Iophobia: The Fear of Poison

Iophobia The Fear of Poison

The word Iophobia is derived from two Greek words; “io” meaning poison and “phobia” meaning fear. It is an unreasonable or abnormal fear of poison. 

Other than the fear of the effect likely to be caused by poison in the human system, the exaggerated fear of poison leading to intense amounts of anxiety and panic attacks in some persons is termed iophobia.

A person with iophobia may pay a more conscious attention in avoiding anything that may contain poison especially things with chemical contents. These chemical containing substance may include household cleaning products and insecticides.

They believe these chemical substances may cause harm to them as inhaling or consuming them may cause some harm or damages to the human internal system. Hence, they term or consider them bad or unfit for use.

Someone with iophobia may avoid leaving their houses as they tend to assume all chemicals to be harmful and poisonous. They get consumed by their fear and this makes their daily life difficult.

Symptoms of Iophobia

The symptoms of iophobia may vary depending on the severity of the phobia. These may include;

  • Severe Anxiety; Anxiety is a common symptom of phobias. If not controlled or maintained may lead to panic attack causing the patient to be hospitalized
  • Avoidance of chemical containing products and products they consider to be hazardous
  • Lack of concentration
  • Sweating, shaking and nausea
  • Breathlessness and choking sensations.
  • High blood pressure

Causes of Iophobia

Iophobia may be passed on from parents and acquired. It may be therefore caused by genetic factor and environmental factor.

Also, it may develop in some persons with an underlying disorder or phobia.

Genetic Factor

A person with a family history of having anxiety, phobic or mental disorder may develop iophobia. This may be due to genetic predisposition or susceptibility to developing a mental disorder.

In such a case, an experience of a traumatic event like previous severe exposure to a poisonous substance may cause iophobia. Also, the death of a relative or close friend who had suffered poisoning.

Environmental Factor

In this case, a person who may have inhaled or consumed poisonous substance in the past may develop iophobia as the trauma of having suffered such keeps them super conscious of any substance they may consider poisonous.

Underlying Disorder 

A person suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can develop iophobia. Here a person may be obsessed with staying away from substances or materials containing chemicals with the view that they are poisonous.

Treatment of Iophobia

A combine therapy and treatment may prove effective in the treatment of iophobia. These therapies include exposure therapy whereby a person with iophobia is being exposed to their fear.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation. Medications may also prove effective in the treatment of iophobia, but one must see a doctor for medical advice.

Exposure Therapy 

This form of treatment requires a professional therapist with experience in the treatment of people with phobia. The therapist slowly expose the iophobic patient to their fear.

This help to desensitize the patient to their specific fear. If the exposure is done too slightly, effective result is not assured. On the other hand, excessively exposing the patient to their fear could cause an intense anxiety.

Hence, the therapist for this procedure should be well informed of the severity of the symptoms of his patient to help him know the level of exposure needed.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This is a talk therapy and a psychotherapeutic treatment that aim at identifying and changing the patterns of thinking or behavior behind one’s difficulties and changing the way they feel. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Behavior (OCD). CBT will help allow a person with iophobia to understand the reasons they think and behave the way they do. CBT help analyze their fear deeply.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation help distract one from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any emotional thought attached.

Focusing on breath is an example. Someone with iophobia can benefit from mindfulness meditation when having a panic attack by simply redirecting their attention to a sensation felt when meditating. This procedure can reduce the mental stress.

One can also focus on the sounds around them. Mindfulness meditation takes a lot of practice to be effective.


The following are medications available for iophobia;

Anti-anxiety medication

Anxiety is one common symptoms of phobia. A person with iophobia may suffer anxiety that may lead to panic attack. Anti-anxiety medications are very effective in the prevention of panic attacks. Some of these drugs include; Xanax, Valium and Klonopin.

These drugs are to be prescribed by a doctor to ensure the safety and effectiveness. Ant-anxiety drugs are not to be taken on daily basis but on severe case of iophobia.


Antidepressants can also be used in the treatment of iophobia as they are also helpful in preventing anxiety disorder. Some antidepressants include Lexapro, Paxil and Zoloft. Unlike anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants are taken on a daily basis.

They help reduce people’s daily anxiety.

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