to the feared situation or stimulus. This type of therapy can be effective for individuals with sneeze phobia, as it allows them to face their fear in a controlled and safe environment. For example, a therapist may ask the individual to watch videos of people sneezing or to practice sneezing in front of a mirror.


In some cases, medication may be recommended to help manage the symptoms of sneeze phobia. Antidepressant medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or beta-blockers, can help to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath.

3 Phobias Related to Fear of Sneezing

  1. Pteronophobia is the fear of being tickled by feathers, which can trigger a sneezing episode for some individuals.
  2. Phonophobia is the fear of loud noises, and for some people, a loud sneeze can trigger this phobia.
  3. Olfactophobia is the fear of smells, and for some people, certain odors can trigger a sneezing episode and cause intense anxiety.


The fear of sneezing, or phonophobia, is a real condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Understanding the causes and symptoms of phonophobia, as well as the available treatment options, is crucial for individuals who are struggling with this condition. With the help of a qualified mental health professional, individuals with phonophobia can work to overcome their fear and live a more comfortable and fulfilling life.

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